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Do New Truck Drivers Have to be Trained in Pennsylvania?

Commercial vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, requiring a higher degree of expertise on the drivers behalf. A truck driver is faced with large blind spots, and additional weight that makes turning and stopping a lot more difficult. On top of this, a commercial driver has to pay extra attention to the road conditions, traffic flow, and inclement weather, which can all increase the risk of an accident. The national truck accident lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm will explain the training and requirements necessary to obtain a commercial drivers license, showing the necessary steps to become a seasoned truck driver.

State Driver’s License Requirements in Pennsylvania

Prior to obtaining a Commercial Drivers License, you must already have a Pennsylvania Driver’s License. The process of getting a PA driver’s license is relatively standard, and includes getting a learner’s permit, and passing the vision, knowledge, and road tests.

Learner’s Permit

The first step is filling out the application for a learner’s permit (form DL-180), and your healthcare provider will need to complete the medical information on the back of the form. You must be 16 or older to apply for a learners permit in Pennsylvania. If you have a medical condition that seriously inhibits your ability to drive, you might have to obtain a dual control learner’s permit, and learn to drive alongside a certified driver. You must also prove your PA residency by providing two documents including current utility bills, a W-2 form, tax records, or anything else that could verify your place of residence. If you are not 18 years of age or older, you will need a parent, guardian, person in loco parentis or spouse over the age of 18 to fill out a consent form.

After filling out the application and other necessary steps, you will spend time studying the manual or taking drivers education courses that will prepare you for the Knowledge Test. You will need to go to the Driver License Center with your completed application, your proof of birth and identification, and social security card. There will be a $30.50 fee with check or money order payable to “PennDot.” The Knowledge Test will include questions related to driving laws and rules, road signs, and other safe driving practices. Once you pass the exam, your learner’s permit will be valid for one year, enabling you to begin driving practice.

Road Test

Next you will practice driving for at least 65 hours including 10 or more hours at night and 5 hours of driving in bad weather, with a licensed driver age 21 or older beside you. After the mandatory 6-month period, you are eligible to take your Road Test. During the Road Test, a designated examiner will inspect your vehicle to ensure you can drive safely, will ask you to operate the vehicle controls and parallel park, and finally tell you where to drive, paying attention to how you obey traffic signs, lights, and communicate with other drivers. Upon completion, you will earn your Pennsylvania Drivers License.

If you have just moved to Pennsylvania and are establishing residency, you must surrender your license from another state or Canada, and obtain a Pennsylvania License within 60 days.

The fact that there are many steps to acquire a license is well justified; it takes a high degree of skill, knowledge, and concentration to be able to drive a vehicle safely that weighs a lot and travels at high speeds. If you want to take extra steps to drive a commercial vehicle including a tractor-trailer, this comes with even more responsibility.

Driver’s License Requirements for Truck Drivers in Pennsylvania

Driving a commercial vehicle like a tractor-trailer requires more skill, knowledge, physical abilities and experience. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration acknowledged this difference by establishing separate licensing requirements to be able to operate a commercial vehicle. If you want to be a member of the trucking industry, you will need to attain a Commercial Drivers License, thus ensuring that drivers operating large trucks and other commercial vehicles are properly trained.

Documentation and Age Limits

There are several requirements that will determine if you are eligible to apply for and operate a commercial vehicle. In order to be able to operate a commercial vehicle within the state, you must be 18 years or older. In order to drive a commercial vehicle across state lines or transfer hazardous material, you must be 21 or older. To begin the process of applying for a permit, you must already have a Pennsylvania Driver’s License, and provide your social security number, proof of identity and Pennsylvania residency. Additionally, you must also certify that you are in agreement with the state motor carrier safety regulations, meaning that your driving record will be checked in all states as well as the District of Columbia. Finally, you will need a valid Medical Examiner’s certificate. After passing required medical tests, a medical card will be issued to you by the Department of Transportation that you should carry with you while operating the vehicle.

