California CDL Truck Driver Salary
California is the third largest state in America with an impressive coastline that’s 840 miles in length. Imagine getting paid to drive the Pacific Coast Highway – dreamy, except for the traffic.
Starting in the north you’ll find cool and sometimes downright chilly (the average temperature is 54-degrees Fahrenheit) weather with lots of people working on their start-up businesses; which is to say it’s more techy than SoCal. As you travel south the temperature begins to climb to a very comfortable 72-degrees by the time you get to Los Angeles and as the temperature increases so does the relaxed vibe.
As a trucker, you can see it all by working in this state. California has many miles for you to drive and all types of terrain: craggy mountains, ocean, changing weather, and lots of blue sky. On the downside the cost of living is quite high, the traffic is often a headache to deal with, and there are earthquakes, mudslides, floods, and wildfires. But believe it or not, overall California is an incredible place to be (SOURCE).
If you drive up and down the coast you may never see the bordering states of Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon. The five most populated cities are:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Jose
- San Francisco
These should be the cities where you start of your job search.
California has about 23,310 truck drivers, which really doesn’t seem like a lot considering the size of the state. The average annual salary for a driver is $44,900 and the average hourly wage is $21.60.
The median salary for the entire U.S. is $41,340 and California’s median salary comes in higher at $43,280. Differences in the median salary vary by city as follows:
- Los Angeles $43,830
- San Jose $42,760
- San Francisco $48,680
- Fresno $42,850
- Sacramento $41,820 (state capital)
The difference between average and median is that average takes all salaries, adds them together then divides by the number of salaries added. Median means that there are exactly 50% of truckers making more than the mean and exactly 50% making less than the mean.
An encouraging statistic regarding employment is that between 2014 and 2024 the projected employment increase is estimated at a whopping 15% whereas the U.S. as a whole is only 6%.
California CDL License Information and Insights
Class requirements are basically the same through all 50 states, but be sure to verify what is needed before you go to file for your California CDL. You need a CDL to operate the following types of vehicles in California:
- CLASS A: Applies to “combination” vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) more than 26,000 pounds, and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is more than 10,000 pounds. A driver with a Class A CDL can also operate vehicles included in Class B, C, and D (with appropriate endorsements).
- CLASS B: Single or combination vehicles where the GVWR of the single vehicle is more than 26,000 pounds. The vehicle being pulled may not be more than 10,000 pounds. A driver with a Class B CDL (plus appropriate endorsements) can operate vehicles in Class C and D.
- CLASS C: If a vehicle, or combination of vehicles, doesn’t meets the definition for Class A or Class B but is designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver, or is used to transport hazardous materials as listed in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and require the motor vehicle to be placarded under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR part 172, subpart F).
- CLASS D: A regular non-commercial license.
California CDL Requirements
There are age requirements to obtain a CDL. You must be at least 18 years of age to drive commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). If you are between 18 and 21 years of age you can drive CMVs only within state lines (intrastate).
Drivers 21 years or older can drive:
- commercial vehicles across state lines (interstate)
- haul hazardous materials requiring placarding*
- operate vehicle with doubles or triples trailers*
*If you have the appropriate endorsements on your CDL.
What You Need To Bring
There are new requirements so ensure you have all your paperwork BEFORE you go to the DMV. Click here to find out what you need.
- Current Department of Transportation long medical form (unless medically exempt).
- Proof of U.S. citizenship/lawful permanent residency/legal presence
- Proof of residency (domicile)
- Transportation Security Administration background check if transferring or obtaining a hazardous materials endorsement.
- If not a U.S. citizen, applicant must legally be in permanent status in the United States and domiciled in California.
Important: You must pay the fees for your CDL BEFORE you take the knowledge tests. After paying the fees for the general knowledge, and any other endorsements you want to acquire, you have three attempts to pass each portion of the exam. You must also have your medical examiners card or DOT medical card before applying.
A few fees follow:
Commercial Class A or B
- original (with or without a driving test) $73
- renewal $43
- commercial driving or skill retest $33
Commercial Class C
- original (with/without a driving test) $43
- renewal $43
Click here for a list of all fees
California Trucking In The News
California truckers get fewer breaks under new proposed law. Truckers in California get more breaks than drivers in most of America, but that will change if a congressional attempt to override the state’s work rules succeeds. Both union officials and the drivers themselves say this would make California’s highways more dangerous.
Rome Aloise, president of Teamsters Joint Council 7 said, “I want to make sure that the guy in the truck next to me, driving 60,000 pounds, is not going to run me over because he falls asleep.”
Transportation employees are currently entitled to a 30-minute meal break every five hours they work. They also receive a 10-minute rest break every four hours they work. But ever since Donald Trump’s election, trucking companies think they may be able to override the California rules. Legislation moving through Congress could prevent states from setting their own rules for truck drivers’ work hours. States would then have to follow federal regulations that require only a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving.
The debate is dividing truckers and their employers, who could save millions of dollars in payroll and avoid employment lawsuits from drivers who say their employers didn’t allow them to take required breaks.
Supporters say state-by-state wage regulations don’t make sense for an industry in which employees can cross multiple state borders in one work shift. Opponents argue that rest is critical for drivers’ safety, (and everyone else’s) and they say California should be allowed to set its own rules (SOURCE).