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Want to Get Your CDL License? Here's What to Know

Getting your Commerical Driving License (CDL) is a big deal. It’s an exciting step toward a career as a professional driver, and we hear from lots of veteran drivers that it’s the best job out there. Earning your CDL license isn’t an overnight process, but it’s worth it. Take the time to prepare yourself for each of the steps, and you’ll be on the road before you know it. Here are a few things you should know before you get started.

Types of CDL Licenses

There are three main types of commercial driving license: A, B, and C. They all allow you to operate large motor vehicles, but each is designed for a specific purpose. A CDL A license is considered the most universal because it allows you to also drive most CDL B and CDL C jobs. Here are the distinctions between each type of license

  • CDL A: Allows drivers to operate vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds with a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 pounds. This license lets you drive tractor-trailers (also known as semi-trucks, big rigs, etc.) as well as most Class B and Class C vehicles. 
  • CDL B: Permits drivers to operate a vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds with a towed vehicle of less than 10,000 pounds. This license (sometimes with endorsements) allows you to drive most straight trucks, buses, box trucks, dump trucks, and most Class C vehicles. 
  • CDL C: Allows drivers to operate a commercial vehicle with a GVWR that is less than 26,000 pounds and transports hazardous materials or 16+ passengers. This license is typically used for passenger vans and small HazMat vehicles.

With any of these license types, you may need to supplement with endorsements. Not all trucking jobs require them, so consider what you’re interested in before you commit to adding them. The standard endorsements are (H) Hazardous Materials, (N) Tank Vehicles, (P) Passenger Vehicles, (S) School Buses, and (T) Double and Triple Trailers.

Eligibility

From a Federal perspective, the eligibility requirements to be a truck driver are pretty straight forward. If you can satisfy these requirements, you’re off to a good start.

  1. You must be 18+ for trucking in the same state (intrastate trucking)
  2. You must be 21+ for trucking between states (interstate trucking) or carrying hazardous materials
  3. Don’t have any criminal offenses on your record that disqualify you from earning your CDL

Once you’ve confirmed eligibility at a federal level, look into the specific requirements for the state that will be issuing the license. Every state is a little bit different, but there are several common things you will likely be asked for. 

  • Proof of ID
  • A release of your driving record for the past 10 years
  • Demonstration of medical health
  • Pass a written and skills test
  • A road test fee (usually $50 – $200)
  • Verification that you’ve completed a professional training course

You can only have a CDL License from one state at a time. If you move (or have another reason to transfer your license), make sure you review the CDL license requirements for your new state. 

Choosing a Driving School

Once you have decided what type of CDL License is right for you, it’s time to pick a driving school. There are pros and cons to all programs, so research carefully. Technically, you’re not required to get your license through a driving school and could self-study for your tests. That said, many companies will only hire if they see the driver has gone through a verified driving school. You can also get your license through a company-sponsored program. There are benefits and drawbacks to this, but it’s a good option for many drivers. We recommend that future drivers get their license through some type of verified program. 

As you look for programs, look for the following as signs of credibility: 

  • Is the school/program accredited? (Approved by the Department of Education)
  • Is the school program certified? (Approved by the Department of Transportation)
  • Is the school/program licensed? (The instructors and curriculum meet state guidelines)
  • Is the school/program listed with the Better Business Bureau? Use these ratings to compare programs
  • What’s included in the price of tuition? Quality programs usually offer all the necessary supplies, classroom and over-the-road training, and extra help if requested. 

If you can’t find answers to any of these questions, make sure you get in touch. The driving school or program should be able to answer any questions you have before you get started. Most programs have a similar curriculum and are a mix of classroom and on-the-road instruction. You can expect to cover things like operating a truck, use of electronic logs and other industry tools, and safety procedures among other essentials

Time and Cost

Getting a CDL License is an investment in your future. Like any training program, there is a cost in both time and money. The total cost varies by state, but you can expect to spend about $3,0000 – $7,000 on a training program. As a rule of thumb, the more training time required for your license type and endorsements, the higher the cost of the program. A full-time driving program usually takes around 7 weeks, though it can take longer. Deciding to obtain a CDL License is a big commitment, but it will pay for itself quickly through your new career.

