What Is the Difference between CDL A, CDL B, and Class C Licenses for Commercial Truck Driving?

For those looking into a career in the trucking industry, one of the most important topics to understand it what the differences are in the licenses that can be obtained. Once you know what distinguishes them from one another, you will be able to ascertain which one will be the best fit for you based upon your specific career goals.

Three Main Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

1.  Class A CDL

In most states, this license allows the driver to operate any vehicle with a semi-trailer or trailer with two or more axles. This also includes any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 26,000 pounds (provided that the GVWR of the towed vehicle is in excess of 10,000 pounds). Main distinctions are:

  • For drivers towing trailers with more than 10,000 pounds of GVWR
  • Allows the holder to operate Class B and C vehicles
  • Drivers may be able to operate tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, double and triple trailers, tractor-trailer buses, tanker vehicles, livestock carriers, and flatbeds.
  • Common careers for holders include heavy truck drivers, dispatchers, local drivers, couriers, and bus drivers.

2. Class B CDL

This license allows the driver to operate any vehicle with a GVWR greater than 26,000 pounds, as well as any vehicle towing a trailer that does not exceed a GVWR of 10,000 pounds. Main distinctions are:

  • For drivers towing trailers with less than 10,000 pounds of GVWR
  • Holder can operate Class C vehicles, but not Class A vehicles
  • Drivers may be able to operate straight trucks, box trucks (like delivery trucks), large buses (such as school buses and city buses, and tourist buses), and dump trucks with small trailers.

3. Class C CDLL

This license allows the driver to operate any vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver). It also includes vehicles used in the transportation of materials classified as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act. With the proper endorsement, holders of this license may drive passenger vans, small HAZMAT vehicles, and combination vehicles not described in Class A or Class B (such as a small truck towing a trailer). 

Tags: Driving Training, CDL

Kelly Schwab

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