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What is a CDL License?

A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is essential for pursuing a career in the thriving trucking industry. This guide will break down the requirements and process for obtaining this crucial license, providing you with the knowledge needed to kickstart your career with Werner as a commercial truck driver. Don’t let a lack of understanding hold you back from achieving your goals – let us guide you through the ins and outs of CDL licensure.

What is a CDL license?

Why Do You Need a Commercial Driver’s License?

To work as a commercial truck driver in the United States, you must obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This license is distinct from a regular driver’s license, which only permits you to drive small passenger vehicles. To get your CDL, you must complete a specialized training program and pass both written and skills exams. Once you have your license, you will be fully qualified to start driving commercial trucks.

What Does a CDL License Allow You to Do?

A CDL license allows you to operate certain commercial vehicles for hire, including dump trucks, tractor-trailers and buses. Possessing a CDL is required when applying for trucking jobs. There are different types of CDLs, each permitting the driving of various commercial vehicles and opening a range of job opportunities.

What is a Commercial Drivers License?

What Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses are Available?

The CDL is divided into three classes: A, B and C. Each class determines the types of commercial vehicles you can operate and the job opportunities available.


  • Permits operation of large vehicles, including tractor-trailers and flatbeds, weighing more than 26,000 pounds with two or more axles and towed vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Allows for interstate driving, leading to more job opportunities and higher wages.

  • Permits operation of non-articulating commercial vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds, with a towed vehicle weighing under 10,000 pounds.
  • Includes vehicles such as dump trucks, straight trucks, box trucks, and delivery trucks.

  • Required for drivers operating vehicles weighing less than 26,000 pounds, transporting 16 or more passengers, or carrying hazardous materials.
  • Includes vehicles like tank trucks, buses or HazMat vehicles, provided the driver has the necessary endorsements: Passenger (P), Tanker (N), or Hazardous Materials .

Which Type of CDL Should You Get?

For those interested in a career in trucking, obtaining a Class A CDL offers the best prospects. This license allows you to drive the largest commercial vehicles, including those with the heaviest trailers, across state lines. It provides the most flexibility and trust from employers to handle various commercial vehicles.

Moreover, obtaining a Class A CDL can lead to higher-paying opportunities. Long-distance transportation, such as driving a tractor-trailer across state lines, typically commands higher pay than other roles, like driving a bus or a garbage truck. These positions often offer salaries around $62,764* and benefits such as health insurance, bonuses, and 401k contributions.

The Benefits of Having a CDL License

Obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), particularly a Class A CDL, offers numerous benefits that can significantly enhance your career prospects and earning potential. Here are some key advantages of acquiring a CDL license:

  • Expanded Job Opportunities – A CDL license opens the door to a wide range of job opportunities, especially in the trucking industry where skilled and licensed drivers are in high demand. With a Class A CDL, you can operate various commercial vehicles such as tractor-trailers and straight trucks, broadening your employment options compared to those with lower-class licenses.
  • Job Security and Stability – The transportation industry is essential to the economy, ensuring a consistent need for professional truck drivers. This demand translates to stable income and job security, making a CDL license an attractive option for career changers seeking a reliable livelihood.
  • Attractive Benefits and Perks – A career in commercial truck driving often comes with enticing benefits and perks. Many trucking companies offer competitive salaries, comprehensive benefits packages, and opportunities for career advancement. Additional perks may include bonuses, incentives, and flexible work schedules, which can greatly enhance job satisfaction and overall quality of life.
  • Career Advancement – Holding a CDL license not only provides immediate job opportunities but also paves the way for long-term career growth. Experienced drivers with a Class A CDL can advance to higher-paying positions, take on specialized roles, or even move into management within the transportation industry.
  • Competitive Edge in the Job Market – In summary, obtaining a CDL license, especially a Class A CDL, can significantly improve your career prospects and provide a competitive edge in the job market. The trucking industry consistently requires qualified and licensed drivers, making a CDL license a valuable asset for anyone seeking a stable and rewarding career.

Meeting the Basic Requirements for a CDL License

To obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), you must meet the basic requirements set by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These requirements ensure that you are qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. The basic requirements typically include the following:


  • Intrastate Driving: You must be at least 18 years old to obtain a CDL for driving within a single state.
  • Interstate Driving: You must be at least 21 years old to drive across state lines. Note that some states may have different age requirements.

Driver’s License

  • Valid License: You must hold a valid driver’s license in your state, free from suspensions, revocations, or disqualifying traffic violations.

Medical Examination

  • DOT Physical: You must pass a DOT physical examination to ensure you meet the medical standards necessary to operate a commercial vehicle safely.

Knowledge Test

  • Written Exam: You must pass a written knowledge test covering traffic laws, vehicle inspection, and safe driving practices. The test content may vary depending on the CDL class and any endorsements you are pursuing.

Driving Record

  • Clean Record: An acceptable driving record is crucial for obtaining a CDL and securing employment. A history of DUI/DWI convictions, drug or alcohol-related offenses, or serious traffic violations can disqualify you from holding a CDL or finding employment.

State-Specific Requirements

It is essential to familiarize yourself with your state’s specific requirements, as they may vary slightly. Ensuring you meet these basic requirements is the first step toward a successful career in the transportation industry.

By meeting these requirements, you can confidently move forward on your journey to becoming a licensed commercial driver. If you aim to join companies like Werner as a professional truck driver, ensure you meet all the requirements and obtain your Class A CDL.

Start Your Career Today

If the benefits of obtaining a CDL license appeal to you, consider becoming a professional truck driver today. Werner’s Roadmaster Driver’s Schools, with 23 convenient locations, offer Class A CDL training that covers everything you need to pass your CDL exam and start your career as a professional truck driver at Werner.