25 March 2022

Entry-Level Driver Training: What You Need to Know


Becoming a professional truck driver offers many benefits: stability, a good income, travel, sign-on and referral bonuses, and much more.

However, before climbing into an 18-wheeler cab to head out over the road, you must first get your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). And in 2022, getting a CDL requires you to go through Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT).

What Is ELDT in Trucking?

The ELDT is a set of new minimum entry-level driver training requirements issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for new drivers. ELDT requirements became effective February 7, 2022, and apply to any person who wants to:

  • Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License for the first time
  • Upgrade a Class B CDL to a Class A CDL
  • Get a passenger, school bus, or hazardous materials endorsement for the first time

Because the federal government set the ELDT regulations, all CDL training providers must abide by them. Every new driver-trainee gets the same ELDT training. That’s a good thing, too, because better-trained drivers mean fewer accidents and a higher level of safety on our nation’s roads.

Before taking the CDL skills test, an entry-level driver must successfully complete a specified theory and behind-the-wheel ELDT curriculum. Theory instruction topics include:

  • Basic operation
  • Safe operating procedures
  • Vehicle systems and reporting malfunctions
  • Non-driving activities, such as hours of operation

Behind-the-wheel training takes place on a course or public road under the supervision of a qualified instructor. Also, only schools listed on the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry can offer the training.

Get a CLP Before Your CDL

Another first step you could take is getting a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). A CLP is a state-issued permit that allows you to operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle for training purposes. You will be under the supervision of a valid CDL holder for the vehicle you are driving.

State requirements vary. In most, CLPs expire after 180 days from their issue date. However, some states, like Missouri, allow you to keep your CLP up to a full year.

Entry-level CDL Training Time

Under the new rule, no specific time frame exists to earn your CDL. It all depends on the school you choose. If you attend a driver training program at any number of accredited training schools, you could expect to spend four to seven weeks, though some programs may require up to six months.

Covering Behind-the-Wheel Tuition

CDL cost may be an issue. If that’s something you’re worried about, you’ll be glad to know many trucking companies will fund your tuition if are willing to work for them once you graduate.

For example, The CDL School — through our parent company TransForce Group — has companies we work with that are willing to take a chance on a student and fully pay their tuition.

That’s not always the case, however. Some trucking companies will deduct the training fee from the driver’s monthly pay. Others will reimburse the driver’s training fee if they stay with the company for a certain amount of time.

If becoming a truck driver appeals to you, check out what the CDL School has to offer. Our program includes classroom training and a driving practice course. You get step-by-step guidance from start to finish. You will learn everything needed to pass the entry-level driver training knowledge test. The rest is up to you.