Passing the Test

After you have completed a certified driving program, you must have your Commercial Learning Permit (CLP) for two weeks. Then, it’s time to take your CDL test.

The exam has written and practical components. For the written exam, the test is multiple choice and typically taken on a computer. An 80% passing rate is required for the written exam. For the road test, you must not have more than 30 points deducted from your score.

The examiners will be watching for your ability to maneuver the vehicle, your behavior during the test, and your ability to handle pressure or stressful situations. Reviewing your state CDL training manual and spending practice time in a rig are great ways to prepare. 

You passed! Time to get hired

Now that you have your CDL license, it’s time to start looking for a job. This might sound intimidating, but many driving schools offer resources and connections to their students. That’s a great place to start. You can also use driver-friendly platforms to search for jobs that match your lifestyle and job preferences. As you are offered opportunities, make sure the position is a good fit for you. Ask the recruiter the essential questions about pay, home time, operations, and equipment to get as much information on the job as possible. Soon enough, you’ll be ready to hit the road!

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Terry Christofferson picks up the phone with an upbeat “Hello.” He’s calling from his sunny home just outside of Chico, California. There’s a cheery enthusiasm to his voice, but also the subtle depth of a man who knows hard work. Terry came to Drive My Way like many CDL licensed drivers—looking for a job and expressing interest in one of the many positions on our site.

Except, unlike most drivers, Terry already has a job. Just not in trucking. 

He’s a certified respiratory therapist in California, one of the first states that was reporting positive COVID-19 cases this spring. A respiratory therapist who wants to drive a semi-truck. At a time when medical professionals are desperately needed, Terry Christofferson wants to drive a semi-truck not instead of, but in addition to being a respiratory therapist. And Christofferson has the credentials to do it. Despite working a very secure job in the medical field, he made sure to maintain a CDL A license with Tanker, Hazmat, and Double/Triple endorsements for more than 30 years.

 

maintain a cdl license

Terry and his wife Sondra

Before He Became a Respiratory Therapist

Terry Christofferson grew up on a farm in a small town in North Dakota. Before he completed high school, he moved with his family to northern California. After graduating from high school, Terry started college to become a respiratory therapist. Education doesn’t come without a price tag, but Terry was no stranger to hard work. Life in a small town in the Great Plains is a strong and relentless teacher –  hard work, perseverance, and grit weave the fabric of each day and toughen the hands of the people who live there.

From growing up on a farm, Terry knew how to handle big machinery, so he accepted a position with Viking Freight working on their docks near his California home.

One afternoon, a supervisor asked him to back a semi-truck up to a loading dock. Terry could have driven most agricultural machinery blindfolded, but trucks were an entirely different story.  “Sure I can.” Terry confidently responded and jumped in the cab. One clean movement later, and the truck was up against the dock. His colleagues smirked appreciatively and laughed, “You obviously know how to drive a truck.” 

maintain a CDL licenseOnce a Truck Driver

His humble display of skilled maneuvering quickly upgraded Terry to a job hosteling for Viking Freight. Terry’s skills driving cargo around the freight yard impressed his managers, so he quickly moved up again. Even though he had only been with the company for a few years, Viking Freight sent him to driving school through their company to get his CDL A license to drive a tractor-trailer.

Terry continued driving for Viking Freight through college, and soon enough, Terry was a certified respiratory therapist with a full-time job. With the job security that accompanies the medical profession, many people might have let a truck driving license lapse. Terry wasn’t ready to do that.

“It’s just one of those things that you do… Then pretty soon, you kind of go, “Well I’ve been doing it for this long, I might as well keep going.”

I always thought, “You know, one of these days, I want to go back ‘cause I really miss working on the farm. I enjoy driving trucks… I’m going to go back and do it part-time.”

Always a Truck Driver

open road

Over the years, Terry happily accepted small driving jobs from time to time. Lending a hand here and there. An errand for a friend. He continued to maintain a CDL license. His work as a respiratory therapist remained steady, and his family was close, but every so often, the undeniable call of the open road would whisper.

