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The Road to Getting a class A CDL

These are the steps for getting a CDL

If you’re looking to become a professional truck driver, the most important requirement you need to fulfil is to obtain a Commercial Driver’s Licence (CDL). The rules, requirements, and costs of getting a CDL and certain endorsements differ from one state to another, so before you start gathering any documents, it’s necessary that you go over the requirements of the state in which you’ll be obtaining the CDL. In the following blog post, we look at all the stops you need to hit on your road to getting a Class A CDL.

There are three classes of CDLs (CLass A, B, and C) but the one we’re interested here is Class A.  With this licence class, you are authorized to drive vehicles such as tank vehicles, livestock carriers, flatbeds, tractor-trailers, and any other combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, under the condition that the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds.

First stop: Requirements

Before anything else, you need to make sure you can even apply for a CDL because there are various requirements that need to be fulfilled.

Age – In order to even apply for a CDL, you need to be at least 18 years old. However, those who receive their licence before they turn 21 can only drive within one state (intrastate driving). Once you turn 21 years old, you are eligible to operate across the whole U.S. (interstate driving), as well as to transport hazardous materials.

Health – You need to be in good health. This means, among other things, having good hearing (some say you should be able to hear a whisper from 5-feet away), and good vision (have at least 20/40 vision with a 70-degree field of vision in each eye). Besides this, your overall health should be in the green, so to speak.

Besides these requirements for age and health, you have to have a valid non-commercial driver’s license and you mustn’t be a disqualified driver, and you need to have a one or two years of driving experience (this also varies from state to state), Finally, you need to be able to speak and read English at a level which allows you to talk with the general public, understand highway traffic signs and signals, to respond to official inquiries, as well as write reports and keep records.

Second stop: Paperwork

Much like for any other licence, you’ll need to gather necessary forms and documents in order to start your process. So, get ready for some paperwork.

Proof of identity – Documents you can use to prove your identity vary from state to state, but they may be your US birth certificate (or a certified copy of that document), valid military ID card, a permanent or temporary resident card, a valid US passport, the USCIS American Indian Card, or a Certificate of either Citizenship or Naturalization.

Proof of residency – Besides identity, you’ll need to prove you are a legal resident. Depending on the state where you are applying for a CDL, you might be expected to bring only one utility bill or several different documents to prove your residency. It’s important to research in detail exactly what your state requires.

Proof of your Social Security Number (SSN) – You will also have to prove your SSN. The most obvious choice is your social security card, but you can also bring your military card (whatever your status is) or a military separation document (DD-214 form), and your Medicare ID card.

Proof of health – Before starting a truck driving school or applying for a CDL, you’ll need to have a complete physical examination. Once you’re deemed healthy and able to operate a truck, you’ll be required to submit two medical reports – the Medical Examination Report Form (MCSA-5875) and the Medical Examiner’s Certificate Form (MCSA-5876). You can’t fill out those forms by yourself of course, which is why you’ll need to choose a medical examiner from the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

Third stop: Truck Driving School and the CLP

Although it’s not mandatory, most companies like to hire drivers who have finished truck driving school. While you can learn how to operate a truck without any formal instructions, people who are hiring you would feel more comfortable trusting you with their trucks knowing that you had some formal education and practice before you applied for the position. The length of the course is different in every school, but it can last anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks.

In truck driving school, you’ll have plenty of chances to experience various weather and road conditions. You’ll learn and practice how to maneuver through crowded city streets, drive on narrow mountainous roads, and vast highways, among other things. You’ll also learn about federal and state laws and regulations that apply to you, your truck, and the cargo.

Truck driving school can be costly, with prices ranging from $1,500 to $8,000. Needless to say this is reason enough to really look into all the schools in your area, so that you can get the best bang for your buck.

There are several things you need to pay attention to when you’re choosing a school:

  • Check if the school is licenced and accredited (and for how long).
  • Find out what their pass/fail rate is.
  • There are always some hidden costs, so be wary of those .
  • Check what is included in the cost of the course (Does it include the price of the exam, the price of the licence?)
  • Ask if they offer scholarships.
  • Make sure instructors don’t have too many students (it’s best if their ratio of students to instructor is 4:1).
  • Check if the school prepares students for all sorts of driving conditions, from various weather conditions to different types of road.

