Obtaining your CDL and becoming a full-time truck driver is a rapid way to start earning an excellent income. In order to do that, though, you'll need to receive CDL training first. Trucking school will teach you all of the material on the CDL exam, but it never hurts to do some preparation on your own first. While you're waiting to attend your chosen CDL training program, here's how you can best prepare yourself for the exam.
1. Pass Your DOT Physical
When you first start thinking about going to trucking school, one of the most important things you can do is to undergo your Department of Transportation physical. In most states, you'll need to pass the DOT physical before you can even get your Commercial Learning Permit, and you'll need your CLP for CDL training.
These physicals are administered by doctors authorized by the DOT, and they ensure that you're healthy enough to operate a commercial vehicle. A seizure disorder, for example, can disqualify you from operating a truck — the DOT doesn't want to risk a truck driver losing consciousness while they're behind the wheel.
Getting your DOT physical out of the way early ensures that you won't run into any surprises during CDL training — it's the very first step you'll undergo. If you fail the physical, you'll be dismissed from the program.
This also gives you the chance to get certain conditions under control that may disqualify you. For example, uncontrolled high blood pressure may cause you to fail the DOT physical. If you and your doctor get your blood pressure under control before you attend CDL training, it almost always won't be seen as a disqualifying issue.
2. Study Your State's CDL Manual
Your state's DMV will have a CDL manual that lists what's on the knowledge portion of the CLP exam. It's a good idea to start studying for this early — the faster you get your CLP, the faster you can start practicing your driving skills at CDL training.
One of the components of the CDL exam is a vehicle inspection, in which you'll have to name all the parts of a semi truck and learn how to tell if they're damaged in a way that makes the truck unsafe to drive. This portion of the exam requires a substantial amount of memorization. Studying for the vehicle inspection portion of the exam before you even arrive at trucking school will give you a major head start.
3. If Your School Allows It, Get Your CLP Beforehand
Finally, ask your trucking school if you should try to get your CLP before you even arrive. Some schools prefer you to undergo extra training during the first few days, but others will allow you to take the CLP exam at your state's DMV.
Arriving at CDL training with your CLP will allow you to begin driving immediately, which gives you a head start on training for the driving skills and on-road skills portions of the CDL exam. These parts of the exam can be difficult for new drivers, so it's helpful to start training early.
While CDL training will teach you everything you need to know in order to pass the CDL exam, you can help yourself out by studying before you arrive. Knowing the content of your state's CDL manual and how to pass the vehicle inspection portion of the CDL exam will allow you to focus more on your driving skills, which gives you the overall best chance of passing the CDL exam on your first try.