“[My love of driving] is hard for me to explain. It’s just, it’s enjoyable. It brings back a lot of memories of growing up on the farm…especially if I’m driving in the agricultural industry… I enjoy driving a truck, you know, it’s not something that everybody could do…” 

Speeding down the road at 70mph while maneuvering 30 to 40 tons of truck with the precision of an engineer is no small feat. Most semi-trucks weigh 60,000 to 80,000 pounds, and as a truck driver, you have to be aware of not only your truck but also all of the (often unpredictable) drivers around you. Each time Terry finished a job for a friend, he was reminded of the exhilaration of driving a semi-truck. And each time, the thought crept in, “I should just a do a little bit more of this.”

maintain a CDL licenseDeciding to Maintain a CDL License

In the state of California, to maintain a CDL license (Commercial Driving License), drivers must submit a license application, driving history clearance, a knowledge test, a background check and fingerprinting, and a renewal fee. And so, year after year, momentum carried Terry to the doctor for the requisite physical. It led him to the DMV every two years to retake the tests for his endorsements, right on schedule. 

In time, a few decades and a few miles slipped by. One year, on his regular trip to the DMV, Terry thought it might be time to set aside his CDL license.

He asked the DMV staff, “Well what if I just, I don’t want to do it anymore? What would happen if I decided down the line to go back and get it?” The man’s one-line response settled his decision. “You would have to start from scratch.”

Terry renewed his license

Is truck driving a job or a way of life? Driving is certainly one way to pay the bills, but so is being a mechanic or practicing medicine or starting a business. For many drivers, especially those long haul truckers who drive OTR (Over The Road), the open road is ingrained in the core of their identity. It’s the freedom of open roads and a clear sky. The precision and finesse of mastering a vehicle with immense power and knowing how to handle it, just so. For Terry, each drive in a big rig is also personal. It’s a bond back to his childhood on a North Dakota farm. Agricultural work, in particular, has always connected him through years and miles to the small North Dakota town he once called home.

medical professionalsTwo Essential Professions

When 2020 started, cheerful New Year’s parties rang through the country. Blissfully unaware of the months to come, no one in the United States rang in the decade with even the shadow of a global pandemic. By March, COVID-19 was sweeping from the ports of the coasts to the center of the heartland leaving sickness and death as unwelcome guests in big cities and small towns alike. Storefronts stand empty and the number of Americans filing for unemployment applications steadily climbs. Millions of Americans are suddenly working from home, and we’ve become acutely aware of the essential professions that are keeping this country moving forward. 

Medical professionals and truck drivers are at the top of the list

Four years from now, Terry Christofferson will be happily retired and traveling the world with his wife. But before then, he wants to join his fellow drivers on the road. “Truck drivers are one of those backbones of society that are really being highlighted right now. Absolutely amazing. I mean, every truck driver out there right now should pat themselves on the back… And when I watch it, even though I’m not actually out there doing it with them right now, I still feel pride hearing that on the news.”

Time to Drive

For Terry, it’s time to hit the road. He’s not leaving his job as a respiratory therapist—instead, he’s planning to drive on his days off. After decades of working to maintain a CDL license with several endorsements, Terry is in conversation with a California freight company. In a perfect symmetry that calls back to his Great Plains childhood, he’s hoping to haul agricultural products.

As we wrap up the call, Terry tells me about his wife, children, and grandson. He has a daughter who is becoming a nurse and a son in the construction industry. It’s clear he couldn’t be prouder of them. Their chosen lines of work stand as a living testament to his own duality. Before we hang up, he reiterates his appreciation for all the drivers who are working and delivering essential goods during the COVID-19 crisis. 

“Definitely proud of all the truckers out there. It’s been awesome to listen to them getting interviewed in a profession that doesn’t get recognized enough. And it’s really nice to see them getting recognized.”

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Night Driving

Most drivers will put in their fair share of night truck driving at some point in their careers. Depending on what you drive, night shifts might be your normal routine, or you might drive them only once in a while.

There are several perks to night driving, but it also can be more dangerous. Three times more crashes happen at night than during the day. If you’re headed out for a late shift, here are 7 things you need to know about night truck driving.

1. Your body’s natural rhythms are at a lull in the middle of the night.

Typically, your energy and alertness will drop in the early morning hours. This is particularly true for drivers who don’t typically drive at night.

