The federal government outlines very broad requirements for who may hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL); however the Texan CDL state regulations are much more specific and onerous. In every case, a truck driver must possess a state driver’s license and a truck driver’s permit if training. States will also insist on a CDL issued by the state of residence for all drivers of vehicles with more than 26,000 pound cargo capacity. Aside from state and federal regulations, employers will also check to ensure they are hiring drivers with clean driving records.
The majority of tractor trailer rigs are covered by the requirements for a CDL, though there are some federal exemptions such as for firefighters.
For those looking to get their CDL, they will have to pass a series of written and road tests to demonstrate their ability to handle a commercial vehicle. All driving violations of CDL holders are centrally held on a permanent basis in a national database (which differs from ordinary motorists and road users). If you have had your license suspended or revoked in one state, you will not be able to be issued with a CDL from another state. In addition, until a trainee has passed the requisite tests and been issued with a CDL they must be accompanied at all times by a qualified CDL holder.
Generally, state age standards require the trainee to be 18 years or older, though if the driver is operating interstate there is a minimum age of 21 years (set by the US Department of Transport). Further, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires all trainees to pass a medical and physical examination every 6 months; in addition drivers must have good hearing and not be colorblind, have normal use of their legs and arms and be within the normal range for blood pressure. Diabetics who control their condition with insulin, or epilepsy patients cannot be employed as drivers for interstate commerce.
Trainees and truck drivers must be able to read and write in English, so they can understand road signs and instructions as well as provide written reports. In addition, trainees must be able to pass the US Department of Trade’s written examination which covers the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
The use of controlled substances is strictly regulated by both federal and state rules. Only prescribed medications may be used (prescribed by a licensed doctor of medicine) and drivers must submit to drug-testing prior to employment and during duty periods. Those convicted of drug-related crimes, drink driving, hit and run resulting in death or injury to persons or any felony related to motor vehicles cannot be truck drivers by federal law.
Once you have qualified, your next step is to move from being a rookie driver to an owner-operator and for that you’ll need to find a good place with trucks for sale.