I was thinking the other day about when I started as a diesel tech and all the questions I had. Do you need a CDL (Commercial driver’s license) as a diesel mechanic? I had a struggle with this when I first started working as a mechanic trainee. I was not even old enough to get a CDL. I wasn’t sure and really never got a great answer.
Do Diesel Mechanics Need A CDL?
No. Most diesel mechanics don’t have a CDL. While a CDL will make you an asset to a shop, it is usually not required. Now, let’s look into this a little further. Should you get it anyway?
Note: All Mechanics DO need a CDL to drive commercial trucks on the roadway, this includes test driving after a repair.
Check out this guide that will make getting your CDL super easy. Get all the answers to the CDL exam here
Is a CDL required? No. Would it benefit you? Yes
- While it is not required a CDL can open doors for you.
- It can help your resume for sure. It is always nice for a manager to have another person who can test drive the trucks after they are finished.
- It also shows that you are committed to the field.
- The cost if you have to pay for it. Here in Florida, the learners are $10, the license fee is $75, and $7 for each endorsement plus the cost of a road test can be as much as $200 if not more.
- Unless you work for a local government you will be required to have a DOT physical every year.
Not all diesel mechanics work on over the road trucks
but chances are you will have the opportunity or even have to drive a large service vehicle in your career. While I worked on fire apparatus, I was not technically required to have the CDL the city I worked for required it.
Different situations as a mechanic
- Your company pays for you to get it.
- Your Company does not offer to pay but, would like you to have it.
- You are not yet hired and just getting started
My company pays for it
Why haven’t you got it yet? 😉 This should be an easy decision. It benefits both you and them. Even if they want you to stay after work hours and complete the training. Bite the bullet and do it. It shows them you care and when you move on one day, you’ll have it in your pocket.
Your Company does not offer to pay but, would like you to have it
Basically, Should I get it myself? This one is tough. I was lucky enough to work for a place that had a trainer and I was able to get mine and get paid for it. Not everyone is so lucky. I would say if you really want it, go for it! I would always let the shop manager know. You never know what they might do. You might be the only one who ever asked.
You are not yet hired and just getting started
I would probably not. Unless you had easy access to get it and it really wasn’t a big deal for you. I say that because you need to be focused on finding a good apprenticeship or going through school. A CDL is not important enough to distract yourself with. You need to stay the course and get hired.
Two classes of CDL
There are different types of CDL. An ‘A’ and a ‘B’.
With a class ‘A’ the driver can operate any vehicle having a trailer with two or more axles. The class also includes any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds, provided that the gross vehicle weight rating of the towed vehicle is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
With a Class ‘B’ the driver can operate any heavy “straight” (attached - not a trailer) vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds, as well as any vehicle towing another vehicle, not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
Ok, you are gonna get your CDL. Here is how to it in 4 steps
The requirements to get a CDL are moderately different from each state, but these 4 steps are a guideline on what to expect. For more on the specific steps, go to your states specific DMV webpage. There is also a great study guide on Amazon it’s called CDL Exam Secrets - CDL Practice Tests & All CDL Endorsements Study Guide (Link To Amazon). The guide includes help for all the areas of the CDL test and endorsements. The area for pre-trip inspection is really good. That will likely be the most difficult part. It has great reviews. Check it out.
1. Check out the CDL requirements For starters, you should review the CDL Requirements section of the manual to determine if you will qualify for a CDL. Some of these requirements include a minimum age and certain health requirements. Meeting these will make sure things go smoothly throughout the entire process of applying for your CDL.
2. Get your CDL learners permit Just like getting a regular driver’s license, a permit is required to move forward in obtaining a CDL. You can get a CDL permit by passing a test. In most states, the tests to get a Class A CDL permit include General Knowledge, Air Brakes, and Combination vehicles. Get a Commercial Driver’s License handbook or manual online from your state’s DMV website.
3. ADD CDL ENDORSEMENTS Depending on the CDL endorsement you want to obtain; you need to pass the test. However, some endorsements, such as the Hazardous Materials (HazMat) endorsement may also require a background check before they can be added to your CDL license. You may only need a class B if you don’t plan on driving tankers or pulling trailers. You definitely want air brakes. Take a look at the CDL endorsements section of the manual for additional information.
4. Take the CDL skills test The CDL driving test must be passed in which the driver completes a 3-part exam that includes a pre-trip inspection test, basic control skills test, and driving test at either a state CDL test site or approved 3rd party test site. Once the skills test has been passed you did it! Now go print that puppy out and you are good to go.
If you are thinking of going it on your own and getting it, I think it will help you. I suggest studying and knocking out the learners quickly. I have seen people drag it out way too long. Just go get it done. If you are working for a company with no program. Ask! You never know and your boss might appreciate the initiative. Overall a CDL is not required for a diesel mechanic but, it is beneficial.
Do you need a CDL to drive a semi without a trailer? (bobtailing)
Yes! Please don’t drive on the road unless properly licensed. In most states, you need a CDL to drive anything with air-brakes. Check out the specific rules for your state before you drive anything.
Can you drive a semi-tractor with a Class B license?
No. In most states, you are limited to a ‘strait’ truck. Meaning a truck with the trailer attached. You can haul some bigger trailers but, not semi-trailers. For more information for Florida, residents click here