Consistency along with a good diet and exercise helps your body adjust to a night driving schedule and helps you get the good sleep you need during the day.

If you need a good audiobook to keep you alert on the road, check out our top 10 list.

2. Your visibility is weakened at night.

Unfortunately, humans just don’t have amazing night vision. At night, your peripheral vision will not be as good, and you can’t see as far ahead of you on the road. That makes it hard to see animals who jump out at the last minute. It also means your response time to other drivers and events on the road is likely to be a little slower. Leave yourself extra space whenever possible.

3. Traffic is usually lighter.

Much of the world works a 9-5 job, so if you’re night driving, you will rarely have a problem with traffic. Even congested urban areas are often not a problem when you’re night driving. That said, the other drivers who are out are also at a low point of alertness. Keep your distance and drive defensively. You never know what other kinds of drivers are on the road.

4. Deliveries can be more dangerous.

At night, there are fewer people around, and you’re more likely to run into bad characters. Some drivers say this is especially true in urban areas when you’re making a delivery. Use your street smarts and if you’re traveling to a new area, try to learn what you can about the drop before you go. 

5. You’re on your own when night truck driving.

Most dispatchers and customers aren’t operating 24/7. Typically, that means less after-hours assistance if you run into trouble or need last minute directions to your client.

If you’re an independent driver who loves being self-reliant, you’ll love the self-sufficiency.

It’s on you to solve your own problems and get the job done. Keep a few essential tools in your cab, and you’ll be good to go.

6. Parking options are better.

Night drivers aren’t competing for parking in the same way that other drivers have to in the day. Most of the time, you won’t need to dock early or plan your route around the places you know you can stop. That can be a huge time saver (not to mention the headache you avoid!). If you do need to look for parking or gas, try TruckerPath or GasBuddy to get you where you need to go.

7. Keep your windshield, headlights, and mirrors clean.

Glare can be a big problem for night truck driving. Luckily, a little glass cleaner and elbow grease usually does the trick.

Reducing glare from your mirrors and windshield will go a long way toward keeping your night vision.

Similarly, try not to look closely at oncoming traffic. The bright white lights will temporarily impair your vision. Look slightly down and to the right (or at the white road line) to avoid the negative effects.

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When someone says they’re a truck driver, some people might think that’s all there is to it. But if you’re a driver, no matter if you’re in your first year or a seasoned veteran, you know that there are many types of driving jobs. Today’s spotlight is on being a tanker truck driver. What do drivers love about hauling tanker trucks? What would they change? Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about becoming a tanker truck driver.

The Pros

1. Good pay for the industry

Tanker truck drivers average $20.32/hour across the United States. That’s higher than the average hourly wage for many other driving positions. As with any job, pay increases with endorsements and experience.

Some tanker truck drivers may have longer hours. The good news is that most of these jobs are also hourly. If you have a long run, you’ll get paid for your time. 

The pay also depends on the material you haul. Hazmat driving typically earns more because of the experience required and extra job risks. 

2. Good benefits

Not all tankers drive Hazmat, but many do. Because being a tanker truck driver is considered slightly more dangerous than other types of CDL driving, the benefits are also better. Good health insurance, life insurance, and vacation days are all standard for tanker drivers

3. Typically short load/unload times

Loading and unloading a tanker truck is done with a big hose. While you might wait for hours to get your dry van or reefer unloaded, you’re usually in and out in 15 – 20 minutes when unloading a tanker. Getting loaded usually takes around 45 minutes. 

4. Many drivers are home every night

Tanker truck jobs are typically regional or local hauls. Frequent home time is a huge perk of being a tanker truck driver. You get to spend more time with your family and stay closer to home while doing a job you love.

If home time is a priority for you, becoming a tanker truck driver might be a great way to be home every night or nearly every night. 

5. Can be no touch freight

As a Hazmat driver, you’re often no touch. Frequently, your clients will take care of loading and unloading, so you don’t have to worry about heavy loads or the liability of handling freight. You may still be hooking up hoses, but you won’t have to tarp a load on a windy day.

