CDL Training in Texas
If you live in Texas and like the idea of beginning a truck driving career, it’s important to know about the state’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements. This page explains the general CDL requirements in Texas, the costs of CDL training, and where to find more information to help you start your Texas trucking career.
CDL A Requirements in Texas
Commercial driver’s licenses come in three classes: A, B, and C. Generally speaking, CDL Class A is the most useful and will allow you to operate vehicles that fall under all three classes, depending on any additional endorsements needed for certain driving roles. So how do you get your CDL in Texas?
First, you’ll need a regular Texas driver’s license and must be at least 18 years old (21 if you want to be able to drive interstate). If you’re moving to Texas and have a license from another state, you can convert it to a Texas license by following several steps detailed on the Texas Department of Public Safety website.
Next, you’ll need to apply for a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP). For this, you’ll have to show proof of:
- U.S. citizenship (or evidence of lawful presence)
- Residency in Texas
- Social Security number
- Medical certification documents
- Texas vehicle registration and insurance for any vehicles you own
You’ll also have to pay the application fee of $97, have your photo and fingerprints taken, pass a vision test, and pass the knowledge tests, to be taken in the following order:
- Texas Commercial Rules
- General Knowledge
- Combination (Class A Only)
- Air Brake (If applicable)
Once you’ve received your CLP, the next step is to take a CDL training course in Texas. After completing training and holding your CLP for at least 14 days, you’ll need to schedule and pass your skills test.
What Disqualifies You From Getting a CDL in Texas?
Various alcohol, drug, and driving/traffic-related offenses disqualify you from being able to get a CDL in Texas. Using a vehicle to commit a felony will disqualify you from getting a CDL for life, as will second offenses in a range of alcohol and traffic-related felonies.
Other offenses—such as first offenses for driving under the influence or leaving the scene of an accident—will disqualify you for three years.
The Texas Department of Public Safety website provides a full list of disqualifications, along with information on how long specific offenses will disqualify you.
CDL Training Classes in Texas
As of February 2022, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that entry-level drivers obtain training from a registered provider. The Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) requirement applies to new learners applying for Class A or B CDLs, those upgrading from a Class B to a Class A CDL, or drivers obtaining a first-time passenger (P), school bus (S), or hazmat (H) endorsement.
CDL schools divide training into two sections: theory and behind-the-wheel training. Required training covers more than 50 units in the curriculum, including basic vehicle operation, administrative requirements, and safe operating procedures. While students can complete the theory training in a simulator, they must do the behind-the-wheel training sections on a range or a public road.
Students can take CDL courses at large trucking companies with in-house training programs and third-party providers listed in the Training Provider Registry.
How Much Does CDL Training Cost in Texas?
CDL training in Texas ranges from free to $10,000 or more. Company-paid CDL training options are often free or come at a minimal cost to new drivers, but there is the expectation (and contractual obligation) to work for that company for a specific period after obtaining a CDL. Some employers cover tuition costs entirely, while others have you repay them via small deductions from every paycheck.
Community college-based CDL training is also relatively affordable. For example, Austin Community College’s five-week full-time CDL A course costs $4,500. Northeast Texas Community College’s four-week CDL training costs $4,191.
Independent CDL schools usually cost more and don’t always advertise their tuition fees upfront. Financial aid or scholarships are available for some private CDL training schools.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Class A CDL in Texas?
It typically takes between four and eight weeks to complete CDL training in Texas if you’re studying full-time or close to it. If you’re going through part-time CDL training while also working for a trucking company (e.g., as a dockworker), you can expect the process to take longer.
How to Pay for Truck Driving School in Texas
Company-paid CDL training is one way to keep the out-of-pocket costs of training low. This kind of training isn’t necessarily “free” because even if you’re not required to pay upfront, you will have to pay back the costs in other ways later. But this could be a good way to train if you don’t have the capital to pay tuition and fees upfront.
Some institutions offer financial aid and scholarships, or students can apply external sources of funding to study at certain places. Check out the following:
- Howes Truckers of Tomorrow Scholarships are awarded to some students at select Sage Truck Driving Schools, including those in Texas.
- The Texas Trucking Association offers scholarships to member employees, dependents, and grandchildren.
- Federal Pell Grants are available to undergraduate students displaying exceptional need. They can be used at some private CDL training schools, too, provided the driving program is long enough to be eligible for federal financial aid. Check with the school about this eligibility.
- The Women in Trucking Foundation offers $1,000 scholarships to women pursuing trucking industry careers.
How to Choose the Best CDL Training Program
All potential students’ needs are different, so what’s great for the next person might not be ideal for you. However, there are a few things to consider when choosing the best CDL training program.
If you’re in a hurry to get your CDL, some courses are shorter than others. Shorter courses might require you to study more hours per week. Attending a school that utilizes third-party testers can expedite the process versus going directly to the DMV. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time and doing training that takes more than a couple of months, but consider your own circumstances when deciding.
Also, think about whether you mind being tied to one employer for the next few years. You can find “free” or low-cost CDL training via trucking companies, but this kind of training ties you to one employer until you’ve fulfilled your contractual obligations.
Other questions you should ask your potential training provider are about CDL pass rates, whether they can assist you in finding a job after you graduate, whether they offer refunds after you’ve signed up in case you change your mind, and whether they have flexible payment options (even if you’re not eligible for financial aid, you might be able to work out a payment plan). Also, check out online reviews to make sure there are no glaring red flags, and try to talk to graduates or current students to get personal opinions on the course.
Resources for Truck Driving Students in Texas
Texas Department of Motor Vehicles
The Texas DMV provides practical information about licensing and the forms/identification you’ll need at different stages of the CDL application process.
Texas Trucking Association
The member-based trucking association offers all kinds of resources and tips related to careers in truck driving.
Trucking Jobs in Texas
Find out more about trucking careers in Texas.
Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook
The handbook has everything you need to know about being an effective commercial driver in Texas.
Truck Driving Schools Near Me
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Texas Truck Driving Schools
8701 Peterbilt Avenue
Dallas, TX 75241
927 Eddie Road
San Antonio, TX 78219