Getting a CDL is a life-changing move. Whether you’re looking to start a new career or you’re just looking to make a change, getting your CDL is a great way to do it. But, like anything else, it can be hard to get a CDL.
There’s a lot of information out there and it can be hard to sort through it all. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about getting a CDL in Pennsylvania.
Why You Should Get a CDL in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania is one of the top states in the United States when it comes to trucking. The state has a large number of trucking companies and a high demand for drivers. This means that there are plenty of opportunities for those with a CDL.
In addition to the job opportunities, Pennsylvania also offers some of the best pay in the country for truck drivers. Being close to New York and other large cities also means that there are plenty of opportunities for overtime and bonus pay.
Without further ado, let’s get into how you can get your CDL in Pennsylvania.
Acquiring Your Learner Permit
The first step in your journey to getting your CDL is to get your learner’s permit. There are a few things to get this learner permit though.
The first thing you must have is a Pennsylvania Driver’s License. If you’re new to the state and don’t have this, you’ll have to work on getting that first.
The second step is to certify that you agree with state motor carrier safety regulations. Your health is important as a truck driver, so you need to make sure you’re physically able to do the job. You can do this by getting a medical exam and passing it.
Next up is providing proof of residency and identity. These two are important because the state of Pennsylvania wants to make sure you’re who you say you are, and that you live in the state. You’ll have to provide your social security number as well.
A vision test is also required. This one is pretty self-explanatory, the state wants to make sure you can see while driving.
Lastly, you’ll have to take a written knowledge test. This will test your general knowledge about trucking and the rules of the road.
Taking The Skills Test
After passing the written knowledge test, you can take the skills test. This will test your ability to drive the truck. In Pennsylvania, you have to wait 15 days after getting your permit to take the skills test.
The Road Skills test will include:
- Pre-Trip Inspection
- Basic Controls Test
- Road Skills Test
Below we will go over each of the parts of the skills test so you know what to expect.
A pre-trip inspection sounds simple enough, but below we will go over all of the things you need to check during your inspection.
For this section, you’ll be checking for leaks, oil levels, power steering fluid, coolant level, and engine compartment belts. This is important because you need to make sure the truck is in good working order before you hit the road.
Cab Check and Starting The Engine
After checking the engine, you’ll need to check the cab for any damage or defects. There are multiple gauges you need to check such as the air and vacuum gauge, temperature gauge, and oil pressure gauge.
Next up are things like the speedometer, mirrors, windshield wipers, lights and reflectors, and more.
A parking brake check and a hydraulic brake check are both required. This is important because you need to make sure the truck can stop properly.
You’ll also have to review the air brake system extensively.
This is one of the most important steps on the pre-trip inspection, and you need to make sure you do it correctly.
External Cab Check
When it comes to the external cab check, you will have to check everything on the outside of the vehicle to make sure it’s in good working order.
Some things include the wheels, side of the vehicle, rear of the vehicle, and tractor-trailer coupling.
Checking the electrical, brakes, and tires on the trailer is important. You need to make sure everything is in good working order before you hit the road.
Making sure everything is secure on the trailer is also important. You don’t want anything flying off while you’re driving, or worse, an accident occurring. You can read here to know who to hold responsible incase of an accident with your large truck.
That’s it for the pre-trip inspection. Keep in mind that we went over everything briefly, and not everything is listed here.
Basic Controls Test
This test is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a test to see how well you can control the truck. Below we will go over the different parts of this test.
Straight Line Backing
This is exactly what it sounds like, you will have to back the truck in a straight line. This is much harder than backing up a regular vehicle though, so don’t be discouraged if you have trouble at first.
90 Degree Alley Docking
For this, you will have to back the truck into an alley that is only 90 degrees. This means that you’ll have to be extra careful while backing up. This is important because often as a truck driver you’ll have to back up into tight spaces.
Parallel Parking Drivers’ Side and Conventional
You will have to parallel park on both the driver’s side and the conventional side. Parallel parking on both sides as a truck driver is important because you never know what kind of situation you’ll be in.
