How to work as a truck driver in the United States

How to work as a truck driver in the United States

How do I become a truck driver in the United States? Can I get my wallet with a tourist visa ? Can I get my student visa ? What do I need to get a truck driver’s license in the United States? To work as a truck driver in the United States, you need to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), which is different from the common Car Driver’s License. The CDL is a trading portfolio.

Truck driver in the United States

Many truck drivers dream of working in the United States and this is a totally possible dream, because the lack of truck drivers in the country is huge. They really need truck drivers, so if you take the CDL off one day, you’ll be working the next. To give you an idea, almost half of the drivers in the country are foreigners. This is also important to know that to be a truck driver in the United States, you would also need a truck permit. And that’s something you need professional help with. Established professional companies like help you manage things for you;

What visa do I get to work as a truck driver?

There are two ways to move to the US to legally work as a truck driver: by going on an EB2 NIW visa or by having a contract with a company in advance (H2B visa). The EB2 NIW visa costs between US$ 20,000 and US$ 50,000 and the time to obtain it is one and a half years. The H2B visa takes about 8 to 12 months to be approved and in this case, the foreigner has no expenses, the company that is hiring him pays for everything. In addition to the visa, you need to get a specific truck driver’s license, its name is CDL.

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Can I get the CDL with a tourist or student visa?

Not. To get the CDL you need to be legal in the US and have at least a work visa. Student and tourist visa does not give you the right to have a truck driver’s license because it is commercial/professional. With the tourist visa you are only allowed to walk around, with the student visa you can only study, so it is not possible to obtain a truck driver’s license with these visas because it is a professional license, to work as a truck driver . You can only get this card if you can work with it, i.e. a work visa, green card or citizenship.

What do I need to get the CDL?

  • Be over 21 years old;
  • Not having a criminal record;
  • Car driver’s license (Driver’s License), no matter how old the license is;
  • Work or social security visa or green card or American passport or American certificate.

Step by step to remove the CDL

You go to the DMV and say you want to start taking the test to get your truck driver’s license and they will direct you to a computer for you to take your first test. If you pass, then you pass to the second test on the same day. If you fail, you have to pay 10 dollars and come back the next day to retake this test, you cannot retake it on the same day. then you for a $10 fee each time you fail.

Theoretical tests

  • The first general knowledge test has 50 questions, you can get 10 wrong, that is, you have to get 40 right.
  • The second vehicle combination test has 30 questions and of these you can get 8 wrong, that is, you have to get 22 right.
  • The third and final test is the air brake test, it has 20 questions and you can get 5 wrong, that is, you have to get 15 right.

Medical exam

After these tests, the person is referred for a medical examination – this is not a drug test, it is just a medical examination to see if the person is fit to drive. So in this exam they check your blood pressure, do a vision test and ask you some questions. This exam costs US$100, it can be done at a pharmacy or you can go to a doctor, but the pharmacy is simpler and more affordable.

After the exam, the person will start taking practical classes. Then you have to enroll in a truck driving school, usually these schools range from US$1500 to US$4000. It is worth noting here that tuition is proportional to the amount paid, so a US$1500 school will probably teach more “over the top” than a US$4000 school.

Visual inspection test

At school you will start studying for the visual inspection test of the vehicle (Pre Trip Inspection), you have to know the name of the truck parts, engine parts, side, rear, trailer parts and what they do. You have the option of doing this process in Spanish or English.

The mandatory parts of the visual test are the cabin test, the test to talk about the parts and the fifth wheel. On test day, the instructor will take another part of the truck for you to talk about, it can be the engine, the side or the trailer (or the whole truck).

You have to say 5 parts of the engine on the driver’s side and 5 parts of the engine on the passenger’s side, you have to talk about the side of the vehicle, the rear lines, the fifth wheel, just in the fifth wheel part there are about 18 names of parts who have to say the name and explain what it is.

If it’s a metal thing, you have to say that it doesn’t have cracks and illegal welds, if it’s a rubber thing, you have to say that it has no cuts or is not defective, if it’s a hose, you have to say that it’s not leaking air or any fluid. For each type of piece you have some keywords to talk about.

