Have you ever wondered what kind of driver’s license a big truck driver needs to have? Well, commercial drivers like truck drivers need a specific type of driver’s license called a CDL or commercial driver’s license. There are three main types of CDLs, each allowing the driver to operate different types of vehicles. In this article, we’ll explain what CDLs are and how they’re used.

CDLs are needed to drive big trucks, buses, and vans. The government issues these licenses after a driver passes tests proving their skills and safety. There are three main classes: A (allowing operation of B & C vehicles), B (allowing operation of C vehicles), and C (for small vehicles carrying 16+ passengers or hazardous materials).

Whether you’re aiming to transport goods, passengers, or hazardous materials, the right CDL class and endorsements are essential for your career as a professional driver.

There’s more to learn about CDLs, including the endorsements that permit drivers to operate certain types of vehicles or haul specific types of cargo. Keep reading to find out more!

Class A CDL

A Class A CDL is required for operating vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, including vehicles towing a trailer with a GCWR of more than 10,000 pounds. 

These vehicles are usually large tractor-trailers or other big trucks. Drivers with a Class A CDL are qualified to operate any vehicle in Classes B and C as well.

Vehicles You May Drive:

    • Tractor-trailers (also known as Semi, Big Rig, or 18-wheeler)
    • Truck and trailer combinations
    • Tanker vehicles
    • Livestock carriers
    • Flatbeds
    • Most Class B and Class C vehicles, depending on endorsement requirements.

Class B CDL

A Class B CDL is required for operating vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, but not towing a trailer with a GCWR of more than 10,000 pounds. These vehicles are usually smaller than those that require a Class A CDL, such as buses and large delivery trucks. Drivers with a Class B CDL are also qualified to operate any vehicle in Class C. 

Vehicles You May Drive:

  • Straight trucks
  • Large buses (city buses, tourist buses, and school buses)
  • Segmented buses
  • Box trucks (including delivery trucks and furniture trucks)
  • Dump trucks with small trailers
  • Some Class C vehicles with the correct endorsement

Class C CDL

A Class C CDL is required for operating vehicles with a GCWR of less than 26,001 pounds but designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or hazardous materials that require placards. These vehicles are usually smaller vans or buses. Drivers with a Class C CDL are not qualified to operate vehicles in Classes A or B. 

Vehicles You May Drive:

CDL Endorsements: What They Are and Why You Might Need One

In addition to the three main classes of CDLs, there are also endorsements that can be added to a CDL to allow the holder to operate certain types of vehicles or haul specific types of cargo. Some examples of endorsements include:

  • Double/Triple Trailer (T) endorsement: Allows drivers to operate vehicles with more than one trailer.
  • Tank Vehicle (N) endorsement: Allows drivers to drive vehicles that haul liquid or gaseous materials in a tank.
  • HazMat (H) endorsement: Allows drivers to transport hazardous materials that require placards.
  • Passenger (P) endorsement: Allows drivers to transport passengers, such as on a bus.
  • School Bus (S) endorsement: Allows drivers to transport school children.

Setting the Foundation: What You Need to Know About Commercial Learner’s Permits (CLPs)

A Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) is a permit that allows you to practice driving a commercial motor vehicle on public roads under the supervision of a qualified Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holder. It serves as a stepping stone toward obtaining a CDL. Here are the key points about a CLP 

Summary

CDLs are special licenses that allow drivers to operate certain types of commercial vehicles, such as big trucks, buses, and vans. Issued by the states, these licenses show the driver has passed tests to prove their skills and safety. There are three main classes: Class A (most comprehensive, allows operation of Class B & C vehicles), Class B (allows operation of Class C vehicles), and Class C (required for small vehicles transporting 16+ passengers or hazardous materials). CDL holders have the option of obtaining endorsements that allow them to drive specific types of vehicles or haul particular types of cargo.