The Cons:

1. Driving takes some adjustment time

When driving a tanker truck that isn’t full to the top, there is room for your load to move when you start and stop. This is called “surge.” Basically, if you slow down too quickly, the liquid in your load will be a little bit behind. A moment later, you might feel the liquid slam into the front of the tank. The force can be enough to slide your whole truck forward several feet! It’s challenging at first, but most drivers say they adapt quickly and use safe driving habits.

2. Can be more dangerous than other hauls

If you’re a tanker truck driver, there’s a good chance you’re hauling Hazmat. Whether that’s chemicals, hot oil, gasoline, or something else, it does increase your risk.

Normal activities like checking your load and your driving time can be more dangerous.

Even if you’re hauling food grade or other non-hazardous materials, climbing on top of a tanker truck in icy conditions can be dangerous.

DOT officer

3. Draws more attention from DOT 

While there aren’t any studies that officially confirm this, some drivers report that Hazmat drivers tend to draw more attention from DOT. This also may depend on the reputation of the company you’re driving for and the region you’re driving in.

4. Safety equipment

If you’re a hazmat driver, you will have a few extra safety requirements. A big one is the uniform you wear. If you’re a tanker driver, you typically wear fire resistant coveralls and an H2 monitor as protection from toxic fumes.

If you live in a hot part of the country, it’s not always comfortable, but it’s a small price to pay to keep yourself a little safer.

During load and unload times, you will also wear safety glasses and a helmet with a face shield to reduce your risk. 

The Take Away

As with any job, there are pros and cons to being a tanker truck driver. If home time and good pay are a high priority, this might be the perfect job for you. There are extra risks for tanker truck drivers, but there are also specific rules to help drivers stay safe. Overall, most drivers who haul tanker trucks say they love it and are never going back!

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thank you truckers

Truckers move America. Last September, we wrote a piece called, “Imagine a World Without Trucking.” Well, because of the coronavirus, a lot of the United States is grinding to a halt or trying to change gears to work remotely. Thankfully, there’s one group who isn’t slowing down. Truckers, this is for you. 

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU TRUCKERS!

We’ve been with you through job changes when many people didn’t recognize your value. Now, the truth is even more clear—America runs on truckers. From groceries, to medical supplies, to clean water and so much more. We couldn’t keep going without you. Thank you, truckers.

As you put in long hours on the road, here are a few things to help you keep going.  

Finding Food

There is no single list of restaurants that are staying open, but Feed the Truckers has a good list started. If you’re looking for a hot meal on the road, try a Texas Roadhouse or one of these local joints. They’ll bring a takeout order to your truck. Many fast food chains are also allowing drivers to walk through their drive thru window. 

Major truck stops are also doing their part. TA/Petro is still allowing you to reserve showers and place take out orders from Iron Skillets. Pilot/Flying J also has showers and laundry open and all restaurants are available for take out. Love’s travel stops will keep their stores and facilities open, but food is only available as a drive through/carry out order. 

Many local restaurants have also taken to social media to offer parking, restrooms, and food to drivers. The Facebook Page Trucker’s has a lot of offers for help coming in from all parts of the country. From coast to coast, Americans are stepping up to help the drivers who are helping us. 

What food should drivers be eating?

We also spoke to Kristin Kirkpatrick, a nutritionist who has appeared on Dr. Oz and The Today Show. She shares advice for the best food and snacks for truck drivers during COVID-19.

Keeping the Cab Clean

Your cab is your house. Many Americans are on stay at home orders, but your home is cruising the highway at 65 mph. Make sure you have what you need in your truck. To protect yourself from coronavirus as much as possible, take a few extra cleanliness measures.

wash hands

1. Wash your hands (the best one we heard was to “wash ‘em like you were cutting jalapenos and have to change your contact lens!”)

2. Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow (because no one touches their face with their elbow)

3. Avoid contact with others or stay 6’ apart whenever possible

4. Clean & disinfect frequently touched surfaces, especially if you’re slip seating. 

Get some gloves and clorox wipes and make sure you clean steering wheels, seats, dashboard, shifter knobs, grab handles, CB microphones, cell phones, ELD screens and buttons, keys, clipboards, tables, doorknobs, light switches, counter tops, cups, desks, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

HOS & COVID-19 Relief Loads

Truck drivers are operating under a Declaration of Emergency. That means hours of service regulations are waived. Since the HOS are not in effect, FMCSA does not require drivers to maintain a logbook. If you are keeping records with an ELD, you can make a note in the record to show that you were driving under the emergency declaration or record the time as “authorized personal use” which you will then need to note as emergency declaration drive time. Your employer may also have a specific policy. The FMCSA has a good FAQ section on what are essential loads and other common questions. Truckinginfo also has answers to common driver questions. 

