Which CDL License Should You Pick?

Similar to a regular driver’s license, a CDL offers different classes and endorsements, helping drivers broaden their employment opportunities. To determine which CDL license you should get, you need to know what type of vehicle you want to operate and what driving jobs you want. 

The basic description of each class below should point you in the right direction.

The 3 CDL Classes

Every state has the same three CDL classes:

1. Class A - 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 more than 10,000 pounds). It also allows the holder to operate both Class B and Class 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 - 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. It also allows the holder to 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, city buses, and tourist buses), and dump trucks with small trailers.

3. Class C - 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). 

Drivers may be able to operate vehicles that transport multiple passengers which may include taxis, school buses, ambulances, and commercial bus carriers.

Adding Endorsements to Your CDL

In addition to obtaining one of the CDL licenses above, you can also broaden your scope even more by obtaining CDL endorsements.

Each of the CDL driver’s license endorsements below require additional testing.

T: Double/Triple Trailers 
P: Passenger Vehicles
N: Tank Vehicles 
H: Hazardous Materials
X: Tank Vehicle/Hazardous Materials Combination
S: School Bus

If you’ve decided which license and/or endorsement(s) you would like, be sure to check out your state’s commercial driver handbook. It fully explains CDL classes and endorsements and the kinds of testing and other requirements you must meet to obtain them.

Tags: CDL, Driving Training

Kelly Schwab

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