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How Do I Get my CDL? What Is ELDT? What Is A CLP?

If you are considering becoming a truck driver, and you’re looking to get your CDL, you’ll need to complete ELDT and get a learner's permit or CLP.

What is ELDT? By any chance, does it come with Tomato?

Well, we’re not talking about ELDs, as in Electronic Logging Devices, nor are we talking about sandwiches that include lettuce and tomato.

In all seriousness, we’re talking about FMCSA’s Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations that were mandated under MAP-21. These mandates set minimum training requirements for entry-level drivers, which must be completed before taking certain commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills or knowledge tests.

It's crucial that truck drivers maintain a high level of safety when hauling freight. While it’s true that each state has its own CDL training requirements, this also means that there’s really been no consistent safety requirements out there for new truck drivers. Well, things are about to change with the arrival of FMCSA’s ELDT mandate.

Why do I need to take Entry-Level Driver Training courses? What’s the point or purpose of ELDT?

ELDT is meant to ensure that all entry-level drivers receive consistent, high-quality training before obtaining a CDL. The purpose of the ELDT mandate is to make roadways safer by having better, consistently trained drivers on the road and behind the wheel of large commercial motorized vehicles (CMV) that help move the world forward.

Who is considered an entry-level driver?

According to FMCSA, the ELDT regulations apply to individuals who are:

  1. pursuing a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time;

  2. upgrading an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL; or

  3. looking to acquire a school bus (S), passenger (P), or hazardous materials (H) endorsement for the first time.

Drivers will need to pass both the theory training and the behind-the-wheel training — from an FMCSA-registered training provider — prior to pursuing any of the CDLs or endorsements describe above. This information should be confirmed by visiting FMCSA.

Entry-level drivers must obtain training and demonstrate proficiency in both theory training and behind-the-wheel training.

ELDT must be taken with an authorized training provider found in the federal registry. What this means is that to be able to test for and be issued a CDL, you will have to successfully complete entry-level driver training with a training provider listed on the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry. It’s critical that your CDL training provider is listed on the federal registry. If your CDL training provider is not listed on the federal registry, you will not be allowed to test for your CDL. You’ll be out a great deal of time and money.

What’s next after I have successfully completed and passed the ELDT?

Now that you’ve completed the ELDT and have demonstrated proficiency in theory training and behind-the-wheel training, you’re ready to obtain your CLP. You can receive your CLP prior to completing ELDT but you will need to complete ELDT and obtain your CLP prior to completing the CDL skills test.

To learn more about the ELDT regulations, visit FMCSA or see the FMCSA Fact Sheet.

What is a CLP? Why do I need to get a CLP? Do I need a CLP before getting a commercial driver’s license (CDL)?

CLP is an abbreviation for Commercial Learner’s Permit. The CLP is a document that allows new drivers to be able to train behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle in order to get their commercial driver’s license (CDL). Holders of a valid CLP may operate a commercial motor vehicle only when accompanied by the holder of a valid commercial driver’s license, who has the proper class and endorsement(s) necessary to operate the commercial motor vehicle (CMV). In short, you must pass the specific knowledge exam for the vehicle type that you plan to operate.

How do I get a CLP? What are the requirements for obtaining a CLP?

The CLP only authorizes you to practice on public roads with a qualified CDL holder riding with you.

You’ll want to study for: 1) General Knowledge, 2) Air Brakes Test (A), and 3) Combination Vehicles Test (X). Plus, you might study for any endorsements you may need such as Double/Triple Trailers (T) or Tank Truck (N). States usually allow you to take the tests one at a time or you can take them all at once.

Be aware that getting the CLP requires more than just passing the different knowledge tests for the type of driving you want to do in the commercial vehicle you plan to operate. There are some minimum requirements that must be met to obtain a CLP. Your driving record will be checked, across all 50 states, going back 10 years. Your state will likely require additional documentation, such as proof of identity and proof of citizenship or residency. You will also need to bring proof that shows you are medically qualified to operate a CMV.

Different states and motor carriers may have additional requirements for obtaining a CLP and a CDL. Some of these requirements are listed below:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age

- You must be 21 years of age for interstate driving

- Some carriers require you to be at least 21 to drive for them

  • Possess a non-commercial driver’s license in a non-permit status

  • Provide proof of citizenship or lawful residency

  • Birth certificate and/or a valid passport

  • Right-to-work documents approved by homeland security i.e. I94, I55 credentials

  • Medical card (proof of DOT physical)

How Should I Study for the CLP Test?

Only study what you need to know. Only study the sections about the Class A CDL. If you’re not planning to get any special endorsements, you don’t need to study those sections in the CDL manual.

Here are a few more study tips for the CLP:

  • Visit your State Driver’s License Agency (e.g., DMV) website to see what is required for the test

  • Obtain a copy of your state’s CDL manual and then read and memorize as much as possible.

  • Set goals for studying and working through the materials (e.g., number of pages to read per day)

  • Don’t cram for the test the night before. Spread out your study time over a few days or weeks.

  • Avoid distractions while studying. Create an environment where you can stay focused. Some people focus better when it is completely quiet, while others need a little music or soft background noise to concentrate. Do what works best for you.