What if I’m Actually Losing Loads?

Your current work depends on the loads you usually carry. While some truck drivers are working around the clock, others were unfortunately displaced due to the Coronavirus.

If you have been displaced from your job, we have resources to help you navigate the transition. Drive My Way can help you find a new trucking job that matches everything you’re looking for.

We match truck drivers to jobs based on professional qualifications and personal lifestyle preferences. Search our jobs or give us a call at 800-411-5840. We’ll help you get back on the road.

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Dangers of being a Truck Driver

Truck driving, like any profession, has risks. There are steps you can take to reduce the dangers of being a truck driver. The best rule of thumb? Think it through before you take action. Sounds simple, but taking an extra moment to slow down often makes a big difference. Even pausing for a few seconds can be enough to clear your head and really think through your choices. Here are the top 8 dangers of being a truck driver.

1. Driving tired or distracted

In 2007, the FMCSA did a study to determine causation of CDL Accidents. The number one cause? Driving tired or distracted. These two categories made up 40% of accidents that were labeled with a critical reason. Nearly half of the large truck accidents may have been preventable by extra sleep or improved focus. Need more convincing to get your sleep? As you’ve likely experienced, driving tired often leads to more distracted driving. Even 1 extra hour or a few 20 minute power naps can have a big impact on your ability to calmly make decisions on the road or to notice all the details of the road conditions

The FMCSA is exploring changes to HOS rules that would allow drivers flexibility to split their 10 hours in the sleeping berth however they want (within reason). The FMCSA is expected to share additional information as soon as the next six months.

As a driver, the best thing you can do is prioritize your sleep. Know your limits, and pull off when you need to. If you’re feeling sleepy, drink water and take a short break if you can. A short slow down will let you keep driving safely in the long run and reduce one of the biggest dangers of being a truck driver.

2. Driving too fast for conditions

All professional drivers know that the weather and road conditions can have a big impact on your route. There is a lot of pressure to meet drop times and make the most of your miles. It’s easy to tell yourself that going a little faster won’t be a problem. It’s much harder to convince yourself to slow down and carefully evaluate the conditions.

Road conditions are one of the dangers of being a truck driver that you can’t control. But, you can control how you react.

More experience and time on the road will sharpen your ability to assess the roads and traffic to make safe driving decisions. 

3. Avoid unsafe areas at bad times and stay alert in truck yards and loading docks

As any seasoned driver knows, there are some places you just don’t want to visit outside of daylight hours. Of course, as a seasoned driver also knows, you don’t always know where those areas are, especially when you’re driving new routes. As a general rule, spending nights at the shipper or consignees lots is safer than most truck stops. If you are driving somewhere new or you don’t know the area, call ahead by a few hours. The receivers can tell you if it’s safe to park and sleep there or if it’s a “daylight only” situation. If the area isn’t safe enough for a sleep stop, calling ahead should give you enough time to find somewhere nearby that is safe to rest.

4. Always do a circle check

Circle checks are a small step that can save a lot of time and energy later. Sure, spending 20 minutes on a walk around every time might seem like a pain, but it’s saving you much larger headaches down the road. A circle check is meant to inspect your rig for any damage or issues that need attention before departure. Want to make sure you’re covering all the steps? Smart Trucking has a good basic guide to the D.O.T. pre-trip inspection to make sure you get where you need to go without any surprise maintenance issues. 

5. Use the buddy system for some repairs

Getting pinned under a rig is enough to give any cdl driver second thoughts about the job. Luckily, it’s preventable.

If you have repairs to make under the trailer, bring a partner. They can immediately assist if something goes wrong.

