Becoming a truck driver starts with deciding on the type of vehicle and freight you’re most interested in. Narrow your options by looking at the three classes of commercial driver’s license types (CDLs): Class A, Class B, and Class C CDL. In this article, we’ll focus on the Class A CDL, which gives you the most options when it comes to looking for jobs.
What is the difference between a Class A and Class B driver’s license?
Choosing a license is the first step and each type of commercial driver’s license authorizes you to drive a different combination of vehicles. Of the three commercial driver’s licenses, the Class A CDL authorizes you to operate the widest variety of commercial motor vehicles and qualifies you for the most types of trucking jobs.
The Class A CDL includes most Class B and Class C vehicles and all three types of CDL can have endorsements, which allow for additional work options like driving a school bus or larger passenger vehicles or hauling hazardous materials (hazmat).
The technical differences between the Class A and Class B CDL come down to the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), freight weight, combination of vehicles, and types of products and materials the truck can haul.
The Class B license is valid for driving smaller vehicles than semi-trucks, including straight trucks and tourist buses. When combined with the right endorsements, it includes Class C vehicles, such as recreational vehicles.
How do you get a Class A CDL?
First, you must be at least 18 years of age for intrastate driving and 21 years of age for interstate driving. Then choose an FMCSA-approved driver training course that fits your life and teaches everything you’ll need to know to drive safely. Training will include getting a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) to legally drive a commercial vehicle on public roads with the supervision of an authorized CDL holder.
Next, go to the department of motor vehicles (DMV), just like getting a non-commercial drivers license. There, you’ll need to pass the following:
- Written test, after which you’ll receive your CLP and practice during the 14-day skills test waiting period
- CDL skills test (a.k.a. driving test or road test)
- Vision test
- Medical examination
- Pre-trip inspection
- Proof of FMCSA-approved training completion
- Proof of your residency in the state and the U.S.
- Proof of identity
- Completed Medical Examination Report Form and Medical Examiner’s Certificate Form
- Your application and payment (or a 10-Year Driver’s History Record Check)
What can you drive with a Class A license?
A Class A CDL allows you to drive a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more with a towed vehicle with a GVWR of no more than 10,000 pounds, such as:
- Tractor-trailer (a.k.a. Semi, Big Rig), including double or triple trailer combinations
- Flatbed and tanker vehicles
- Class B and Class C vehicles with the right endorsements