Who Needs A CDL?
In any economy, having a good income & solid career is very important to most people. Few career options out there provide the income potential, flexibility and diversity from entry-level to 5-decade-veteran that commercial truck driving offers. If you have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) you can get a job driving commercial vehicles anywhere you go. So, just how valuable is a commercial drivers license?
Commercial driving is one of the fastest growing career sectors today, with a very high demand, increasing pay rates and no slowing in growth expected any time soon. There are nearly 4 million truck drivers in the United States today but the demand for this skilled job is much higher and growing each year.
Former fire fighters, lawyers, psychologists & professionals with graduate degrees, retired couples and single women have decided to make commercial driving their “new” career. Whether you’re 21 and looking for a good job which can lead you into a solid career, 40-something in need of a change or 60-something & not wanting to retire, commercial driving has something to offer you.
I got my CDL when I left my job in civil service, thinking it would be a temporary thing, as I’d heard from friends how commercial driving skills can help to get a job in any part of the country. Granted, there are good days and bad like there are in any job, but it was one of the best career decisions I’ve made. Using my CDL, I’ve had a higher annual income than in any of my other jobs.
Since getting a CDL, I’ve had a number of different jobs from driving LTL & dump trucks locally, to working in transportation management and driving over-the-road as an owner/operator for a number of years. I’ve upgraded my Class-A CDL to include Passenger, Tanker and HAZMAT endorsements.
Just How Valuable Is A CDL?
The fact is, having a CDL is every bit as valuable – and often more – than having a college degree. I’ve talked with so many people who’ve had a very difficult time getting good work in their field of study after college. Some find a decent job but aren’t satisfied working in that type of career. Now what? Go back to school for another 4 years?
You can always get a good-paying job & benefits in commercial driving. Entry-level jobs start around $40,000 per year and median-level truckers for companies like Walmart average about $73,000 plus benefits annually, according to the ATA.
As with any career, the more experience you have, the more earning potential you have. There are specialized commercial driving jobs where drivers are making close to $250,000 per year, which is more than top airline pilots earn.
How To Get A CDL
Obtaining a CDL isn’t difficult. The average person can study the CDL manual for 2-3 weeks and easily pass the written test. To get the practical knowledge needed for the driving test, many go to truck driving school for 3-4 weeks to learn how to operate a big rig. The cost of such a school varies anywhere from $1,500-$4,000 dollars from what I’ve seen lately. A lot of companies which will even sponsor you to get your CDL, provide hands-on training and pay for your license.
Here are a few tips when considering the various schools:
- Check out reviews of the driving school.
- Talk with people who’ve attended.
- Do they finance the schooling and how?
- Does the school help to place you in a job when you finish?
- Do they use pressure tactics or grandiose promises to get you into a truck lease upon completion of your training?
As for companies who offer to help you (sponsor you) to get a CDL:
- Find out if they require an employment agreement (contract) for a certain length of time. Many have a 1-2 year requirement.
- If you don’t stay with them after getting the CDL, how much will you owe them
- What’s the reputation of the company?
- What types of endorsements will they help you get?
- Do they also cover your DOT medical certification?
Don’t plan to come out of school knowing everything there is to know about commercial driving – that takes time and just ‘doing it’. Actual driving experience is a life-long thing. A while back, I spoke with a 72-year-old guy who’s been driving since I was in diapers and admitted he’s still learning something new every week.
Endorsements – Like A More Advanced CDL
One of the best things of having a CDL is that you can upgrade it without going back to school for several years to get a more advanced degree. Endorsements are like an upgrade to your CDL allowing you to drive more specialized vehicles, which generally results in more earning ability and a wider range of jobs available to you.
You’ll need to study the section of your CDL manual for that particular endorsement, take a written test and in a couple cases, a practical test, for each endorsement. The most common types of endorsements are:
- Hazardous Materials
- School Bus
So, whether you want to experience the adventure of driving long haul and travel the country, or a well-paying job closer to home, a CDL can be ticket. There’s a lot of responsibility attached to driving a commercial vehicle but the many rewards are well worth it!
We’ve covered how valuable your CDL is. Now, learn How To Protect Your CDL.