Commercial Driver FAQs in Alabama

I want to become a truck driver. Where do I start?

First, study the Commercial Driver License Manual, and then take the written tests to obtain your commercial driver learner's license. Commercial driver training schools in your area can help you prepare for the written test.

Do I have to own my own truck before I can get a CDL?

No, you do not have to own a big rig or other commercial vehicle. Many driving schools offer training and then allow you the use of a vehicle to complete your road test. Sometimes rental fees are charged; other times they are not―it depends on the company.

I've seen ads for companies who offer training. Are these legit?

Yes, many trucking companies will offer their own truck driving schools for training. If you are hired, you must fulfill a specific time period of driving for that company before venturing out on your own, or to another company.

May I have a CDL or other driver's license from more than one state?

No. By federal law, it's illegal for commercial drivers to possess more than 1 driver license of any kind, and you may have a license only from your state of legal residence. This means that you may not have both an Alabama CDL and a regular Alabama driver's license; you should surrender your regular license when you obtain a CDL. If you have licenses from other states, you must surrender those as well. Fortunately, your commercial license entitles you to drive regular passenger vehicles, so you won't need a separate regular license while you're carrying a commercial one.

How many tests must I take?

To get your CDL, you must pass a series of knowledge and skills tests. The knowledge tests are written tests taken at your local driver's license office; the skills tests are given at a specified testing facility, after you've passed the written exams. The number of written tests you must take will depend on the type of license and class of license you seek.

The knowledge tests might include:

  • A passenger transport test, taken by all bus drivers.
  • An air brakes test, if your vehicle has air brakes.
  • A combination vehicles test, if you want to drive combination vehicles.
  • A tanker test, if you plan to haul liquids in bulk.
  • A doubles/triples test, if you plan to haul double or triple trailers.
  • A hazmat knowledge test, if you plan to carry hazardous materials.

Additionally, everyone in the country who deals with hazmat must undergo a fingerprint and background check, which together cost $86.50. Once you have your regular CDL or CDL permit, begin the application process for a hazmat background check at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website.

The skills portion of the test is a driving and vehicle knowledge test. It consists of:

  • A pre-trip inspection test to determine your knowledge of your vehicle's roadworthiness and safety features.
  • A basic vehicle control test to check your skill at controlling the vehicle. You'll be asked to move forward, backward, make turns, and use cones in a defined area.
  • A road test to determine your ability to drive the vehicle safely in traffic.
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