Blog Post |

Why It Makes Sense to Get a CDL

Dan Johnston

October 13, 2019

A commercial driving license (CDL) can open you up to a brand new career that requires a relatively short training period, has little or no up-front investment, and can earn you a starting salary higher than many new college grads. Does this sound too good to be true? Keep reading.

Truck Driver Leaving Warehouse

What is a CDL?

First we should cover exactly what a CDL is and who it’s for. A commercial driver’s license (CDL) allows you to operate heavy, commercial trucks or vehicles that transport passengers and goods. That means everything from 18-wheeler trucks to school buses. There are three different classes of licenses and which one you should get depends on what kind of driving you want to do:

Type of license Description What you can drive
CDL Class A Required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. Tractor-trailers (also known as Semi, Big Rig or 18-wheeler), Truck and trailer combinations, Tanker vehicles, Livestock carriers, Flatbeds. Most Class B and Class C vehicles, depending on endorsement requirements
CDL Class B Required to operate any single vehicle that isn’t hitched to a trailer (commercial trucks that have an attached cab and cargo area with a combined weight greater than 26,000 pounds, as well as trucks with a detached towed cargo vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds). Straight trucks, Large buses (city buses, tourist buses, and school buses), Segmented buses, Box trucks (including delivery trucks and furniture trucks), Dump trucks with small trailers. Some Class C vehicles with the correct endorsements.
CDL Class C Required to operate a single vehicle with GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds or a vehicle towing another vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds, or transports 16 or more passengers, including the driver. Double/Triple Trailers, Buses, Tank Trucks, HazMat Vehicles

Source: drivingtests.org

Why a CDL is a good investment

So, now that we’ve covered exactly what a CDL is, let’s talk about why it makes sense to get one. Whether you’re looking for a career change or you’re just starting out, trucking is an industry that has ample opportunities for just about anyone. Here are some reasons why:

1. There’s a major shortage of qualified truckers.

By the end of 2015, the industry was short 48,000 qualified truck drivers. By 2024, that shortage is projected to reach almost 175,000. That means a lot of available jobs now and in the future.

2. 68% of products are moved on the highway (hint: job security).

According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), 68.9% of all freight is moved on the nation’s highways. And that number is going to keep growing thanks to the prevalence of online shopping. The more stuff that gets shipped, the more truckers companies will need on the road. And that’s not a job that can move overseas or get outsourced. In other words: job security.

3. Full-time, part-time, long-haul, or local. You’ve got choices.

If you’re looking for a job that offers a lot of flexibility, then commercial trucking could be for you. Most employers don’t have any residency requirements and your daily office commute isn’t an issue, so you can live just about anywhere you want. Plus, you can often choose a part-time, full-time, or seasonal schedule. And, depending on what company you work for, you can focus your career on long-haul or more local jobs.

4. Earn more than college grads, right out of the gate.

According to Indeed.com, the average annual pay for an entry-level truck driver in 2018 was $59,504 and for a student truck driver it was $41,000.  Not bad when you consider the average starting salary for a 2018 college grad was $50,390.

And that’s just the beginning. For commercially licensed truckers, average salaries are $62,752 per year. And the median annual wage for a Walmart truck driver is $73,000.

5. You can get a CDL for free.

Seriously. There are lots of companies out there who will sponsor you to earn your CDL. In exchange, you usually have to agree to work for them for a set amount of time (generally a year), but there’s no cost to getting started.

There aren’t many jobs that let you start out with $0 investment and potentially work your way to a six figure income.

6. There are many paths to salary and career growth.

Some drivers eventually purchase their own rig and get three times more per mile to haul freight on the open road. Other truckers go on to start their own trucking businesses and work out of an office. Still other operators with a CDL can get a full time gig with a company doing local hauls around town. So, whatever lifestyle appeals to you, chances are a CDL can help you reach your goals.

Learn more about the benefits of a career in trucking or find jobs and training opportunities near you.


Dan Johnston

Dan Johnston, Co-Founder & CEO | dan@workstep.com