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The Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Certifications

Truck driving is an exciting career path, offering you the chance to explore the open road and get much-needed alone time. Transportation is also a growing industry, so there is always a demand for truck drivers and plenty of opportunities for people just starting.

Like any career path, getting hands-on experience is generally the first step, and you can do so by earning your Commercial Learner’s Permit, or CLP.

Two students are shown taking an exam.

Starting With a Commercial Learner’s Permit

The CLP is a much-needed step in a new truck driver’s career journey because it’s a prerequisite for obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), and you can’t become a truck driver without a CDL. With a CLP, you can train and practice on the road under supervision, gain valuable skills, and develop the confidence you need to handle large commercial vehicles.


CLP requirements will vary based on the state where you plan to work. For this article, we’re going to focus on Michigan.

To obtain a CLP in Michigan, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old for intrastate, which means you’ll only be driving within the state of Michigan.
  • Be at least 21 years old for interstate driving, which means you’ll be driving through multiple states as needed.
  • Have a regular driver’s license in good standing (no traffic violations, etc.).
  • Have completed and passed a DOT medical examination, which ensures you’re physically fit for commercial driving. To schedule a DOT examination, contact your primary care physician or schedule an appointment at your nearest urgent care. DOT exams are typically covered under insurance.
  • Pass a written knowledge test covering general trucking knowledge.
  • Complete the application form at the Secretary of State office, where you will provide identification, proof of residency, and your Social Security number.

In Michigan, the CLP is under the general CDL training program, so you must apply for a CDL to obtain your CLP. Please read our How to Qualify for Entry-Level CDL Jobs article for more information on requirements, including factors that could prevent you from becoming a CDL driver.

CDL Licenses

After you’ve completed hands-on training, you’re ready to take your CDL skills test. In Michigan, you must wait 14 days after receiving your CLP before you can take the test. You could earn three primary types of licenses: A, B, or C. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between each type.


A Class A CDL is the most sought-after certification because it allows drivers to operate all types of vehicles, including tractor-trailers, livestock carriers, tank vehicles, and flatbeds, with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds.

A CDL A can open up more job opportunities in long-haul trucking, specialized vehicle operation, and more, allows you to drive across state lines, and offers the highest earning potential. You can read this blog to learn about the many benefits of earning a CDL A.


A Class B license allows drivers to operate commercial vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more or a vehicle towing another vehicle not weighing more than 10,000 pounds. These typically include straight trucks, large buses, segmented buses, box trucks, dump trucks with small trailers, and trucks with small trailers.

Please note that if you plan on driving school buses, you’ll need to obtain your S endorsement—we’ll discuss endorsements later.

Most CDL B jobs involve local routes, making it ideal for people who don’t want to stray too far from home.


Lastly, a Class C license is required for operating certain types of vehicles that don’t fall under CDL A and B categories, such as vehicles that are intended to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), like smaller buses, and vehicles used to transport hazardous materials that require a placard under federal regulations.

If you plan to drive any vehicle with 16+ passengers, you’ll also need a P endorsement. Likewise, if you transport hazardous materials, you’ll need an H (or X) endorsement and your CDL C.


The CDL A, B, and C license requirements are the same. You need to:

  • Have a CLP for at least 14 days.
  • Pass minimum age requirements (18 for intrastate, 21 for interstate).
  • Pass the road skills test.
  • Pass a DOT physical examination.
  • Provide proof of residency.
  • Have a standard class D driver’s license in good standing.
  • Pay a $25 fee.

What Does the CDL Skills Test Cover?

The road skills test you need to pass to obtain any of the three licenses mentioned above generally covers:

  1. Pre-Trip Vehicle Inspection: You will be required to demonstrate a thorough pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, which includes checking the engine compartment and the vehicle’s exterior and interior. This is to ensure you understand how to check that all vehicle components are functioning safely and correctly.
  2. Basic Vehicle Control: This part tests your ability to control the vehicle in various maneuvers. It may include backing up, parking (parallel, dockside, or alley), turning, and navigating intersections.
  3. On-Road Driving: In this last part, you’ll be tested on your ability to drive the vehicle in different traffic situations, like highways, city streets, and at intersections, to prove that you know how to navigate through traffic, change lanes, and adhere to road signs and signals. The examiner will assess your general driving behavior, including using mirrors, signaling, speed management, and how you interact with other drivers.

Please visit our How to Pass Your CDL Road Test blog for tips on how to prepare for this test.


While the CDL is the foundation of your career in trucking, you also have the opportunity to earn endorsements, which are separate certifications that grant you specific permissions. These aren’t necessarily a requirement, but they do expand your abilities to drive different types of vehicles and can make you more marketable to future employers.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the endorsements you could earn:

HAllows you to transport hazardous materials, like flammable liquids, gases, toxic substances, and explosives.$5
NRequired for operating a tank vehicle, typically used for transporting liquids or gases.$5
TAllows you to operate vehicles pulling two or three trailers and is essential for drivers hauling double or triple-trailer configurations commonly used in long-haul trucking.$5
PRequired for operating any vehicle that carries more than 16 passengers, like a city bus or shuttle service.$5
SRequired for any driver who will operate a school bus.$5
LRequired for drivers who are operating vehicles with air brakes.$5
XThis is a combination endorsement (N + H) that’s needed to transport hazardous materials in tank vehicles.$10

To earn an endorsement, you’ll need to pass a 20- or 30-question knowledge test and pay the required fee. Some endorsements, like the P and S, may also require you to pass a skills test.

Start Your Journey Today

If you still want to become a truck driver, let TSI help you start your journey. We’re a Michigan-based transportation company providing services across the United States, Mexico, and Canada. We offer a comprehensive six-week training program that will give you the hands-on experience you need to earn your CDL A, B, or C. Our course includes training on pre-trip inspections, trip planning, custom relations, defensive driving, backing and parking, communication, and injury prevention.

Please visit our website to learn more or to sign up for our program.