You must be at least 18 years of age to drive a large truck within your state. To drive a big rig between states, you must be at least 21 years of age.
Education, License And Training
To get started, you must have a current driver’s license, and a clean driving record. Most truck driving companies require that you have a high school diploma or a General Education Diploma (GED). Some high schools offer courses in driver training and auto mechanics, which are good place to start. You will need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and training to drive a tractor-trailer truck. You can study for your CDL on your own, through a community college program, a dedicated truck driver’s school or vocation/technical school, or through a trucking company that offers training.
Geting Your CDL
Each state has its own rules and regulations for getting your license. The cost for the license itself ranges from $25 to $100. Endorsements such as hazardous materials, doubles/triples, and air brakes can cost between $5 and $43 each.
First, find your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) website using USA.gov and search for CDL. You will usually find an FAQ section along with a copy of the CDL manual that you can download FREE of charge. Or you can get a hard copy of the manual at your local DMV office also for FREE.
A medical exam is required prior to taking the written exam. The Department of Transportation (DOT) Medical Examination Report is available at the Federal Motor Carrier Assosication free of charge, at local DMV offices, or your doctor may have a copy. Once you pass the medical exam, you will be issued a CDL Medical Examiner’s Certificate. The exam typically costs between $25 to $300 depending on your location.
Studying for the written test may require taking a truck driving course, but you can learn on your own. Download your state's CDL handbook and study guides if they are available. Look for a CDL practice test to help prepare for the exam. There are also online courses available for around $30 to $100, but remember that each state has its own rules and test, so include your state’s name in your search. If all else fails, you can enroll in driving school. These schools are all-inclusive, teaching for the written test, the driver’s test, and career placement. However, they can be quite pricey ranging from $1,500 to $10,000. Be sure the school offers a DMV-certified program which is at least a 3-week course.
You are also required to take a truck driving skills test. Preparing for this test requires many hours behind the wheel, as well as familiarizing yourself with all aspects of the truck. These tests are not offered in every city or county. Inquire at your local DMV office for test locations and do plenty of research to find the kind of learning situation that best fits your budget.
Vocation And Technical Truck Schools
Depending on where you live, you may find community colleges, vocation/technical truck schools, or private driving schools that offer the professional truck driving training and hours behind the wheel of the big rigs you plan to drive. You can expect your truck driving course to last between 2 and 8 weeks. The CDL Course Directory and Driving Directory list a sampling of public and private vocation-technical schools by state (You can find others by searching the Internet, exploring community colleges in your area, or looking in your phone book). So tuition for private or public vocation-technical truck driving schools for a CDL-A training course can cost between $1,500 to $10,000 (tuition and fees). If you qualify for financial aid, your tuition would be FREE except the cost of books, $200 to $500. However, trucking companies often have tuition reimbursement programs (see below).
In an effort to promote high standards and professionalism in truck driver training schools, the Professional Truck Driver Institute, Inc. (PTDI) created a list of rigorous requirements for courses targeting students of entry level truck driver training. It is a list including only those schools that teach a PTDI Certification Program. The average cost of a PTDI certified program is $4,200. Again, if you qualify for financial aid, tuition is FREE except the cost of books, $200 to $500. However, trucking companies often have tuition reimbursement programs (see below).