Get ahead: Earn your commercial driver's license

In addition to being highly practical, a commercial driver's license is a certification you should list on your resume to bolster your qualifications when applying for a variety of jobs.

For laborer and material mover jobs (such as packers and packagers, stockers, feeders, and cleaners), getting your commercial driver's license (CDL) can lower the barrier for entry into the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this field are projected to grow by the year 2024. Although advanced technologies, such as high-speed conveyors and automated sorting systems, are increasing efficiency in manufacturing, these innovations won't entirely replace humans, especially when it comes to moving goods and materials.

What is a commercial driver's license?

A commercial driver's license (CDL) is the license required to drive vehicles that involve more knowledge and experience to operate than regular vehicles like cars. Commercial vehicles usually carry a lot of heavy weight, and the vehicles themselves are typically much larger than normal automobiles. Vehicles which require a commercial driver's license (CDL) include buses, trailers, tank vehicles, and heavy trucks.

How do you obtain a CDL?

Earning your commercial driver's license can differ depending on what state you are in. Before starting, obtain a copy of your state's commercial driver's licensing manual for more specific qualifications; most can be easily found online. Then, decide what license class you need to apply for: there are three classes for commercial vehicles, divided based on how much weight they carry, what sort of materials or individuals they transport, and how many trailers they can tow.

Actually obtaining your commercial driver's license starts, as you might expect, with a commercial learner's permit. After passing a test and verifying the last ten years of your driving record to ensure you're eligible, you can obtain this learner's permit; however, some permits require a DOT (Department of Transportation) Medical Card, and some states may request more information in addition to this medical exam.

After receiving your learners permit, you'll likely be required to complete training prior to your skills test, depending on state requirements.
Skills tests are comprised of three parts:

  1. vehicle inspection
  2. basic control
  3. road test

You must pass all three parts in order to receive your commercial driver's license.

Why is having a CDL important?

While many laborers and material movers may not need to operate commercial vehicles on a regular basis, having your commercial driver's license can only be a positive resume certification for employers. Earning your commercial driver's license demonstrates that you were able to meet state standards when it comes to competent driving skills and performing safety checks on commercial vehicles. Not only will your license communicate to potential employers that you're a highly capable commercial driver, it will reinforce that you have experience abiding by safety standards and protocols, a skill integral to laborers and material movers who work with machines. Furthermore, your commercial driver's license also communicates that you're in a good physical condition, a necessary quality in this industry which involves heavy lifting and other active work.

In terms of your occupational outlook, earning your commercial driver's license may also mean that you could potentially be promoted faster. Taking the initiative to earn this certification signals to managers or supervisors that you want and can handle additional responsibility, and they might just reward you by giving you more.

Because all commercial driver's licenses are recognized nationally, many employers (especially at companies with factories, hubs, and other operational locations across the country) value employees that have them. Widely acknowledged certifications like these boost your credibility with current and potential employers, providing a strong and verifiable backbone to the skills and experience you've already listed on your resume.


Something to keep in mind:

Though you won't be using a commercial driver's license (CDL) on a regular basis as a laborer or material mover, this certification can still help you as a job applicant. Here's why:

  • Earning your CDL demonstrates your ability to comply with standard driving skills and safety checks.
  • You'll show employers that you're in good physical condition.
  • You may be more eligible for promotions because you've illustrated that you take initiative and handle responsibility well.

In addition to including your CDL on your resume, employers like to see technical skills — material handling, forklift operation, packing and lifting — and soft skills, like ethics and quick learning, too.

For more information, check out:
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