“Can I get a CDL without going to school?” is a common question we get on this site, which is why we’re attempting to answer it with this article. Before February 7, 2022, it was possible to get a CDL license without having to attend school.
However, starting February 7, 2022, the new Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) federal requirements became in effect, therefore getting a CDL for new drivers will require you to pass minimum training standards at a registered school or training provider across the country.
Even before ELDT, to get a CDL license without going to school wouldn’t have been advisable. Getting a trucking job from a reputable company, your career trajectory, and obtaining valuable knowledge and experience would’ve been significantly hampered by opting out of CDL school.
No, You Can’t Get a CDL License Without Going to School
As of February 7, 2022, all new drivers that want to get a CDL will need to go to a registered truck driver training school with the FMCSA to satisfy the new ELDT requirements.
If you’re looking for a career in the trucking industry, you’ll need a certificate of completion of minimum training standards from a registered truck driving school before doing the CDL exam.
There are exceptions:
- Those same individuals who are exempted from CDL requirements: military drivers, firefighters and farmers, are also exempted from the ELDT rules.
- Individuals who got their Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) before February 7, 2022 are exempted from the ELDT requirements.
- Drivers who were issued a CDL before February 7, 2022 are exempted from ELDT for the previously-issued license or endorsement, even if it has since lapsed.
The Professional Truck Driver Institute will no longer certify CDL paid training programs as of February 7, 2022, due to FMCA’s new ELDT requirement at a registered school. Under the ELDT standards, entry-level drivers have to pass certain CDL knowledge or skills examinations before they may take certain CDL skills or knowledge tests.
ELDT rules, issued by the FMCSA, provide minimum standards for training new drivers.
- For the first time, get a Class A or Class B CDL.
- If you already have a CDL for Class B, you may upgrade it to a CDL for Class A.
- A passenger, school bus, or hazardous-materials clearance will need to be obtained for the very first time.
Individuals who received a CDL or an S, P, or H endorsement before February 7, 2022, are exempt from completing the ELDT requirements since the rules cannot be retroactively applied.
Note: you are not required to complete the ELDT for the previously-issued license or endorsement, even if it has since lapsed.
Before February 7, 2022, applicants who acquired a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) or renewed CLP but did not get a CDL are exempt from the ELDT requirements.
The ELDT requirements are also excluded from anyone who fulfills one of the 49 CFR Part 383 exemptions for taking a skills exam.
The Registry of Training Providers
As part of the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) requirements, the FMCSA keeps track of the CDL applicants who have successfully completed the new training and certification procedures provided by their training providers.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act established the ELDT rules and the Training Provider Registry. The Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Group, a collaborative policymaking panel that conducted a number of sessions in 2015, influenced the final ELDT rule in part through consensus suggestions.
The Benefits of Going to a Great CDL School
Even before federal rules were in effect, to get a CDL license without going to school is ill advisable. A great CDL school will have experienced teachers who were previous truck drivers that draw from years of being on the road. You’ll have access to these grizzled veteran truckers’ depth of knowledge that pales in comparison to learning from a manual.
If you get your CDL from a reputable school, you’ll have a far better chance of getting a job. Great schools attract trucking companies who typically hire graduate students out of the gate.
You’ll be ready for anything on the road if you go to a CDL school. You’ll learn all you need to know to be successful in your job, from simple movements like backing and docking to troubleshooting and environmental compliance. A CDL trucking school will prepare you for life on the road as a trucker
When you go to school for a CDL, you’ll learn about a variety of subjects, including:
- Docking and reversing
- Automated systems for control
- Assembling and disassembling
- Detection and correction of errors
- Protocol in case of emergency
- Problems with environmental regulation
- Driving in extreme circumstances
- Operation at night
- Transmission shifting and operation
- Planned expansion
It’s definitely worth going to trucking school, but don’t let the cost of tuition be prohibitive. And don’t let your financial or employment situation deter you from signing up to become a CDL driver. Professional truckers are essential the country’s backbone, and there are many ways to fund your schooling if you want to pursue a career as a trucker.
Steps to Getting a CDL
There are several steps involved in getting your commercial driver’s license (CDL). However, you must meet the CDL age requirement to drive big rigs, have no prior criminal record, and have a non-commercial driver’s license, among other things.
Here are the steps to acquire your CDL:
- Meet the federal CDL requirements for your state.
- Acquire a state CDL manual. This is crucial for written CDL exams.
- Decide which types of commercial vehicles you wish to drive.
- Provide proof of residency.
- Submit your application and pay the fee.
- Learn how to drive a truck, meet ELDT requirements.
- Pass the state CDL exams.
- Undergo a physical and pass a background screening
- Be up-to-date with additional requirements.
Candidates With CDL Get an Edge Over Others
Companies want to work with someone they know they can trust when making a hiring decision. Any issues caused by a driver are ultimately the responsibility of the business. This means that if you simply focus on a few topics while getting your CDL, your employer will doubt your ability to make sound decisions in an emergency or even in a typical circumstance. A CDL obtained by attending school provides 160 hours of instruction typically from professionals in the field. You’ll be able to prove to any employer that you’re capable of handling both basic and sophisticated scenarios.
A candidate who went through a thorough CDL training, above and beyond the ELDT required training would have an edge over someone that just did the minimum required training or have no trucking school at all. This is because of the training and skillset gained by going to trucking school than their counterparts who did not.
Furthermore, attending a great school for a CDL will increase your chances of being employed since recruiters often visit colleges in search of suitable prospects. You won’t be compelled to accept the first job that comes your way. You may discover a firm that fulfills your requirements in terms of things like perks, timetables, and commute times with the aid of recruiters and schools.
In addition, a reputable CDL school will offer assistance and preparation for finding trucking employment. Certain schools will invite potential employers to provide presentations at the school.
If the cost of CDL training is too expensive, there are financing options to help you pay to get your commercial driver’s license, such as grants, scholarships, and education loans. And if you’ve lost your job and want to become a truck driver, unemployment benefits can help pay for trucking school.
But if going to trucking school isn’t in the cards, but you want to start working as a driver, there are great non-CDL trucking jobs out there.
It is for this reason that when someone asks, “can I acquire a CDL without school?” We suggest that they attend an accredited CDL training school. Discover the fundamentals of commercial driving at a CDL school. But, you’ll also be taught mechanical skills, given situational training, and learn how the job of a commercial driver is truly performed.
Geoff is a freelance writer at TruckersTraining.com with 20+ years of experience driving trucks and buses, dispatching, supervising, and training commercial driving teams. His expertise is writing topics on the transportation and trucking industry, and information technology trends.