Be particularly careful when pinning up. Now, there are some repairs you may feel comfortable taking on by yourself. A word to the wise. Unless you’re a properly trained mechanic, don’t mess with the brake chambers. Let a professional mechanic take care of any problems with the brake chambers, and you’ll thank yourself later. 

6. Use caution on trailer decks and loads

It’s tempting to climb up the back of your rig. You might just be going up for a quick fix after all. It’s easy to use that logic, but the consequences can be terrible. One slip or fall from your rig can lead to serious injuries.

Instead, carry a ladder with you when possible or wait to climb until you have the proper equipment. Use extra caution on trailer decks and if you’re standing on a load, especially for with a flatbed truck. 

7. Open your doors one at a time in case your load has shifted

moving truck with white boxes in a garage

Even when you have checked your load before departure, things may shift while you’re driving. The vast majority of the time, you could open both doors of your trailer at once and there would be no problem. But, Murphy’s law says that the one time your load will shift is when you have the heaviest haul.

Save yourself the problem. Open doors one door at a time. That guarantees that your load won’t fall out if things have shifted in transit.

8. Other drivers

In a perfect world, we would all be responsible for our own safe driving. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect and we all share the road with a lot of other drivers.

Other drivers are one of the big dangers of being a truck driver. Be alert to your surroundings and the other vehicles around you.

As a professional driver, you’re much more aware of passenger vehicles than most of them are of you. That said, these drivers (and other cdl drivers) can be a danger to you on the road. While there are likely more than a few driving tips you’d like to give to passenger vehicles on sharing the road, you have to watch out for yourself. Pay attention to your surroundings and leave plenty of space between vehicles. 

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daylight savings time tips

There are only a few things you can count on to happen every single spring. Changing weather, taxes, and Daylight Savings Time. We can’t do much for the weather, and hopefully your taxes are already in progress (or will be soon!). As for Daylight Savings Time, mark your calendar for Sunday, March 8. The official change happens at 2:00 AM on March 8. This time of year we’re all “springing forward,” so we lose one hour during the night. 

Daylight Savings Time impacts all drivers on the road and it’s more important than ever to be alert. Start planning now so you’re ready to handle the HOS difference if you’re driving at night or to hit the road refreshed when you wake up on Sunday. Here are the places where Daylight Savings Time has the biggest impact and some Daylight Savings Time tips.

1. Sleep

sleeping puppy

As a driver, you may already feel tired and road weary, especially near the end of a shift. And that’s not to mention that your hours may not exactly fit within a “9-5 job.” With this in mind, even a one hour difference can seriously throw off your natural body rhythms. 

To help yourself adjust, consider eating your last meal an hour earlier and trying to fit in an “extra” hour of sleep. Be particularly careful about phone time on March 8. Turning off that screen at least an hour before you plan to go to bed will help your body go to sleep more easily. And when you wake up in the morning, try not to drink too much extra caffeine. It might temporarily boost that alert feeling, but it will be harder for your body to adjust in the long run. Instead, boost your energy by drinking extra water and adding a quick workout or stretch when you stop. 

2. Safety

Daylight Savings Time affects everyone on the road. Sleeping one hour less means that everyone is also less alert. It takes most of us about a week to adjust to the time change, not just one day. Accidents increase by just over 6% for the week following the start of Daylight Savings Time in the Spring. Even if you’re a very safe driver with a clean record, leave a little extra space on the road during that second week of March and practice good driving habits

3. Plan Ahead

These Daylight Savings Time tips are all about preparation. Make a point of marking the date on a calendar. Before you go to sleep before the time change:

  • Make sure you set your clock ahead. Cell phones will typically do this automatically, but manually reset your other clocks. 
  • Double check your route. Not all states observe Daylight Savings, so look at your whole route if you’re driving OTR.
  • Review your pickup times, delivery times, and ETA.

A little planning ahead of time will make sure that you’re up and driving without any slowdowns on Sunday morning. 

4. ELDs

Most ELDs now automatically take care of DST, but you may find that you need to work an “extra” hour. Or, if you’re on your break when the clocks change, you’ll resume an hour “later” than you would. Remember, hours of service rules still apply. 

