Professional commercial drivers make modern life possible. From public transportation conductors to over-the-road truck drivers, CDL drivers move people and the things we need every day. State requirements for CDL drivers can vary. What are the requirements for getting a CDL license in the Commonwealth of Virginia? When is a good time to earn your CDL? How does a formal training course set you up for success?
Federal and State CDL Requirements
The United States government establishes regulations that affect all CDL drivers and applicants. Virginia conforms to the standards set out in the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) Safety Act of 1986.
All potential CDL drivers must first apply for a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). This allows them to legally operate commercial vehicles under the supervision of an experienced instructor. In order to apply for a CLP, drivers must:
- Possess a valid non-commercial driver’s license issued by the state.
- Be at least 21 years of age if they plan to drive across state lines or transport hazardous materials.
- Have one to two years of driving experience with no active suspensions or revocations.
- Provide proof of residency and citizenship.
- Pass applicable background checks.
In addition, CLP applicants must provide a statement certifying that they are not subject to disqualification as described in FMSCA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) 383.51. Applicants must also be able to read, write, and speak English, as the state written exam is not issued in other languages.
A medical examination is also required to ensure drivers are physically capable of fulfilling their duties. Eyesight, hearing, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels are examined during the testing.
After training with an experienced guide, CLP drivers must complete a state-approved written test to complete the process. Then, a road test is conducted to evaluate the applicant’s real-world skills. Drivers are graded on:
- Pre-trip vehicle inspection procedures.
- Basic vehicle control.
- Safe driving practices while on the road.
Once a CDL is obtained, the holder must surrender their regular license.
Which Vehicles Require a CDL?
Virginia law requires drivers to hold an active CDL when they are driving:
- Class A vehicles that are used to tow heavy weight. The total weight of all vehicles must exceed 26,000 pounds for this rule to apply. In addition, the towed vehicle must weigh more than 10,000 pounds.
- Class B vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds and tow other vehicles under 10,000 pounds.
- Class C vehicles that transport 16 or more passengers or used in the conveyance of hazardous materials.
- Class D vehicles used for private passengers with a dedicated driver.
Class D drivers are the most restricted, as they cannot legally operate any other class of vehicle. Each license class includes the privileges of the previous one. That means Class A drivers are able to operate every type of commercial vehicle legally, excluding those that require special endorsements.
CDL Training: Your Path to Long-Term Career Success
Drivers are not required to complete a formal training program in order to receive their CDL. However, there are many advantages to learning your trade at an accredited truck driving school.
- You’ll learn a greater variety of things in less time. Many companies offer on-the-job training to new hires. These classes are designed to teach you the bare minimum needed for that specific company. If you decide later to move on to another company or vehicle type, you will have start all over again. A formal program gives students a solid understanding of what it means to drive all kinds of commercial vehicles, which means you’ll have more career options.
- You could have an easier time finding your first position. Truck driving schools often help students find positions that match their skills after graduation. Local companies are aware of these organizations and routinely scout these schools for new employees. It’s possible to have a job lined up before you even receive your diploma.
- You get the benefit of experts with many years of experience. Driving doesn’t seem like a hard job at first. As you learn, however, you will have questions. Studying on your own leaves you vulnerable to spurious internet information that could derail your career plans. The instructors at an accredited truck driving school have worked in the field for many years and will provide accurate and useful responses to your questions.
Truck driving is a respectable and well-paying career choice. Start your new career with the Tractor-Trailer Driving certificate from the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI). Contact our representatives today to learn more about this exciting program.