Which CDL Class Do I Need?

Defining a CDL – Commercial Driver’s License

A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is a driver’s license required to operate large, heavy, or placarded hazardous material vehicles in the United States in commerce. There are several different types of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) that require a driver to hold a valid commercial driver’s license. Employers actively look for CDL drivers with one of these license classes, so it is recommended that you get the one you need before applying for your dream job. 

To drive certain specialized types of vehicles such as buses or tank trucks or carry hazardous materials, you must also apply for the proper endorsements on your CDL. Endorsements include:

  • Passenger (P), allowing you to carry passengers
  • Tank (T), allowing you to drive trucks containing liquid cargo; and 
  • H (Hazardous Materials), allowing you to drive trucks containing such hazardous materials as flammable liquids, explosives, or radioactive substances. 

To obtain an endorsement, you will need to pass a specialized knowledge exam and possibly a specialized driving skills test. To obtain an H, P, or School Bus (S) endorsement, you must successfully complete training from FMCSA-approved training providers. To obtain an S endorsement, you must also undergo a thorough background check. (Source: https://driving-tests.org/cdl-classification-licenses/)

What is a Class A CDL? 

A Class A commercial driver’s license is required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. With a Class A CDL and the proper endorsements, you may drive the following types of vehicles: Tractor-trailers Truck and trailer combinations Tank vehicles Livestock carriers Flatbeds Tractor semi truck with flatbed trailer image credit With the proper endorsements, your CDL Class A may also allow you to drive some Class B and Class C vehicles. 

What is a Class B CDL?

A Class B commercial driver’s license is required to operate a single vehicle with a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, or tow a vehicle not heavier than 10,000 pounds. With a Class B CDL and the appropriate endorsements, you may drive the following types of vehicles: Straight trucks Large passenger buses Segmented buses Box trucks Dump trucks with small trailers Tractor-trailers Young man entering a HART’s passenger bus (image credit) With the proper endorsements, your Class B CDL may also allow you to operate some Class C vehicles. 

What is a Class C CDL?

A Class C commercial driver’s license is required to operate a vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more occupants (including you, the driver) or transport hazardous materials (HazMat), materials that are classified as hazardous under federal law. With a Class C CDL and the proper endorsements, you may drive the following types of vehicles: Small HazMat vehicles Passenger vans Combination vehicles not covered by Classes A or B (Source: https://driving-tests.org/cdl-classification-licenses/)

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