Have you been thinking about getting your CDL, but not sure if it is worth it? There are some requirements and classes you must take to even get started.Is getting a CDL worth it really? Yes, it is worth it, but only if you are going to use it. You have a lot of steps you must go through to get a CDL and if you are not going to use it then it is a waste of time and money. You can use your CDL either at local businesses or long-distance jobs. Also, if you love traveling in an RV, many states require you to have a CDL. We are now going to go into more detail about why having a CDL benefits you and what you have to do to get one. We will also give you a list of a few jobs you could get with a CDL.

Reasons a CDL License Is Worth Your Time

While getting a CDL may seem like a good idea, it can be a true waste of time if you are not going to use it daily or weekly. But if you know you are going to need it for work or for personal use, then there are some pretty awesome benefits from having your CDL.

  • If you are planning are driving a truck daily then your wallet will get heavy fast. Now, not everyone can handle the long hauls but if you are it is financially worth the long rides. Truck drivers can start off making around $35,000 a year and experienced drivers can make up to $70,000 a year. Of course, the pay is different from all companies. If you decide to own your company you could pocket around $270,000 a year. But you will have to pay for repairs and sometimes gas out of pocket.
  • If you decide to become a traveling truck driver you will be able to see some amazing things. Yes, most of your time will be spent behind a wheel but the days you have off between each load, you can go and explore. You will never have to pay again to travel somewhere. The companies will pay you to go! Some companies also have the options of international driving.

Now, if you are a local driver you can still see things as you drive but will not be able to explore.

  • Make Your Own Schedule. That’s right, if you are a long-distance truck driver, you can pick how many loads you want. Some companies do require a minimum but for the most part, you can take a few days off between each load.

If you drive for a local company you may have a normal schedule, but we can tell you it will not be a 9 to 5 type of job.

  • Not Stuck Behind a Desk. Some people are not cut out for being stuck behind a desk every day. If you need to be on the go, then driving may be perfect for you.

Having a CDL gives you so many options, from working at a local company using larger vehicles to driving a huge semi-truck down the road.

  • Start Small Go Big. Moving up in a company is always a huge plus. Some companies will pay you more money if you get your CDL. So, if you start off in the lower ranks of the company you can always work your way up to the top-paying position.

Also, you may decide to start at a local company and over time be able to buy your own truck and start a business of your own. Opportunities are endless!

What Is a CDL?

CDL stands for commercial driver’s license. There are three types of CDL licenses you can get and they are Class A, B, and C.

  • Class A allows you to operate equipment of all sizes and weights. This class is what you must have if you are deciding to drive a semi-truck or a combination of truck and trailer. You can also drive flatbeds, livestock, and tank vehicles. This is the most common CDL that people receive. You must be 21 years or older to get this type of CDL. A Class A CDL allows you to cross over state lines. This type of CDL is a bit harder to get but is the higher paid one in the business.
  • Class B allows you to operate such vehicles as a bus(school or city), dump-truck, box truck, and trucks that can not hitch on extra trailers. The cab and cargo area can not weigh more than 26,000 pounds. For the Class B CDL license, you must be at least 18 years old. Also, this CDL license only allows you to drive in the state in which you got the CDL.
  • Class C is strict! You can drive a bus but it can not hold more than 16 passengers and that is including the driver and you can drive hazmat vehicles. The equipment you are driving must weigh under 26,000 pounds and if you are towing another vehicle, the vehicle must weigh under 10,000 pounds. You must also stay within state lines while driving a larger vehicle.

Requirements to Get a CDL

Every state is different, so if you are planning on only using your CDL in your local state then it would be a wise idea to only invest time into that. But if you are planning to cross over state lines you must get the full workup. Below, we have listed examples of things you will have to pass to get your CDL.

  • Training course. Everyone must take a training course before trying to get their CDL. If you are enrolled full-time you should be able to complete this course in an estimated seven weeks. Now, remember every state is different and the state may require more or less than other states. You are required to pass each step of this course. So, try your best on every task before. For those who do not pass, you must retake the course until you do.
  • Medical Exam. You are required to pass a physical exam proving you can drive larger vehicles and be able to perform non-driving duties. This includes things like staying up for long periods of time without sleep, time away from your family, and other work-related things that can cause stress. Also, you may be required to lift heavy items throughout the day, bend down frequently, get in and out of the truck multiple times a day, and possibly adjusting the truck’s tires to accommodate the weather.

You must also be healthy enough to pass this exam. Which includes blood pressure, sugar levels, sleep, vision, and hearing.

  • Written Exam. This exam covers basic knowledge you should have to operate all larger equipment. You will be able to study before this written exam. There are books are your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Or you can go online to the DMV website and download a copy.
  • Driving Exam. You must pass three levels of a driving exam. The first part of the exam is knowledge of how to check your vehicle to make sure it is safe to drive. The second part is basic driving, forward and backward. Lastly, you will have to prove you can drive the vehicle safely with turns, stopping, and curves. It is best to practice before going in to take your driving exam. As, it may get costly if you have to retake it many times.

How to Get a CDL License

To get your CDL license you must first take the required training course. Once that is completed, you will have to go into your local Department of Motor Vehicles and take the permit test. This includes a written test and a vision exam.