Once you gather all the necessary paperwork, you are required to fill an application for the CDL (you can find your state and the appropriate application here) and provide your medical reports with the application. After that, you will have a knowledge exam, a vision test, and a skill-based test that’s supervised. If by any chance you fail the knowledge exam, you have to wait 24 hours to retake it.

Once you pass all the necessary tests you will receive your CLP (commercial learner’s permit), and you can usually expect around up to 3 months of training on the job before you can drive alone. You have to hold your CLP a minimum of 14 days, and a maximum of 180 days, before you have the chance to take your road skills test. However, the law might change soon and allow truck drivers to have their CLP for a maximum of 365 days, which will save people some money on renewal fees.

General tips:

A few general tips for the end:

  • Research your state’s laws before starting the application process – gathering all the necessary paperwork can be tedious work, so be smart about it and plan ahead (To-Do lists are your best friends here); A good place to start is to find a DMV near you and start the process there.
  • Practice. Don’t assume you are well versed in road rules just because you drive a car. You can find plenty of free tests online, as well as in your DMV office, and the CDL manual.
  • Do not pay for free things. Check everything twice before you give any money, because a lot of people will try to charge you for something that’s free, such as  your state’s CDL handbook.
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Skills and Traits of a Professional Truck Driver

Follow important instructions for safe and regular road trip

Sometimes people simply aren’t a good fit for a particular job or position, which hinders their prospects of promotion and professional growth. The same goes for the professional truck driver. So, if you’re looking to start a career in truck driving, take a look at our list of responsibilities, skills, and traits you should have.

Before going on the road, review the dispatcher’s instructions and make sure they are accurate and correct. A truck driver needs to make a few rest and fuel stops, so going over the orders and the delivery schedule will help you better organize your trip.

Don’t be a stranger to planning

Although the law is changing so that soon truck driver won’t be able to have handheld devices, there are still a few gems of technology you can use to help you coordinate your trip. With GPS, smartphones, and routing software it’s become much easier for the truck driver to plan. It’s always useful to get to know the areas you’ll be driving through. So that you’ll be ready for anything on the road and be able to avoid dangerous sites and situations.

Know the rules and regulations like the back of your hand

You’ll have a whole team of people behind you, making sure everything is okay. From the cargo to the legal requirements are taken care of, it’s still advisable to familiarize yourself with the rules of the industry. If you’re behind the wheel, it’s expected that you know which rules apply to you and the freight you’re transporting. It wouldn’t hurt to get chummy with the rules enforced by the Department of Transportation (especially the hours of service (HOS) rules). Some basics include being familiar with proper loading and unloading procedures, securing different types of freight, and weight restrictions.

Check and double check all of your equipment – safety first!

The most important thing to remember is that you need to watch out for the safety of other drivers around you. You’re driving a beast of a machine. The bottom line is that you are the last line of defense when it comes to making sure that everything on your vehicle is functioning, ready, and safe for the road. It’s always good to start with the weather. It would be best if you checked the weather a few times before you set off.

Based on the weather, you can know what equipment you absolutely have to bring, and what you probably should bring. After gathering the necessary gear, it’s time to inspect the vehicle itself. You are by obliged law to examine the truck and trailer. Make sure all the lights are functioning, the fluid levels are sufficient, and the tire pressure is correct, and so on. You have to exercise your due diligence here because during pre-trip and post-trip inspections you are expected to report any problems you encountered with the truck.

Be familiar with your load and how to deal with it

A professional truck driver is expected to know how to properly handle the cargo itself. Drivers shouldn’t be required to load or unload the cargo, but unfortunately, that sometimes isn’t the case. That is why knowing how to secure different types of cargo might come in handy. When transporting produce, the driver is required to oversee the loading and make sure that skids patterning is done correctly, and that the load is secured with locks as needed. Flatbeds, on the other hand, need to have their cargo secured with tarps and straps. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the luxury of only transporting a preloaded trailer, without being involved in the loading and unloading of freight.

Load up on patience and be prepared to deal with stress

Patience is an absolutely essential trait for every successful truck driver. Although you’ll be faced with various annoying situations, such as traffic and waiting at the docks. It will always be expected of you to deal with everything calmly. Tolerance is a must in this industry.

This particular profession isn’t exactly a walk in the park, so even if you have a great team behind you, you can still expect some stressful situations from time to time. However, the faster you figure out how to deal with them, the sooner they will become less stressful and you’ll handle them much easier.