  • Use study strategies that work best for you, such as using flashcards and taking practice exams. These strategies have the most success in helping people study and prepare for taking the CLP test.

What materials are available to help me study for the knowledge test for the CLP and CDL?

Your State will have a CDL Manual that you can obtain online or at your nearest State Driver License Agency. This agency is located in different offices throughout the US. Your state might refer to the Agency as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Department of State, the Secretary of State’s Office, or the Department of Public Safety. If you were to visit the agency (e.g., DMV, Secretary of State) in person, they will usually have a hard copy that you can use. You can view our CDL Manual Directory for each state HERE.

The CDL Manual will have testing information and other resources on things such as safe driving practices that can help you study for the three tests that are required to obtain the CLP. Some states offer study guides. You’ll also want to take advantage of online study guides and practice tests to help you study for the CLP.

What’s next after getting a CLP?

According to FMCSA, “you are required to possess the CLP for 14 days and complete applicable entry-level driver training (ELDT) to be eligible to take the CDL Skills Test. You must pass all 3 parts of the Skills Test: the Vehicle Inspection Test, the Basic Vehicle Control (Maneuvering) Test, and the Road Test.”

Let’s take a closer look at the process of getting the CDL.

What is a Commercial Driver’s License?

Basically, anyone operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in the U.S. must hold a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Individuals that have completed the testing required for a commercial learner’s permit can operate a CMV for training purposes and must be accompanied by a trainer who holds a CDL. The type of CDL a driver needs depends on the type of Commercial Motor Vehicle operated. The type of vehicle is normally defined as the combination of the truck and trailer.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) developed the mandated standards for State testing and licensing of CDL holders. According to the FMCSA, “These standards require States to issue CDLs to certain CMV drivers only after the driver passes knowledge and skills tests administered by the State and related to the type of vehicle the driver expects to operate. Drivers are required to obtain and hold a CDL if they operate in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce and drive a vehicle that meets one or more of the classifications of a CMV.”

So, how do I get a Commercial Driver’s License?

Getting your Commercial Driver’s License or CDL involves a number of steps. And you might be surprised to learn that there’s more to it than just passing a driving skills test. You also have to meet certain medical requirements and residency requirements. The following steps will help you along the way toward obtaining your CDL.

  1. Get a copy of your state's Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Manual. The manual is available in their field locations or is often downloadable from their website to be printed as needed. Be aware that each state has its own steps to getting a CDL that you should investigate.

  2. Decide on the type of driving you wish to do and the type of vehicle you plan to operate. This will determine which license you will likely need. Choose the class or type of CDL you plan to pursue. There are 3 classes of CDLs (A, B, C), with endorsements for specialized vehicles, which authorize holders to operate CMVs. See an entire list of endorsements here. Note that the FMCSA does not issue CDLs. State governments are responsible for issuing CDLs.

  3. Obtain a Commercial Learners Permit (CLP). The Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP) is the written portion of the CDL testing. It will allow the driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while supervised by a valid CDL holder.

  4. Complete Entry-Level Driver Training. If you are applying for a CDL Class A or CDL Class B for the first time and are issued a CLP, you must complete entry-level driver training (ELDT) with a registered training provider prior to testing. However, there is no Federal requirement for drivers to complete their entry-level driver theory training before applying for a CLP.

  5. Get the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). You are required to possess the CLP for at least 14 days and complete the entry-level driver training to be eligible to take the CDL skills test. After that, you must pass all 3 parts of the Skills Test: the Vehicle Inspection Test (see practice checklist here), the Basic Vehicle Control (Maneuvering) Test, and the Road Test. After you’ve successfully completed your behind-the-wheel training, you can then take the necessary steps to acquire your CDL, which allows you to begin driving on your own. Basically, once you have passed the CDL skills test (not to be confused with ELDT), you need to take the documentation to the State Driver’s License Agency for review and processing. Some States will issue the CDL the very same day, while other states elect to issue it through the mail. Review the CDL you receive. Look it over for errors before getting out on the road.

What’s next after getting a CDL?

If you have your CDL, all you need now is the right equipment and truck to get things up and running. You can start preparing for interviews and consider taking a job offer as a company driver. If you’re an owner-operator, then it’s go time! It’s time to start, drive, and accelerate your trucking business. Develop a clear business plan. Start marketing your new small business and the services you plan to offer. Look into different ways to find freight using shippers and brokers. We are here to help!

To learn more about trucking company interviews click here.

To learn more about creating a business plan click here [to find an example business plan and templates].

Our training program takes a deeper dive into this subject and discusses the following:

  • What is the difference between CLP, ELDT, and CLD?

  • What's theory training?

  • What's involved in behind-the-wheel training?

  • How can I avoid failing the ELDT or CLP?

  • What is the training provider registry, and why is it important?

  • What's next after I complete ELDT?

  • How do I get a CLP?

  • What knowledge tests do I need to take?

  • How should I study for the CLP test?

  • How long is my CLP valid for?

  • How much does it cost to take the CDL tests at the agency?

  • How much do CDL training programs costs?

  • How long do they take to complete?

  • How do I get a CDL license?

  • What types of questions do they ask?

  • What tips are there for passing the CDL skills test?

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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC - Copyright 2023 - does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.


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