The next step would be to get practice in with your permit so when you go for your full CDL Class A, B, or C license, so you can pass it easily. Other requirements you must get are certain endorsements. These endorsements are things like:

  • Hazardous material. With this endorsement, you will be able to transport hazard freight.
  • Tank. This endorsement will allow you to transport liquid and other chemicals by the tanker load.
  • Doubles/triples. With this endorsement, you can transport two or three trailers at one time.

When you are ready you can then go back to the DMV and take your knowledge and skills exam. This may be a little difficult so make sure and study before taking. And that is it, you now have a CDL!

Again, remember every state requires different things, so please check before you spend a ton of money on something.

The Cost Behind Getting a CDL

So, after learning about what you will have to complete, you may be wondering how much is all of this going to cost? Well, let’s start with the training course. This course can range between $3,000 and $7,000 dollars. The price depends on which state you live in, what CDL Class you are wanting, and how many endorsements you want to complete.

Most schools have a great financial aid program. The financial aid could cover your training course completely. We do suggest if you want to save a buck or two, to go apply at the school.

Each endorsement can cost anywhere from $5.00 to $10.00 dollars each. Also, each endorsement you take requires you to pass a test.

Once your schooling is completed you can go in for your permit which costs between $5.00 to $20.00 dollars. Remember every state is different and must bring in certain documents to get the permit such as forms of identity. The first test is 50 questions and you must get 80 percent to pass. Once you hit the 80 percent the test will end and that means you have passed. If at any point you are not sure about a question, push the skip button.

The second test is about air brakes and it is 25 questions. The final exam is the combination vehicles and that is 20 questions.

If you fail any of these written exams, you must wait one week before you can try again.

After a few weeks of driving with your CDL permit, you can go for the road skills test. The road skills test cost between $30.00 and $60.00 dollars.

And the final bill will, of course, be your CDL license which costs between $75.00 to $100.00 in most states.

Jobs You Can Get With a CDL

You have many options when it comes to jobs that require a CDL. Some pay better than others but if you are planning on taking this step you should have a little idea of what’s out there. Some states pay better than others. So, if you are planning on being a big rig truck driver you may want to research which companies will pay you more.

We, of course, can not mention every job but here are a few jobs to think about.

  • Truck driver. They can make anywhere between 35,000 to 270,000 a year. The amount in how much you get comes down to how much you drive, where you drive, and experience. You will also get paid more if you own your truck.
  • Bus driver. Now, this can either be a city or school bus but you will make around 30,000 to 40,000 a year.
  • Cargo hauler. You can haul anything from furniture to other vehicles. Being a cargo hauler can turn in about 30,000 to 40,000 a year.
  • Delivery driver. This type of job is to deliver fruits, vegetables, baked goods, or supplies. You could make between 30,000 to 35,000 a year.
  • Construction equipment operator. This job can vary from many different types of equipment but you could make between 35,000 to 45,000 a year.
  • Waste or recycle driver. This may be a bit smelly but it could be worth it. Most drivers make anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 a year.
  • Driving instructor. After you get your CDL and spend a few years getting experience and decide it is not what you wanted you could always teach others. This could bring home around 22,000 to 51,000 a year.

Having a CDL for Personal Use

Did you know in some states you must have a CDL to drive recreational vehicles over a certain weight? That is right, the RV you have been wanting requires a new license in most states. Depending on the weight of your RV you will need either a Class A or B.

Here are a few states that require a non-commercial Class B license:

  • California
  • Maryland
  • Texas
  • Wyoming

A few states that require a Class B license:

  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina

Now, the following states require a Class A license if the vehicle is over 26,000 pounds:

  • Kansas
  • Michigan

If you do not see your state here, you can simply call your local Department of Motor Vehicles and ask what regulations your state call for.

Or if you are trying to do some major yard work and need a heavy-duty backhoe, then you may need a Class C or B.

Recertify Time

You may have thought that it is a one time deal to get your CDL. Well, unfortunately, you are wrong. You must have a physical yearly to ensure you are healthy enough to continue driving. The physical is very different from a basic physical. The physician must fill out a DOT form. DOT stands for the Department of Transportation. You must also pass a drug test with every physical. The DOT exam can cost between $80.00 to $150.00 dollars depending on the doctor and your state.

With the renewal time, every state is different. So, you should make a note about when you must renew the license.

If you are caught driving with a expired CDL license you could face major charges. If you do not renew before it expires, you may be required to retake your road test and knowledge exam. We suggest you renew your license a few months before it expires.

To renew it you simply need to go back to your local Department of Motor Vehicles and prove you have taken a physical exam and passed. You will also be required to take another vision exam. Lastly, you will have to pay more fees to get another CDL license.

Your endorsements also have an expiration date. Each endorsement is usually good for up to five years but again every state is different. 

Our Final Opinion

While having a CDL may not rewarding for certain people, it can truly be a huge benefit for those who love to drive. Now, as we explained there are many steps you must take to get a CDL but if you know you will use it, then go for it. The money you could make alone should be a major influencer.

Or if you are camper, then you this is something you must obtain before buying your RV.

About the Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Creative entrepreneur in freight. Founder of Digital Dispatch and host of Everything is Logistics. Co-Founder at Jax Podcasters Unite. Board member of Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. Freightwaves on-air personality. Annoying Jaguars fan. test

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.