A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) opens the door to a great career in the Eagle Ford Shale Play. You must have a CDL to drive many of the vehicles used in the oilfield industry such as:
- a combination of vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more,
- a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 26, 001 pounds or more,
- a single vehicle designed to transport more than 15 persons (including the driver) or
- any size vehicle which requires hazardous material placards.
You must be at least 18 years old to drive intrastate and at least 21 years old to drive interstate. You’ll have to obtain a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration medical certification. Federal regulations require you to show that you have the minimum knowledge and skill by taking tests. The state that will grant you your CDL will administer these tests.
It isn’t hard to get a CDL, but it does take a little preparation.
1. License Application
Visit your state licensing agency office and learn about the application procedure. Many states post this information online. Gather all the documents that the agency requires, such as proof of residence, insurance and vehicle registration. Be prepared to pay any fees so that you can complete the application without repeated visits.
2. Prepare for the Knowledge Test
Before taking the written test, read the state CDL manual and answer the sample test questions. Find additional reference material and more practice questions at your public library, in a bookstore or online.
3. Take the Knowledge Test
You don’t usually need an appointment to take the Knowledge Test. Confirm this with your state licensing agency. Read the test instructions. Ask the examiner to explain anything you don’t understand about taking the test.
4. Get a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)
You must have a learner’s permit to practice driving on public roads. Get a CLP from your state licensing agency. A CDL holder must accompany you during your practice sessions.
5. Practice Your Skills
You will take your skills tests in a vehicle that is representative of the vehicle for which you want to be licensed to drive. For example, if you want to be licensed to drive a tractor-trailer combination, you must take the skills tests in a tractor-trailer combination. (In most cases, a tractor with a van or flatbed trailer is all you need to take your CDL skills test.) Practice your skills in a representative vehicle.
6. Prepare for the Skills Test
Inspect your vehicle it to ensure that the equipment is safe, well maintained and meets federal and state safety standards. Know where all the controls are and how to operate them. Remember to bring to the testing site glasses or contacts that you need in order to see properly.
7. Take the Skills Test
Be calm and follow the examiner’s directions. Politely ask for an explanation of directions that you don’t understand. Don’t guess. During the road test, constantly check the view using your mirrors. Be aware of the traffic around you. Follow speed limits and all traffic control signals. Wear your seat belt.
8. Rally After a Mistake
If you do make a mistake, don’t panic! Show the examiner that you can stay calm and in control after a mistake.
9. Go Beyond the Basics
In addition to your CDL, you also need an Endorsement to:
- drive a vehicle combination
- pull double or triple trailers
- pull a tank vehicle
- operate a passenger vehicle in three different classes or
- carry hazardous cargo.
You’ll take additional tests to earn these Endorsements. You also must pass air brakes tests to be licensed to drive commercial motor vehicles with air brakes.
10. Think Safety
Stay calm, be confident and don’t rush. Always keep safety in mind both during the tests and throughout your driving career.
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