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What qualifications do auto transport drivers need?

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What qualifications do auto transport drivers need?
What qualifications do auto transport drivers need?

Professional auto transport companies hire drivers who are licensed and professionally trained. The best auto transport companies want drivers who have completed programs that make them certified in the transport industry. There are also other requirements that auto transport companies ask of their drivers that will determine if they are eligible to drive and transport vehicles for the company. A-1 Auto Transport only hires the best drivers in the industry to transport your automobile. Our rule is that we would not ship your car with someone we wouldn’t trust to transport our own vehicle.

Obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License

Before you can drive for any type of company, you have to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License, also commonly referred to as a CDL. Many drivers will attend a trucking school to prepare for the CDL test. Much like a regular driver’s license, there is a written and skills test for the CDL test. These must be passed to obtain the correct CDL that you applied for.

On October 27, 1986, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act was signed into law. This law specifies that anyone driving a commercial vehicle is required to obtain their CDL license with the proper endorsements.

Commercial Driver License

Attending a Truck Driving School

There are many different styles of truck driving school programs across the United States. Attendees of a truck driving school learn the skills they need to pass their CDL exam and is taught by an experienced and licensed truck driver. A CDL is a license that is required for a person to drive a large commercial truck in the United States.

Truck schools offer an education on the written materials for the CDL test as well as the roadway skills portion. The amount of money required to attend a trucking school will depend on the program and school you enroll with. For most of the schools, you will see program costs that run $200 to $300 out of pocket. If your school of choice is out of state, you will also be required to pay your own travel expenses as well as lodging and meals for three weeks.

For some, this may be a little hard to come up with upfront. Most of the trucking schools in the country offer financial aid arrangements that can be made. These types of schools do not fall under the same kind of federal student aid as a traditional college. Some students may be able to take out a small personal loan to pay for these costs, or there may be other options like:

  • Military benefits
  • Carrier-paid tuition programs
  • Student financing
  • Scholarship opportunities

How do I identify a great truck driving school?

As previously stated, there are multiple truck driving schools across the country. Each school has different standards and methods of teaching. A great school will offer real-life training in a truck, not just in a simulator. Simulations can be helpful for scenarios, but they provide no real-life feel to driving a truck. Most of the trucking schools offer some kind of job placement or at least offer to help with job placement after completing the CDL. Getting appropriate CDL training can open the door for other types of employment. School bus drivers, city transit drivers, package delivery like FedEx and UPS, truck driving school instructors, and dispatchers all have to have a CDL. Merely obtaining a CDL can open a plethora of opportunities in the job market.

Types of CDL Licenses

There are three main types of CDL licenses. These CDL licenses are labeled by the letters A, B, and C. Each of these different CDL licenses approves the holder the right to drive a different type of commercial vehicle.

Endorsements can be added to these licenses for specific types of transport. To obtain this specialized type of endorsement, a knowledge test will have to be taken. There may even be specialized driving tests for some of them. It may even be required for you to pass an extensive background check to be able to operate with a particular endorsement.

  • Passenger (P)-This endorsement allows for the driver to carry passengers
  • Tank (T)-For tanker trucks that are carrying hazardous materials
  • Hazardous (H)-Trucks carrying hazardous, flammable, explosive, or radioactive materials
  • School bus (S)-For those drivers who want to have the ability to operate a school bus, this one involves an extensive background check

Class A CDL 

A Class A CDL is required for the operation of any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds. This is considered if the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. Any driver who is transporting a piece of heavy equipment will be required to have a Class A CDL with the appropriate endorsements.

Common Class A CDL types of vehicles are:

  • Tractor-trailers
  • Truck or trailer combinations
  • Tank-style vehicles
  • Livestock carriers
  • Flatbeds

With the proper endorsements, a Class A CDL driver can operate some of the vehicles that fall under the Class B and C categories.

Class B CDL

A Class B CDL is required if a driver wants to operate a vehicle that has a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, but the vehicle being towed is not over 10,000 pounds. 

Common Class B CDL vehicle types include:

  • Straight trucks
  • Large passenger buses
  • Segmented buses
  • Box trucks
  • Dump trucks with small trailers
  • Tractor-trailers

Those who obtain certain endorsements with a Class B CDL may be able to operate some of the vehicles under the Class C category.

Class C CDL

A Class C CDL is required to operate a vehicle that is meant to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver. This licensing is also necessary for the transport of hazardous materials, which are often referred to as HazMat.

Class C CDL vehicles:

  • Small HazMat vehicles
  • Passenger vans
  • Combination vehicles that are not covered by a Class A or B CDL

Legally Registering

After obtaining a CDL, it is the responsibility of the license holder to register with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). Once registration is complete with the DOT, they will issue you a number. This number is your DOT number that will be given to customers using your transport services. This step is often skipped if working for a transport company because the company or broker will utilize its own number.

