Acquiring a CDL license is the first step in becoming a gainfully employed truck driver. For many people, the decision to undergo the required training is a smart one. Job outlooks for CDL license holders are generally strong, and the lifestyle of an over-the-road truck driver is perfectly suited for people who prefer to be their own boss. It is no wonder, then, that many people become CDL certified each year.
In Iowa, the method for acquiring a CDL is similar to the process in every state. However, recent regulation changes have made the process slightly different today than it was in the past. Regardless, the process is straightforward, and requires a few trips to your local branch of the Iowa Department of Transportation. It also requires applicants to pass both a written exam and a skills test.
Pass The Knowledge Exam
The first thing that applicants must do is pass the CDL knowledge test. This should be done prior to any other step, because it is the route by which applicants can receive a CDL learner’s permit. This permit is required to allow applicants to practice for the skills exam. As such, passing this knowledge exam is the first priority.
Since many people who make the decision to pursue CDL training do not have background knowledge that allows them to pass this exam, it is important to study. The Iowa Department of Transportation website has a number of online resources that provide the required information for this test. If the applicant already knows which endorsements they will pursue, they can study only those sections of the manual and study guide. For everyone else, it is a good idea to study the entire manual. Since additional endorsements mean additional employment opportunities, it is important to have as much general knowledge as possible.
Complete a CDL Training Program
There are a number of routes to accomplish completion of an Iowa CDL license training program. Some school districts provide training to people that utilizes their school bus fleet. For people who desire experience with other trucks or more specialized training, community colleges, universities and vocational education programs offer specialized truck driving programs. These programs allow students to learn the material required for endorsement tests while gaining the behind the wheel experience required to pass the skills test.
Iowa CDL license cost varies depending on the duration and specialization of the training program. Some programs take only a few weeks, while others take a few months. The tuition can range from hundreds of dollars to $5000 or more. However, many employers offer their own training to applicants, or will reimburse drivers for their training after they serve the company for a set period of time. No matter what route is explored, it is a good idea to check with local employers for assistance and programs through them.
Provide Medical Exam Records and Self-Certification
A CDL requires proof of a medical exam. The specific requirements for this exam can be found at the IDOT office. Furthermore, if an applicant is going to haul hazardous materials or other sensitive cargo, a background check is required. While this is often done through an employer, applicants should be aware that certain endorsements may require one through the IDOT office.
As of Jan. 30, 2012, applicants for a CDL must also provide a self certification. This is a statement of the type of driving that they perform. For many new applicants, this will take the form of a statement describing what type of driving they intend to do. On top of that, if the applicant intends to do interstate driving that requires a medical examiner’s certification, a copy of that certificate must be on record at the IDOT office.
Pass the Skills Test
The final step for applicants is to pass the skills test. Before driving, the driver will be asked to perform a thorough inspection of the test vehicle. They will then be required to show that they know how to operate all of the basic functions present with the vehicle, including headlights, brakes and others. Finally, the applicant will begin the control portion of the test.
The driver will need to show proficiency with multiple types of backing, so they will need to know the differences present in each, as well as execute the appropriate movements. They will also need to demonstrate freeway driving, rural and urban driving and railroad crossing protocol. The navigation of different hills and grades will also be on the test.
Pay the Fee
At this point, all that is needed is to pay the requisite fees. Depending on endorsements, the fees vary. However, the price is nominal. For most people, these licenses will expire in five years from the issuance date.