What is a Temporary CDL Driver and How to Become One

Katy Boyles |
Katy is our Social Media Manager at Snagajob, where she loves talking to hourly workers and employers all day long. Her first hourly job was as a hostess.

Truck driving is an overlooked career that earns decent pay and benefits. Lots of people consider truck driving but never pursue it because they think it means long periods away from home on the road. But there’s so much more to commercial truck driving. 

With commercial truck driving, you could work in your hometown, across states, by the ocean, or in a bustling nearby city. You can enjoy the pay and benefits of commercial truck driving without quitting your day job. Read on to learn more about temporary commercial truck driving, how easy it is to get into it, and the many different vehicles you can drive with your CDL.

What Does CDL Stand For?

CDL is an abbreviation for Commercial Driver’s License. A CDL is required for operating large vehicles that transport goods and passengers. You need this type of license to drive vehicles like vans, semi-trucks, tractors, buses, livestock carriers, trailers, and the like. Like a regular driver’s license, commercial driver’s licenses are issued according to the state you reside in, with each state having its licensing standards. Commercial driver’s licenses are categorized into three classes: Class A, Class B, and Class C. 

What are the Different Types of CDL Classes?

Your CDL Class will determine the types of vehicles you are authorized to drive. Below is a brief description of the classes, as well as jobs associated with them. It should be noted some drivers can operate trucks outside of their license class as long as they obtain the correct endorsements. 

  • Class A CDL. Individuals wanting to operate semi-trucks, trailer trucks, some tankers, flatbeds, and livestock carriers must apply for a Class A CDL. Common jobs for individuals with this license are long-haul and local hauling, as well as agricultural transportation. 

  • Class B CDL. Individuals wanting to operate straight trucks, delivery trucks, city and tourist buses, school buses, segmented buses, box trucks, dump trucks, and small trailers must apply for a Class B CDL. Popular employment opportunities for individuals with this license are construction truck operators, bus drivers, and shuttle drivers.  

  • Class C CDL. Individuals wanting to operate double or triple semi-truck trailers, some buses, some tank trucks, and hazardous materials trucks must apply for a Class C CDL. Jobs for individuals with this license are a mix between Class A and Class B commercial driving careers. 

What is a CDL Driver?

A CDL driver is a commercially licensed driver that operates, drives, hauls, tows, or shuttles a large motor vehicle weighing 26,001 or more pounds. CDL drivers transport a variety of cargo across all industries, including retail goods, animals, passengers, building materials, trash, and hazardous materials. The type of large motor vehicle a commercially licensed driver operates depends on the industry they drive for and the type of cargo they transport.

What is a Temporary CDL Driver?

A temporary CDL driver performs contractual commercial driving operations. A temporary CDL driver often specializes in one or a few types of truck driving jobs. Some temporary CDL drivers use company-owned equipment, while others own and operate their vehicles throughout their contracts. 

What Are Some Examples of Temporary CDL Driver Jobs?

There is no shortage of short-term commercial truck driving jobs to be found across all industries throughout the year. Some examples of temporary truck driving roles include: 

  • Local hauling and transporting gigs. You can find a wealth of one-time or short-term commercial driving gigs in most cities. Many local businesses need last-minute or part-time drivers to pick up, deliver, or stock goods between their manufacturing, supply, and retail locations. In addition to driving trucks and vans, you could also operate forklifts, semi-trucks, terminal tractors, yard goats, and more. 

  • Seasonal long-haul and local deliveries. Seasonal jobs are not limited to holidays and vacation times; they are available year-round for a variety of companies, goods, and services. You could partake in a month-long gig transporting forest trees to Christmas pop-ups, drive a van for an event rental equipment business throughout the summer, or haul a double semi-truck for a bottled water company under a three-month contract. 

  • Tankers and hazardous waste drivers. The most common temporary tanker and hazardous material transportation jobs are for manufacturing plants and construction projects. Other related vehicles you could operate as a temporary CDL driver are cement mixers, loaders, and dump trucks. 

  • Livestock transportation. Farmers and ranchers always buy and sell chickens, cattle, horses, goats, pigs, bees, and more across the country. Breeders and animals also need their livestock transported for showings, auctions, and races. 

