Steps to Becoming a Commercial Truck Driver in California

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Truck drivers are a crucial link between consumers and goods. They ensure that products for retail, manufacturing, agriculture and businesses are well-stocked and that their cargo safely arrives at its destination. However, driving such a large vehicle can be very challenging, so someone who aspires to be a truck driver in California must meet certain requirements before they can earn a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Here are the steps you must follow to become a commercial truck driver in California:

Apply for a California Driver’s License

In order to begin the process of attaining your CDL, you must meet these requirements:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Have a good driving record.
  • You must be 18 years old for in-state driving and 21 to drive to other states.
  • Possess a clean, Class D driver’s license. A Class D driver’s license permits you to drive passenger cars.
  • Have a Social Security card.
  • Possess proof of insurance.
  • Pass a medical exam.
  • Pass drug tests.
  • Have proof of California residency.
  • Pass Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening.
  • Pass a 10-year background check.


Pass the CDL Test

After meeting these basic requirements, you must pass the CDL General Knowledge Exam. This is a written test with three parts: general trucking knowledge, transporting cargo safely and driving safely. The 60 multiple choice questions are taken directly from the California Commercial Driver’s License Handbook. You must score at least 36 to pass.

After passing this test, you can take the Skills Test. This test encompasses pre-trip inspection, basic maneuvering skills and an on-road driving test.

Three Types of CDL licenses:

The CDL-A allows truckers to drive vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. A GVWR is a safety standard that prevents overloading. It refers to the most weight a vehicle is designed to carry.

The CDL-B enables truckers to drive a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more or tow another vehicle with less than a 10,000 pound GVWR.

A CDL-C is for trucks carrying hazardous materials, as well as driving 16-passenger vehicles.

Apply for California CDL Endorsements

A CDL endorsement is a qualification that allows you to drive other types of trucks. An endorsement can broaden your skill set and open the door to more truck driving jobs. CDL endorsements include:

  • Double trailers and triple trailers. These are also called long combination vehicles.
  • Passenger transportation
  • Hazardous materials transport. A security check is required for a hazardous materials endorsement.

Attend Truck Driving School

Although you can prepare for your CDL test through self-study, attending a truck driving school can be much more effective. Truck driving school covers the test’s written material, as well as the road test. The programs are helmed by experienced drivers who have a thorough understanding of driving a truck. If you attend a high-quality, reputable school, it will aid you in job placement and provide career counseling.

Get your First Truck Driving Job

There are several ways you can look for a truck driving job including company websites, online job boards and networking.

The websites for California trucking companies often list job openings and information about applying. Online job boards often post openings for truck driving jobs. These websites are a means of searching for specific jobs and specific locations that align with your goals. Networking should never be underestimated during a job search! Attend industry events, connect with professional truck drivers and join online communities to find out about job openings via word of mouth. Truck driving associations are also great options. They connect their members with career mentors and employers who can help with their job quest.

Complete an Employer-Specific Program

If you lack on-the-job experience, some companies will have you complete their in-house training program, also called a driver finishing program. These programs enable you to do your job safely and correctly when the company brings you on board.

Required Testing

Upon hiring with a trucking firm. All California truck drivers are required to complete DOT mandated drug testing. You will also be required to test randomly throughout your career as well as after any accidents.

According to, trucks transport the largest amount of goods into, within and out of California. In 2015, 911 million tons of freight moved over the state’s highways by truck. And in Southern California, alone, 800 truck companies operate at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. These are excellent odds for finding employment and having a flourishing commercial truck driving career.