Additional registration will be required if you plan on working on your own. This registration must be done through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA will issue you a motor carrier (MC) number. This number will accompany the DOT number on all paperwork.

Having insurance will be important. Working with a transport company, you will be covered by their insurances. These coverages need to include general liability. You will always want to have proof of your coverage on you when driving.

Other Requirements for Truck Drivers

Professional auto transport companies are going to have their own set of requirements for their drivers. Most of these requirements follow a similar set of standards. You know that an auto transport company is good when they have strict requirements for the drivers who will be transporting the automobiles.

Per federal law and the United States Department of Transportation, all commercial drivers must be at least 21 years of age or older.

Clean Driving Record

A clean driving record will help a person who wants to drive for a professional company gain admittance into a reputable school. It also helps impress those driving companies that want safe drivers working for them. Each state often has its own rules for truck drivers and commercial drivers. These rules and regulations can be found at the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The location should have a Commercial Driver’s manual available, much like the ones they offer for newly licensed drivers.

Solid Work History

Anytime you apply for a job, your work history always gets examined. Showing a trucking school or auto transport company that you are a hard-working and loyal employee can create even more opportunities for your commercial driving career. For work history, it is unlikely that you will be able to use a past driving job unless you have been in the business for a long time and have had your CDL for a while. What these companies want to see is that you are committed when you acquire a job. Someone who is considered a “job hopper” will likely have a hard time gaining admittance into a trucking school or reputable company.

Pass Drug and Alcohol Screen

A commercial driver for an auto transport company is responsible for the transport of expensive cargo. To ensure that this cargo gets where it needs to go safely, driver performance is essential. A potential truck driving school student will be asked to complete a drug and alcohol screen before admittance. You can expect that an employer will require screens of the same.

Department of Transportation Physical

Another responsibility that commercial drivers have is to ensure they are healthy enough to drive a truck. The Department of Transportation requires a physical that is more in-depth than the typical medical physical. This is to help ensure that a person is physically fit to handle such a large piece of machinery. The physicals that are required by the Department of Transportation require extensive medical checks with a licensed provider.

  • Vision testing
    • All commercial drivers have to pass a vision test. This test can be taken with glasses or contacts as a means of vision correction. The test requires that the Snellen eye test be passed in both eyes with at least 20/40 vision.
  • Color distinction test
    • Those who are colorblind and have trouble with the distinction of red, yellow, or green may have problems passing a DOT physical. If you are colorblind, there are special contact lenses that may help with color distinction.
  • Blood pressure
    • For those truck drivers who have blood pressure that reads less than 140/90 may qualify for a two-year certification and medical clearance for driving. If you are worried that your blood pressure may cause problems with your DOT physical, it is important to remember that cigarette smoking and caffeinated drinks can raise blood pressure.
  • Hearing test
    • Being aware of the surroundings is something that a truck driver must be aware of. To pass the DOT physical, the standard for the hearing test is the ability to hear a forced whisper from 5 feet away. Hearing aids are permissible for this purpose.
  • Cardiovascular health
    • Having past cardiovascular health problems is not a deal-breaker when trying to become a truck driver. Your cardiologist can sign off that you are medically cleared from the situation. You will still be able to pass a DOT physical in this instance.
  • Medications
    • Many medications have multiple side effects. The medications being taken should not interfere with your ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle. If any of these medications pose this threat, your medical doctor will need to sign off that you are not affected by them, and you can physically drive the truck.
  • Urinalysis
    • In addition to the mandatory DOT drug test, your urine will be screened to identify any underlying medical conditions you may be unaware of. These often include blood in the urine, glucose levels, or proteins. These tests are in an effort to provide proof of fitness to drive a commercial vehicle.
  • Physical endurance
    • Being a commercial truck driver requires the driver to sit and steer for more extended periods of time than most drivers. The driver also has to have a full range of motion and the ability to handle cargo, trailers, and climb in and out of the cab of the truck. Testing the physical endurance of a potential driver identifies if any problems may physically inhibit them from driving.
  • Medical history
    • The medical history section is to see if you have or have had any disorders or conditions that may make driving a commercial vehicle dangerous for you. This includes past surgeries, medications, and a history of substance abuse. You will also be required to disclose if you have diabetes, epilepsy, sleep apnea, or any other dangerous conditions that could hinder driving capabilities.

Trusting Your Transport Driver

When you need to have your vehicle shipped, you want the best driver to transport it. A-1 Auto Transport doesn’t just hire any driver, and they have to go through a screening process. We make sure to employ the most talented and respected drivers in the industry. When you need the best, call A-1 Auto Transport for a free car shipping quote today.

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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