Obtaining Your CDL-A

Getting your CDL-A is a huge accomplishment and a significant step to furthering your driving career.  However, there are many important specifics future truck drivers should know in order to be prepared for their Class A CDL test.

So you have been thinking about getting your CDL-A, right? Well, what is stopping you? Clearly, it is not the potential income you can make as a truck driver, especially if you want to drive for Continental Express. Last year, professional drivers at Continental Express earned an average of $75,000, and their top driver earned over $101,000! The trucking industry is expected to have 890,000 total driver openings from now through 2025 according to the American Trucking Association. Making the decision to join an industry anticipating that much growth over the next 5-6 years means there is no better time than now to go out and get your CDL-A. 

Obtaining Your CDL-A Permit:

While getting your CDL-A is a very rewarding experience, it is also a very involved and somewhat detailed process. First, you need to obtain your CDL-A permit.  You do this by visiting your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) location where you will be administered a written examination.  If you pass the examination you will be issued your CDL-A Permit.  The test is not easy, but if you take it seriously, study, and stay focused, you will ultimately succeed.  A good way to start this process is to drop by your BMV office and pick up a free CDL-A handbook. For Ohio residents, you can also print one off by clicking here. While reading over the handbook, try to remember as many details as possible.  Highlight and write down things you feel are important.  It is also recommended that you take practice tests online.  A free example of an Ohio General Knowledge Exam can be found here. Unfortunately, the free version will only get you so far.  So, if you feel that you may need additional assistance, there is an upgraded (Premium) version that is available for purchase that carries with it a 100% pass guarantee. The practice tests are designed to simulate the state’s written examination.  This approach is the most helpful because it creates a comfort and familiarity for you when you are taking the actual exam.  If you take full advantage of your practice examinations, you should be prepared for the real thing when the time comes.    

The Skills Test: Identification. 

Once you have passed the written portion of the CDL-A test and have your permit in hand, you will be given six months to pass the hands-on portion of the test consisting of the pre-trip, skills, and driving portion of the CDL test.  However, if you do not pass within the first 6 months, do not get discouraged, you are given the opportunity to renew your permit again for another 6 months.  The one caveat is you can only renew your permit once in a 2-year period, so, make sure to pass on your second time around.   

The pre-trip portion of the CDL test can be tricky if you are not prepared. Many future drivers name all of the parts they need to know, but they forget to describe the item correctly or with enough detail. Truly, the best way to prepare for this is to practice, practice, practice! It is helpful to go on YouTube and watch a practice video like the one shown on this hyperlink.  At the very least, print off a walk-through guide like the example shown at this link.  Using items like these will assist you in knowing what words to associate with each part of the truck.

The Skills Test: Backing.

The skills portion of the CDL test is where future CDL-A holders seem to struggle the most, because this portion is the most difficult to prepare for. You will be required to perform 3 successful “backs” chosen from the following maneuvers:  straight line backing, off-set backing, parallel parking, and/or 90 degree backing. Straight line and off-set backing are usually easy as long as you take your time and do not rush. However, don’t get too comfortable or too confident because that is where mistakes are made. For many, the 90 degree and parallel parking portion of the test is where it gets tricky.

If you don’t end up passing this portion of the test on your first try, but do pass the pre-trip portion, don’t get discouraged.  You won’t have to retake the pre-trip portion of the test, because once you pass a section, you don’t have to take it again.

The Skills Test: Driving. 

The last portion of your test is when you are given the opportunity to get behind the wheel and drive. Even though you are on the home stretch, now is not the time to get overly excited or allow yourself to become distracted.  During the driving portion of the test, it is crucial to remember to stay focused and not rush through things.  Be thorough, trust yourself, and stay calm. A few good tips for this section is to pay attention to the road signs (as your instructor will periodically ask you what sign you just passed), look both ways when crossing through an intersection (even when the light is green) and try to stay calm. Treat it like it is just another day on the road. While that might sound obvious, you are internalizing a lot of things at once, so, remember to not lose sight of the little things.

Obtaining your CDL is a huge accomplishment and is something to be proud of. The trucking industry is in need of more responsible and safe drivers.  As such, the pay and overall demand for the reliable driver is increasing year after year.  If you have any questions about getting your Class A CDL please do not hesitate to call Continental Express at 1-800-497-2100 and ask for a recruiter. Getting your CDL-A is something you will not regret.