Commercial Driver Education in Texas
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Applying for a commercial driver's license (CDL) in Texas is a detailed process that varies depending on the desired endorsements, the class and type of vehicle to be driven, and a number of other factors. One thing that doesn't change is the need for professional CDL training.
Commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are so unlike regular passenger cars and trucks that it's impossible to get behind the wheel of a Class A, B, or C truck without having had not just a little special schooling―but a lot. While Texas doesn't mandate the number of hours you are required to study in a classroom or in the driver's seat of a CMV, you should be prepared for a significant time commitment.
Without this CDL training, you'll have a very hard time finding a job in the industry―if you are even able to pass the licensing tests. Conveniently, in many cases your employer will be the one to provide this schooling. You can also enroll in any number of CDL training courses offered at colleges, universities, trucking associations, and private CDL schools.
If your employer trains you, they will often cover most or all of the CDL training costs. Some providers can get you through the course in as little as a few weeks with full-time courses; others spread the curriculum over a number of weekends.
All CDL applicants in Texas will need to pass a knowledge (written) test, an air brake safety inspection test, a basic vehicle control test, and an on-road test (the skills test or driving test).
The applicant isn't the only one who must pass a test―the commercial vehicle that is being used for the driving test is provided by the applicant, and it must pass a thorough safety inspection performed by the examiner administering the test. If the vehicle doesn't pass, the testing must be rescheduled using another vehicle or after necessary repairs have been completed.
Written (Knowledge) Test
The questions for the knowledge test are drawn from the material in the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook, which has sample test questions sprinkled throughout the text.
Driving (Skills) Test
The air brake safety inspection test is required prior to the road test. If the applicant fails the air brake safety inspection test, the road test will be rescheduled until after the air brake test has been passed.
The basic control skills and on-road tests require that the driver demonstrate competence in the following areas:
- Starting the vehicle
- Performing a "quick smooth stop"
- Parallel parking of the vehicle
- Performing lane changes safely and correctly
- Merging into traffic
- Correct use of lanes
- Demonstrating understanding of right-of-way
- Approach to corner
- Obeying traffic signals
- Obeying traffic signs
- Making left turns
- Making right turns
The examiner will deduct points for any improperly executed item.
A low score is not the only way an applicant can fail the CDL driving skills test, however. Understandably enough, failing scores are also given if the applicant causes an accident during the test, fails to obey any law, or is uncooperative with the examiner.