  • Shuttling and bussing. There are all kinds of shuttling and bussing opportunities in major cities around holidays and vacation times. You can run amusement park shuttles, drive routes around tourist attractions, and bus children to school. If you’d prefer something less social, you can always opt for corporate or warehouse shuttling. 

Can a CDL Driver Drive Any Large Motor Vehicle?

Anyone with a commercial driving license can legally drive large commercial trucks, tractors, trailers, vans, and buses. However, a commercial driver’s license alone does not permit you to operate all large motor vehicles. CDL drivers need specific license endorsements to operate specialized vehicles. 

CDL drivers who intend to drive specialized commercial vehicles have an obligation to abide by stringent safety guidelines. Drivers must earn an endorsement for their license to demonstrate their mastery of the technical, practical, and safety education needed for each type of vehicle.

Types of CDL Endorsements

A CDL driver needs a license endorsement to carry passengers, schoolchildren, liquids, gas, and hazardous materials. The different types of endorsements are described below. 

  • Hazardous Materials (H). Drivers with this endorsement may only carry dry hazmat materials. Drivers of these vehicle types must ensure their vehicles have overt public warning signs on the truck to alert emergency responders and the public of the vehicle’s contents. 

  • Tanks (N). Tank trucks, also known as tankers, carry large loads of gases and liquids. The gases and liquids carried by these vehicles may or may not be hazardous. 

  • Passengers (P). Drivers with this endorsement are authorized to operate vehicles that carry 16 or more passengers. 

  • School Bus (S). CDL drivers who intend to drive school buses must also receive a background check and clearance.

  • Double or Triple Trailer (T). A double or triple trailer is a semi-truck with two or three boxes. 

  • Tank and Hazardous Materials (X). Drivers with this endorsement can transport hazardous liquid materials in tanker trucks. 

Aside from their heavy-duty size, there are unique safety vulnerabilities and considerations for each vehicle and endorsement. Each endorsement has its own requirements for education, training, testing, and background checks. 

How Much Can You Make as a Temporary CDL Driver?

The pay scale for a temporary CDL driver varies by state, employer, and job. Some companies pay drivers by the hour, others by the mile, others by the number of loads completed, and others on a contractual basis. Jobs that involve dangerous, time-sensitive, or perishable goods generally pay the most. Drivers can broaden their employability by obtaining multiple CDL endorsements. 

Entry-level drivers can expect to make at least $15 an hour, while expert or endorsed drivers can earn $25 and up per hour. Employers typically also pay new drivers a sign-on bonus of up to several thousand dollars. Temporary CDL drivers sometimes have a slight edge regarding pay because their work is specialized, on-call, and short-lived. Some temporary CDL drivers are able to drastically increase their pay rates because they have their own large motor vehicles.

What is it Like to Be a Temporary CDL Driver?

In general, the temporary truck driving experience varies according to your employer and industry. A temporary CDL driver can expect to work part-time, full-time, and overtime hours just like a career truck driver. Depending on the employment contract, a temporary CDL driver can work eight to 12 hour day or night shifts five to seven days a week. Temporary drivers may be expected to be available to work on-call and on holidays. 

There are a few job responsibilities that remain the same across all truck driving occupations. Truck driving, even if temporary, is a physically, mentally, and technically demanding job. Drivers are expected to be able to lift heavy loads, work long shifts, make multiple stops throughout their shift, maintain their vehicles, and anticipate safety hazards. 

Do I Need a College Degree to Become a CDL Driver?

You do not need a college degree to qualify for commercial driving employment. A high school degree or GED is not legally required to get your CDL. However, many employers will require you to earn a high school diploma or GED to be considered for employment. 

What Experience Do I Need to Become a CDL Driver?

Aside from your commercial driver’s license, you do not need the experience to apply to commercial driving job listings. Most temporary CDL listings require their drivers to be at least 23 years old and have 1 - 3 years of commercial driving experience. Ultimlately, the type, and duration of experience needed for a CDL position will depend on your prospective employer. 

Some companies will hire inexperienced drivers with only their commercial driving learner’s permits. Oftentimes, these companies are willing to train their drivers onsite. Still, other employers will require you to take specialized courses or earn endorsements, in addition to obtaining your CDL.

