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From the time you were a kid, playing with trucks was your favorite pastime. As you matured, you were mesmerized just watching them load debris from building sites and then maneuvering through city traffic. Or, maybe you’ve just graduated high school and college doesn’t interest you, so finding a career that’ll support you and your future family is a challenge. Look around. Do you live in an area where construction is booming? Is agriculture a prominent industry, and transporting product from the field to the processing plant is a steady business? Then consider becoming a dump truck driver.
Commercial License Classes
You’ll need a commercial driving license, and there are three types of commercial driving licenses to choose from:
- Class C allows you to drive up to 15 passengers plus yourself or a small truck towing a trailer. You can also get an endorsement to drive HAZMAT vehicles and school buses.
- Class A is the top commercial license, allowing you to drive tractor-trailers, flatbeds, tankers and livestock.
- Class B is the license you’ll need to drive a dump truck.
Planning Your Commercial Training
Before an employer puts you behind the wheel of a very expensive piece of machinery, he must know that you have the right training and experience. The path toward a Class B Commercial Driving License involves:
- Graduating from high school or having a GED degree
- Holding a valid driving license with a clean record
- Having a social security card
- Clearing the Department of Transportation’s physical and drug testing requirements
- Satisfying state regulators of commercial transportation
Those are the basic requirements. But a novice without training behind the wheel of a truck that carries over 26.001 pounds won’t find much work.
Enroll in Commercial Trucking School
The three to seven months of training you’ll receive at a trucking school puts you ahead of the others when applying for a job. You may have been driving a car for several years, but navigating a truck, regardless of size, takes additional skill.
In addition to the education you’ll receive on the vehicles themselves, which includes the operation of a large piece of machinery, handling, shifting, mirror usage, the air supply system and maintenance, among others, you’ll also be screened for your eye-hand coordination, hearing, vision and your overall physical health.
Check with the Professional Truck Driver Institute for a list of certified schools in your area.
Cost of Training
Like all paid-for education, the cost of getting your Class B license varies according to the school. The cost ranges from $1,500 to $6,000. Most training facilities have payment plans and accept the GI Bill or alternative funding options to cover the cost. If you work during the day, many trucking schools offer night classes to accommodate your schedule.
Questions to Ask
Before registering for any driving school, interview them. Ask if the instructors are professional drivers with experience. You’ll also benefit from knowing the instructor-to-student ratio. A 3-to-1 ratio is considered good. And does the school hook you up with jobs after graduation? Knowing there’s a shortage of truck drivers nationally should spur you on!
Continuing Education for Class B
Holding a Class B license doesn’t guarantee you’ll drive a dump truck on your own immediately. You’ll most likely be paired with an experienced driver who mentors you until he feels you’re ready to take the wheel independently. On-the-job training takes from one to three months.
Getting License Endorsements
Once you’re comfortable driving your dump truck and your employer is satisfied that you know the ins and outs of the job, you may want to train to get additional endorsements to your license. These endorsements expand the type of loads you can carry and make you more valuable to an employer. You may also want to consider going for a Class A license, which allows you to drive long-haul tractor trailers and encompasses all classes of licenses.