While there are some general guidelines, the largest factor in how long it takes to qualify for a CDL license is up to the student. Depending on your learning style, it may take slightly longer to prepare for the knowledge portion of the test or you might need a little extra time for the hands-on training. Of course, if you have any problems passing the DOT physical, it might take quite a bit of time to become qualified.
Most CDL training students start off with the knowledge portion of the CDL test. Because you don’t necessarily have to attend a formal CDL training program to obtain a CDL learner’s permit, this is a good place to begin. Each state’s DMV should be able to provide a free CDL license manual. This book is much longer than a standard driver’s license training manual and will take most readers longer to absorb. If you spend an hour or two a day reading and studying the material, you should be prepared to take the knowledge portion of the test in a month or less. Of course, you can receive your learner’s permit much quicker if you dedicate most of your day to the material. In some cases, students pass the test with less than a week’s preparation.
In order to receive your learner’s permit, you’ll also have to present a Department of Transportation’s Medical Examiner’s Certificate completed by your doctor. This form can be found at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/safetyprograms/Medical-Report.pdf. While taking the physical won’t take more than an hour or two of your time, any problems can dramatically add to the time it takes to receive your CDL license. In addition to being in good overall health, the following specific requirements must be met:
- Vision – You must have at least 20/40 vision in each eye with or without glasses and contact lenses. If you are blind in one eye or have any other vision problem that can’t be corrected with lenses, you won’t be able to get a CDL license. In some cases, your home state may be able to grant a waiver to allow you to drive within the state’s borders, but they can’t give you permission to cross state lines in a commercial vehicle.
- If you are diabetic, you must be able to control your condition through diet or oral medications. If you require insulin injections, you’re ineligible for a CDL license.
- Your blood pressure must be 160/100 or less. You are allowed to take medication to control your blood pressure.
- Blood sugar levels must be under 200.
- If you use any Schedule I drug such as amphetamines or narcotics, you won’t qualify for a CDL license.
- Certain chronic cardiovascular diseases require a stress test in addition to the normal physical and a release from you doctor stating that you’re safe to drive a commercial vehicle.
- Other conditions that might require special permission include sleep apnea, hernias, worker’s comp claims, back injuries, or major surgeries.
- Drivers are also required to take random drug screens while they hold a CDL license.
Once you’re ready to move on and begin the hands on portion of the CDL training, the time needed will depend on the CDL training program that you choose. Many programs claim to be able to fully prepare you for all portions of the test including both knowledge and experience in three to four weeks. This is certainly possible, but some students may need a little more time. If you generally need extra time to learn a new skill, you may want to choose a less aggressive program that spreads the material over six weeks or more.
To summarize, with hard work and dedication, you can fully prepare for your CDL license in as little as three to four weeks. Barring problems with the physical, most students never take more than two months to complete a program. Think about it! If you started today, you could be behind the wheel of your own big rig in just a few weeks!