Depending on the axle you pick up, you will have to talk about the suspension and brakes. On the part of the trailer, you have to talk about the side of the trailer, the stickers, the back of the trailer, the doors, if they work, if the screws are in place. So you can’t be frivolous in this test, you have to really study and know what they’re going to ask. You don’t need to do anything, just show.

brake test

In the cabin test / brake test you will test the trailer brake, pedal brake and horse brake. Then you will do the entire brake test and show the instructor the whole part of the panel, you will show the triangle, the extinguisher… so there are a number of things inside the cabin that you have to show. It takes about 15 minutes to do this test just inside the cabin.

Maneuver test

After going through these parts, you will take the practical tests, to really learn how to drive the truck. They will teach you before doing these maneuvers. The quality of this education may vary depending on the school you choose. Very cheap schools usually don’t teach much. There are 3 maneuver tests.

The first is to go back and forth in a straight line:



The second is to move from one parking lot to another parallel one:



And the third is to reverse and park the truck in L:



The last test you have to do is the street test. Then the instructor will go out with you and walk around 5 miles (about 8 kilometers). He will make you turn 3 or 4 times to the left and to the right to see if you can make the turn without taking the curb with the trailer (if you do, it’s already a failure), he’ll see if you can brake in advance before the traffic light, he makes you pass from one line to another while you are on the highway, maybe he also passes in a school area (where you have to be VERY careful).

So, passing all the tests, you go with your little paper to the DMV and get your wallet. The wallet withdrawal fee is $75 USD (this amount may vary). You can pick up your wallet even on the same day the tests are finished.

How long does it take to get the CDL?

From 3 to 5 days to get the permit, carry out the theoretical tests at the DMV, which are 3 – one for general knowledge, one for vehicle combination and one for air brake. After these tests and the medical examination, the person gets a CDL permit. This permission is a preview of the license, where the person is only allowed to drive with someone on the side who already has the CDL.

With permission, you wait about 14 days and after this break, the person spends 10 to 14 days training with the truck doing the 3 tests inside the driving school. These proofs are:

  • Inspection test – to know the name of all parts of the truck;
  • Maneuver Test – which are 3 maneuvers;
  • Driving test that lasts about 20 or 30 minutes driving near the bus school.

Remembering that when you fail a test, they can reschedule for the next week or two weeks, so the time to take the CDL is also up to you. The faster you pass these tests, the faster you get your wallet out.

Toxicology test

People end up confusing the medical exam to take the CDL with the toxicological exam. After you get your license and go to work, the company that hires you will ask you for a drug test. so it’s the medical exam during the process to get the CDL and then, when you go to work, there’s the toxicological exam.

How much does a truck driver make in the US?

In companies in the USA they can usually pay 25% to 35% of the value of the cargo or they can pay by the mile, which goes from 50 to 75 cents per mile. Each truck driver who works for a company can earn an average of US$1000 to US$2000 per week. It depends on the place you work, the company the truck driver works for, some companies pay by the mile, other companies pay a percentage of the gross value of the load… depending on who you work for, it will be a different scheme, but in general it is around a thousand to two thousand a week.

For those who have their own truck, maybe the weekly earnings are better. But on the other hand, the truck driver is responsible for the truck, he has to pay the insurance that gives about US$12,000 dollars a year, if you didn’t buy the cash, you have the truck share, you have the diesel and the maintenance (and there is maintenance because the truck breaks even, it has to have regular maintenance) and then comes the profit.

The gross profit for a truck is $20000 to $25000 USD per month, so you take that amount and take out the insurance, diesel, maintenance and installment if the truck is split and the rest is your profit. If you work for a company, then it’s the percentage scheme for gross cargo or per mile.

Each company has its benefits and as you gain experience as a truck driver, you will find more companies that offer better benefits. Or you set up your own trucking company, starting with your own truck and then buying another one and putting someone else to work for you. Have you thought?


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