Offset Backing To The Left and Right
This is when you have to back the truck into a space that is offset, meaning it’s not directly behind you. This is important because as a truck driver, you’ll often have to back into spaces that are not directly behind you. Perfecting both left and right offset backing is important.
Road Skills Test
Last but not least, is the road skills test. There are many things you have to do during this test, and we’ll go over them all below.
Starting and Stopping
During this part of the test, you’ll have to show that you can start and stop the truck smoothly. This is important because starting and stopping the truck smoothly is a skill that takes practice.
This might sound basic but breaking is a very important skill when it comes to truck driving. You need to be able to break smoothly and promptly.
Turning is important when driving a truck because you need to be able to make wide turns. This is due to the size of the truck. You also need to be comfortable making right and left turns, as well as three-point turns.
As a truck driver staying in your lane is very important. You need to be able to stay in your lane and not drift into other lanes. This is important because it’s dangerous and can lead to accidents.
Traffic Signs and Signals
You need to be able to identify different traffic signs and signals. This is important because you need to be able to obey the law while driving.
When driving a truck you will often have to cross railroad tracks. You need to be able to do this safely and without any problems.
As a truck driver, you need to be aware of different clearance heights. This is because some bridges have low clearance and if you’re not paying attention you could crash into the bridge.
This is similar to the bridge clearance but for underpasses. You need to be aware of different clearance heights for underpasses because if you’re not paying attention you could crash into the underpass.
Downgrades, Downgrades Stopping, Upgrades, and Upgrade Stopping
You need to be able to safely stop on both upgrades and downgrades. This is important because it’s a skill that takes practice.
Last but not least, is speed control. You need to be able to control the speed of the truck. This is important because you don’t want to go too fast or too slow.
How To Find a Job Driving Commercial Vehicles in Pennsylvania
Now that you know the requirements for getting a CDL in Pennsylvania, you’re probably wondering how you can get a job driving commercial vehicles. The good news is that there are many options available to you.
Job Sites Like Indeed and Glassdoor
These sites are perfect for all jobs including truck driving jobs. You can use these sites to find trucking companies that are hiring in your area.
Sites Specific To Hiring Truck Drivers
Many sites are specific to hiring truck drivers. These sites are a great resource for finding truck driving jobs in your area.
If you have a good amount of connections on Linkedin, you can use this site to find truck driving jobs. All you have to do is post that you’re looking for a job and your connections will be able to see it.
Going To Driving School
Going to driving school can help with more than just driving. People at driving schools can help put you in touch with trucking companies that are hiring.
Can A CDL in Pennsylvania Be Transferred To Another State?
You can’t just move to another state and use your Pennsylvania CDL. You have to go through the process of getting a new CDL in the state that you want to move to. Once you get your new one you must get rid of your Pennsylvania one. You don’t have to retake the test but still need to get a new CDL. Luckily, this could be done online or over the phone in a lot of states.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Do You Have To Go To Trucking School To Get Your CDL?
No, you don’t have to go to trucking school to get your CDL. However, going to trucking school will give you an advantage over other candidates.
How Long Does It Take To Get a CDL In Pennsylvania?
The length of time it takes to get a CDL in Pennsylvania varies. It depends on how long it takes you to complete the required tests and paperwork. The shortest amount of time possible is 3 weeks, but in most cases, it takes closer to 6 weeks.
What Disqualifies You From Getting Your CDL In Pennsylvania?
Several things can disqualify you from getting your CDL in Pennsylvania. These include:
- Having a suspended or revoked driver’s license
- Having a DUI or DWI on your record
- Having a felony on your record
- Having a mental or physical disability that would prevent you from driving
- Being unable to pass a DOT physical
- Being unable to pass a drug test
- Being unable to pass the written exam
- Being unable to pass the road test
These are just some of the things that can disqualify you from getting your CDL in Pennsylvania. If you have any questions, be sure to contact the Pennsylvania DMV.
We hope this blog post helped get you started on the process of getting your CDL in Pennsylvania. There’s a lot of information out there, but it’s important to take things one step at a time.
If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below and we’ll be happy to help.
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