Physical Requirements

Safely driving a vehicle that weighs tens of thousands of pounds demands a certain level of physical vigor and wellbeing. Thus, there are basic physical requirements that you must be able to meet such as 20/40 vision in both eyes, blood pressure no higher than 160/100, and blood sugar no higher than 200. Additionally, you must be able to distinguish colors and recognize a forced whisper at a distance of 5 feet. It is possible to meet these requirements through the use of glasses, contacts, or prescription medication. Nonetheless, there are certain cases that will disqualify you from operating a commercial vehicle, such as if you use insulin injections to treat diabetes, or use amphetamine, narcotic or other habit forming drug.

The Pennsylvania Commercial Driver’s License Manual

The next step toward achieving a Commercial Driver’s License will be looking over the licensing manual in Pennsylvania. After reading through the manual, you will decide what kind of commercial vehicle you would like to receive a license to operate. There are three different classes of commercial drivers licenses, and each class may require a different set of written tests to meet the skill requirements. A Class A license allows you to drive any combination of vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds in which the vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds.  A Class B license includes single or combination vehicles, but the vehicle being pulled must not exceed 10,000 pounds. Finally, a Class C license enables you to drive any single or combination vehicle designed to transport at least 16 people—such as a school bus driver—or involves the transportation of hazardous material.

Commercial Truck Driver Learner’s Permit

After choosing which class of vehicle you will need a license for, you will apply for a commercial learner’s permit. It is important to note that you are not able to operate any commercial vehicle, but that you are limited to the vehicle that the permit allows. Additionally, there must be someone with a Commercial Driver’s License sitting next to you at all times. After 2 weeks of practice and studying, you will be eligible to take the commercial driving test. The knowledge portion of the test includes a set of 50-70 questions ensuring that you know and understand driving regulations for a commercial vehicle. The amount of questions will depend on what class of license you are applying for, and there will be additional questions if you need to obtain the HAZMAT or school bus endorsement.

Skills Test

After passing the knowledge test, you will have to wait 15 days before receiving a permit and taking the skills test. The skills test is the final step before attaining your Commercial Driver’s License, and includes three separate parts: the Vehicle Inspection Test, the Basic Controls Test, and the Road test. During the Vehicle Inspection Test, you will need to prove your vehicle is safe to drive, pointing out the necessary measures and precautions and explaining to the examiner why it is important. This will include both and internal and external inspection and will be slightly different depending on what kind of vehicle you operate—whether it is a school bus, tractor trailer, and so on. The Basic Skills Control Test will take place off-road and the examiner will ask you to complete straight line backing, offset back/right, offset back/left, parallel parking on both the driver side and passenger side as well as alley dock. Finally, you will take the Road Test, in which you drive over a test route with several traffic situations that you will need to conquer, including entering the expressway, changing lanes, approaching intersections, turning, and so on.

Both the skills and knowledge tests are meant to show that a driver can successfully operate a vehicle that could weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Upon successful completion, you will acquire your commercial drivers license and can operate the vehicle that corresponds to the class of your license on your own.

Penalties for a Commercial Truck Driver Operating a Vehicle without Correct Qualifications

A Commercial Driver’s License must be present in the vehicle if a driver is operating a vehicle in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce. There are consequences if a driver is operating a commercial vehicle without a commercial license corresponding to the correct class, as this is a serious traffic violation. Consequences may include large fines as well as driver disqualification, meaning a driver can only operate a personal vehicle, or in extreme cases complete license suspension, meaning a driver cannot operate any vehicle for a period of time. If you have questions about truck driving laws, contact a commercial trucking accident lawyer at the Reiff Law Firm.

Contact Our Pennsylvania Truck Accident Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation

The trucking industry is notorious for accidents, and it is especially important that drivers are trained and knowledgeable of the risks and regulations. To schedule a private, no-cost evaluation, call the Philadelphia truck accident attorneys at (215) 709-6940 or leave your message online. If you wait too long, the statute of limitations may expire and you won’t be able to pursue a claim.

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