What is a Class A CDL
Every commercial vehicle requires different skills and knowledge to operate, but what are the types of CDL licenses available? CDL types are divided into three categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C. These different CDL types are distinguished by the vehicle’s overall weight and the type of cargo your vehicle will carry.
A Class A CDL license allows its holder to operate vehicles that have a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 lbs. or more. However, the towing vehicle must weigh more than 10,000 lbs. These vehicles typically include:
- Tractor-trailers. Also known as semi-trucks, big rigs, or 18-wheelers
- Truck and trailer combinations
- Tanker vehicles
- Livestock carriers
You can also haul a trailer weighing more than 10,000 pounds and drive most Class B or C vehicles, provided you obtain the proper endorsements.
Additional CDL endorsements are available that allow you to drive specific vehicles or haul more specific cargo. These can include HAZMAT/tanker combinations, tanker vehicles, and hazardous waste materials, among others.
To obtain a Class A CDL license, you’ll need to obtain a CDL permit by passing a series of exams. This includes a general knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicle exam. Your state may require additional tests. Once you’ve passed your written tests, you can schedule a driving skills exam. Once you’ve passed the written test and skills test for your CDL you will receive your Class A CDL license.
As a Class A CDL license holder, you’ll show current and future employers that you are a certified and competent truck driver. Your license is physical proof that you know how to safely and correctly operate large vehicles.
What is a Class B CDL?
There are three different types of CDL licenses with a few distinctive differences between CDL types. A Class A license allows you to tow a trailer that weighs more than 10,001 pounds whereas a Class B CDL license is only for towing cargo that weighs less than 10,000 pounds. Both Class A and Class B license holders can operate vehicles with an attached cab and cargo area that weigh more than 26,001 pounds.
Those who hold a Class B CDL license can operate the following vehicles:
- Tow trucks
- Dump trucks
- Delivery trucks
- Utility trucks
With additional training and endorsements, drivers can also operate:
- School buses
- Commercial buses
- Certain farm vehicles
- Fire engines
In order to obtain a Class B CDL license, you must complete a Class B training program. These programs are typically offered at a vocational school or community college. Enrolling in these training programs teaches you the necessary skills needed to operate a commercial vehicle and help prepare you for the required exam. While training varies across states, you’ll most likely learn:
- Proper gear shifting techniques
- Vehicle control
- Loading and unloading
- Highway driving
You’ll also spend time reviewing federal and state trucking laws and traffic laws for commercial vehicles. Training also typically includes time in a classroom and behind the wheel.
While CDL requirements vary across states, there are a few prerequisites you must meet before you can obtain a Class B CDL license. Typically, you must be between the ages of 18 and 21, have a valid driver’s license with no infarctions, and complete medical and drug testing.