Legal requirements for truck driver

As you may have guessed, every state has different laws and regulations. The general rule is that you have to be at least 18 years old to apply for a truck driving position. However, until you turn at least 21 years old you can only drive within one state (this number also varies, depending on the company and state in question).

When it comes to education, you are only expected to have a high school diploma. You won’t need to take any courses before you apply for the position. You’ll likely receive all the necessary training from the company that hires you (make sure to research everything before applying, however).

Having a clean criminal record is an incredible advantage since it allows you to transport all kinds of freight, and work for any company. You are also permitted to cross international borders and acquire various benefits and licenses.

It’s mandatory to pass the physical if you’re opting for a trucking career since the job does involve a certain amount of risk. When it comes to sight, a professional truck driver is expected to have at least 20/40 vision with glasses or lenses, and a vision of a 70-degree field (in each eye). Good hearing is extremely important for this profession, and it too will be tested on the physical.

Lastly, you’ll need to have a Commercial Driver’s Licence (CDL), and you’re ready to send out those applications!

If you’re considering a career in professional truck driving, and you think you fit the bill, visit our website because we’re hiring!

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An Overview of a Trucker’s Lifestyle

We offer you interesting facts about trucker’s lifestyle

As people are exchanging the hustle and bustle of larger cities for the fresh air and peace offered in more rural areas, the need for transportation is growing. For every store that opens, several deliveries each week are required to keep the shelves nice and stocked, and that freight can’t be delivered on its own. The need for truck drivers is growing as well, so we thought it would be interesting to present an overview of a trucker’s lifestyle.

Truck driving is a way of life. It affects every part of your life, but the changes can be very welcome at times. From meeting new people to seeing new places, driving a truck gives a person a chance to get to know all the nooks and crannies of the U.S.

If you never saw yourself sitting in an office for 8 hours, being surrounded by paperwork, seeing the same people, and doing the same thing every day, a career in truck driving might be an interesting option for you. However, it’s important to stress that the trucker’s lifestyle isn’t easy at all.

Once you decide to get behind that wheel, your whole life is bound to change. Seems scary when blatantly written like this, but a significant change like this could be exactly what you needed.

  The first thing that’s required is a commercial driver’s license (CDL).  If you are between 18 and 21 years old, you generally are eligible to get this license. However, since every state has different laws in place, it’s important to look into them thoroughly. Usually, if you are 18 years old you are allowed to obtain a CDL which is only valid for in-state freight transportation. In order to drive across state lines, you have to be 21 years old. A truck driver’s day starts early, often at the crack of dawn, however, some drivers prefer to drive at night.

These kinds of things can usually be established and agreed upon with the employer, depending on the company rules and the logistics of certain freight transport. If you do have to drive early in the morning, there is one thing that can almost always be guaranteed – you will have the chance to experience the world before it wakes up. The quiet, early-morning hours and the open, mostly empty roads will ensure that you have a relatively peaceful start to the day.

Hours of Service

Sometimes truck drivers spend up to 70 hours driving over an eight-day period, so the trucks they’re driving are made to be comfortable enough to be considered a driver’s home away from home. There are sleeping quarters, so you won’t have to search for a place to sleep every night, which can be complicated and tedious work because chances are the Inn / Motel you wanted to sleep in can’t accommodate a truck of that size. Modern trucks offer power sources and even outlets for smaller appliances, such as microwaves, mini-fridges, and even slow-cookers. This is especially useful since truck stops rarely offer healthy and nutritious food, so having the option to actually cook something for yourself and store fruit and veggies in a fridge will definitely help you stay healthier on the road.

What about Rakmark?

Truck drivers work long hours, so it’s only fair that they are appropriately compensated for their work. It’s also worth mentioning that some companies pay by the hour, while other pay by the mile.
For example, here at Rakmark, we pay our company drivers up to 65c/mile, while team drivers are paid up to 70c/mile. Along with this, we offer bonuses depending on your experience level, cash advance, and a fuel card. But for more info, check out our careers page. To help the hours pass, drivers can have a partner on the road. Some companies support team driving, which means that you would have a colleague of yours on the road with you and the option to switch places so that you aren’t the only one driving during the trip. In this case, you would split the profit from that trip.

Sometimes people take their spouses on the road, and even their pets (all this should be done in accordance with the company’s rules and regulations).

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