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What Qualifications Do Truck Drivers Need?

Published on May 14, 2024 at 3:26 pm in Truck Accident.


When you see a truck on the road, the driver must have passed a series of rigorous tests and checks to operate the vehicle. Unfortunately, some trucking companies fail to meet these requirements set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which can lead to tragic accidents on the road.

Unlike small vehicles, commercial motor vehicle drivers must be properly trained and vetted before they get behind the wheel. At McMath Woods P.A., our legal team has seen the devastating impact that unskilled and unqualified truck drivers can have on innocent victims.

So, what qualifications do truck drivers need?

Let’s take a look at a few of the state and federal requirements to drive.

Age Requirements

Age requirements vary depending on where the truck is heading. If the trucking company plans to transport goods across state lines, drivers need to be at least 21 years of age to operate commercial vehicles per the FMCSA.

However, with the shortage of drivers, the federal government has considered lowering the age, and there is a pilot program for underage drivers. If the truck will only operate within the state, known as intrastate, then the minimum age is 18.

Driving a commercial vehicle can be challenging. All drivers need to have a certain level of experience and maturity before taking on this responsibility. When they lack that, trucking accidents can occur.

Along with meeting the age requirement, drivers also need to be qualified in other ways.

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

Like most states, Arkansas has certain requirements for truck drivers. All drivers need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to legally operate a vehicle. Arkansas residents will need to apply for a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) at any Arkansas Office of Motor Vehicles. There are other qualifications to meet, including medical requirements and proof of address.

After that, you’ll need to pay a $50 CDL testing fee and pass the general written exam and any specific endorsement exams.

There are different classes of CDLs in Arkansas:

  • Class A allows drivers to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more (including towed units).
  • Class B permits the operation of a single vehicle with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more or a vehicle towing another with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) not exceeding 10,000 pounds.
  • Class C is for vehicles that don’t fit Class A or B definitions but are designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or carry hazardous materials.

CDL training classes cover important topics, such as vehicle operation, safety regulations, and cargo handling.

All drivers must pass both a written knowledge exam and a skills test for their license. The skills portion includes a pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control, and an on-road driving assessment.

Additionally, drivers can seek additional endorsements for their CDL, including hazardous materials and passenger transport.

Medical Qualifications

Every truck driver must pass a physical examination conducted by a nationally certified medical examiner. This examination assesses their physical fitness, vision, hearing, and overall health.

Any driver who wants to operate a vehicle needs to be medically fit. Along with the physical exam, truck drivers must also undergo regular drug and alcohol screenings.

For the safety of others on the road, all drivers must refrain from operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These screenings are often conducted at random intervals throughout the year.

Drivers who fail may be subject to disciplinary action or even lose their commercial driving privileges.

Background Check Requirements

Employers are also responsible for completing background checks on their potential hires.

Drivers need to be reliable and responsible on the road. While some criminal offenses may be overlooked, issues like DUI convictions could disqualify someone from operating a vehicle.

Background checks ensure that a driver has a clean record and will not pose a risk to themselves or other road users.

Why Truck Driving Qualifications Matter

Unqualified truck drivers pose major risks on the road due to their lack of proper training and qualifications.

Unfortunately, these drivers often have poor driving habits, such as speeding, tailgating, and improper lane changes. That lack of experience behind the wheel of a large commercial truck can lead to deadly errors. Inexperienced drivers may struggle with handling the vehicle, especially during inclement weather or sudden obstacles.

Unqualified truckers may not follow essential safety procedures like checking blind spots, performing proper turns, or maintaining safe following distances.

Also, some unqualified drivers operate their trucks while distracted by digital devices, which could compromise their attention on the road. Distractions can lead to delayed reactions and poor decision-making.

All trucking companies need to make sure that their drivers are qualified for the job. For that reason, they all conduct thorough investigations before hiring them. If an unqualified driver is hired and causes a truck accident that causes you injuries while on the job, the trucking company can face serious legal and financial repercussions.

In fact, trucking companies are responsible for investigating their drivers before offering them employment and during their employment tenure. With that, all their drivers continue to meet the necessary qualifications and standards required for the job and to minimize the risk of accidents occurring while on the road.

Unfortunately, unqualified drivers are often the main cause of tragic trucking accidents. At McMath Woods P.A., our legal team is always here to hold these individuals and their employers accountable for their wrongdoing in these accidents.

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