How to Become a Temporary CDL Driver?

You must obtain your commercial driver’s license to become a CDL driver. Commercial Driver’s License requirements vary by state. If you are interested in applying for your CDL, check with your state’s licensing department to learn and adhere to their requirements. To earn your CDL, you will need to take a training course, written test, and driving test. You will also have to perform additional coursework and testing for endorsements. You may have driving and vehicle restrictions placed on your commercial driving license if you underperform in certain categories on your driving and written tests 

Why Would Anyone Want to Become a Temporary CDL Driver?

There are many reasons and benefits to becoming a temporary CDL driver. Commercial driving is stable, pays well, has commendable benefits, and is physically and mentally stimulating. We’ll go over the five popular reasons why most people pursue temporary commercial driving.

Preview Life as a Career Commercial Truck Driver

Many people interested in pursuing truck driving as a career take on temporary commercial driving. Temporary roles allow individuals the opportunity to experience day-to-day life as a career truck driver without a huge difference in pay between a full-time and part-time worker. Short-term contracts also give drivers the opportunities to work across multiple industries throughout the year. If you’re considering pivoting your career to truck driving, you should give temporary commercial driving a try. 

Pursue a Profitable Side-Hustle

You may not like commercial driving enough to take it on as your full-time career. If that’s the case, you can make your temporary CDL jobs your part-time business. Temporary commercial driving has enticing overtime, stipend, and sign-on bonus pays. Employers understand truck driving is tough and they want to compensate for that. Truck driving continues to be a stable job because it is needed in every industry. 

You can still benefit from the time and money spent on your CDL even if you find you don’t like commercial driving. Many non-career truck drivers possess their CDLs and end up using them (and making money) in a variety of ways. For example, if you work as a cop, municipal worker, or warehouse worker, you can earn additional income by offering your commercial driving skills to your employer so they don’t have to hire external labor. 

Work in the Gig Economy and Be Your Boss

Oftentimes, truck driving is a locationally independent job. These aspects make temporary CDL work appealing to gig and nomadic workers. In an attempt to work within the gig economy, it is becoming more popular for people with non-commercial driving backgrounds to pursue temporary CDL driving positions.

Work on a Hobby With Great Benefits

In more than a few ways, commercial truck driving lends itself to a hobby. Some people love driving and working on trucks and large vehicles. Others love traveling, seeing new sights, and meeting new people. Drivers can get all of these perks with temporary commercial driving, not to mention great benefits. Even temporary commercial driving jobs have benefits like health insurance, retirement savings, and matching, and paid vacations. 

What are the Best Temporary CDL Driver Jobs?

There are a lot of versatile temporary CDL jobs that can be flexible with your schedule and interests. Below are a few popular temporary CDL roles 

  • Day cab delivery. You can expect to haul, deliver, and transport a wide variety of goods around your city and surrounding areas working as a day cab driver.

  • Airport shuttle. Airports are high-traffic institutions that are always in need of a shuttle staff.

  • Reefer driving. Also known as reefer work, reefer driving entails transporting and delivering refrigerated food items from suppliers to retailers. These jobs are always in high demand due to the sensitive nature of perishable foods and the limited availability of refrigerated trucks.

  • Dump truck driver. A dump truck driver delivers and carries away a variety of construction materials and debris. If you enjoy a job with lots of action, this may be a temporary CDL job for you.

  • Yard dog. Also called a yard junkie or yard goat, a yard dog driver moves tractors and trailers to different points in one location. A yard dog job is perfect for someone who likes to work solitarily and wants to avoid driving in traffic.

  • Port trucking. Port truck drivers are responsible for picking up and inspecting shipped cargo from rail yards and shipping ports.

  • Tourism bussing. If you love the city you live in and want to share its treasures with tourists, you may want to consider working as a tour bus driver. 

A Temporary Job with a Lasting Effect

Temporary CDL driving can be an exciting opportunity to explore new destinations, experience new vehicles, and sharpen your mechanical and safety skills. As a temporary CDL driver, you empower yourself to drive on your terms with the companies and industries you choose. Ready to see what opportunities lie ahead? Search SnagAJob CDL, CDL Driver, and Truck Driver jobs today!