For example, if you have a night shift from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM, your log will show that you worked a 7 hour shift. If you start a 10 hour break at 8:00 PM on Saturday, you will have to finish your break at 7:00 AM on Sunday morning because of Daylight Savings Time.

If you are exempt from using an ELD, make sure you understand your employer’s expectation on logging hours ahead of time.

 

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The CDL Drug test and alcohol tests are a standard part of the trucking industry. If you have a CDL job, you’ve likely had more than a few already. For as common as they are though, there are still a lot of questions about how it all works. Get in the know and don’t get caught unaware the next time your employer asks for a random sample or you are preparing to start a new job. Here are 5 of the most important facts about the CDL drug test and alcohol tests.

1. CDL 101: What is the CDL Drug Test and Alcohol Test?

CDL Drug Test

Most drug tests are urine tests that are given at a specific collection site. The most common type is called a 5 panel test, and it detects marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, and PCP. Most of these substances leave traces that could show up in a urine test long after the effects you can feel have passed (more than 30 days for some!).

CBD oils and lotions can register on these tests, even if there is little to no THC in the product. Make sure you’re in the know on what you can use.

In addition, if you take prescription medications that could register on a drug test, make sure you have written verification from your prescribing doctor that you are able to safely operate a commercial vehicle while taking that medicine. 

Alcohol Test

Alcohol tests are typically done with a breathalyzer. Drivers cannot work or remain on duty with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. That’s much lower than the allowed limit for drivers of passenger vehicles. For both men and women, that could mean that even one drink puts you in danger of exceeding the legal limit.

As someone who drives a commercial vehicle for a living, the standards for you on the road are higher than for other drivers both on and off duty. In addition to a lower allowed BAC, commercial drivers are not allowed to have alcohol within four hours of starting their shift. If you are convicted of a DUI or DWI even in your personal vehicle, you must report it to your employer and may face significant consequences for your job.

2. When you can be tested

All trucking companies are required to request a drug test from their drivers prior to employment. Drivers may then be submitted to a random drug test annually for the duration of their employment.

The FMCSA requires companies to test 50% of their number of driver positions annually, so your odds of getting tested are not small.

You also may be required to take a drug test if you’re in an accident. The federal law depends on the type of accident you’re in and particularly whether you receive a citation. The FMCSA laws on this are actually pretty clear cut. However, some companies have stricter requirements, and it’s not uncommon for a company to ask for a CDL Drug Test after every accident. (This may be an insurance requirement or simply to encourage safer driving habits.)

3. How the test works

The most common form of drug test is a urine sample. Typically, the sample is collected and then processed in a lab. It is split into 2 samples: A and B. Sample A is tested. If the sample comes up positive, and you think it is an error, you have 72 hours after learning the results to request that another lab test Sample B to confirm the results. If you take prescription medications that may have triggered a positive result, take action immediately to share the doctor’s note.

 

4. Who gets my results (is this related to the Clearinghouse?)

A positive test result will be shared with your employer, but CDL Drug tests are otherwise confidential. They are, however, on your permanent record in the Clearinghouse.

Future employers can ask to see previous drug and alcohol tests, and past employers must share that information.

While it might seem strict, this rule is in place for driver protection. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, tracking the tests can identify this and help the driver get assistance. Substance abuse may also point to a larger conversation about mental health. Truck driving is a hard, and often lonely career. Know that you are not alone, and get to know your resources

5. What happens if I refuse or fail?

Failing a drug test doesn’t automatically mean losing your job, but it is serious. The results of your test will be shared with your employer. It is up to your employer to decide the consequences. That said, the DOT does require that drivers are not allowed to operate a CMV after failing a drug test. In other words, if you are permitted to stay with your company, you won’t be driving. Whether you are at risk of losing your CDL license also depends on your company and the type of accident.

If you refuse to take a drug or alcohol test, that will also be noted on your permanent record. Just like a positive result on a drug test, refusal to complete a drug tests forces you off the road immediately.

You will then need to complete a formal Return to Duty (RTD) process before you are eligible to drive again.

Operating a CMV while on drugs or under the influence of alcohol is dangerous. While these regulations might seem overly strict, prevention is always better than fixing damage when it comes to safety. Staying away from these substances while on the job protects your life, your job, and the lives of everyone else on the road. 

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