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What are the different types of commercial driver’s licenses?

The ongoing trucker shortage has led companies of all sizes to actively recruit and hire new drivers – at attractive and appealing rates. In order to secure one of those jobs, though, you need to get your commercial driver’s license, or CDL. Learning more about the different types of commercial drivers licenses makes it easy to determine your training path and make the most effective and efficient decisions for your career.

What is a CDL or Commercial Driver’s License?

To drive a car, SUV, or pickup truck, you need a driver’s license, but if you want to drive a big rig or another oversized vehicle you’ll need a specialty license. This license, the CDL, ensures you are able to drive safely and that you understand the rules of the road.

Types of CDLs.

What is a Class A CDL?

This is the commercial driver’s license needed to drive a big rig or semi truck with a weight of 26,000 or more pounds when loaded. This is the license you need to drive a broad range of vehicles, including tractor trailers, livestock carriers, and flatbeds. You may also get some endorsements to expand the types of vehicles you can drive (hazmat and tanker endorsement).

What is a Class B CDL?

The Class B CDL allows you to drive larger, heavier vehicles; when you have your Class B CDL you can drive buses with a limited number of passengers (with the correct endorsement), smaller motorcoaches seating fewer than 16 people, and box trucks. You may be able to expand your options with endorsements for passengers and liquids.

What is a Class C CDL?

A Class C commercial driver’s license is needed for transporting larger numbers of passengers (a bus that seats 16 or more needs the Class C license). You’ll also need the Class C CDL and the (H) endorsement if you want to transport Hazardous Materials (HazMat). Typical Class C vehicles include large buses, motorcoaches, combination vehicles, tanker trucks, and trucks with hazardous materials.

What are endorsements?

A base CDL allows you to drive a big rig or deliver non-hazardous goods. If you want to get a more specialized or niche job, then you’ll also need to apply for endorsements. Possible CDL Endorsements include:

  • Passenger (P): For driving passengers
  • Tank (T): Driving trucks with liquids on board
  • Hazardous Material (H): Driving trucks with unstable, flammable, explosive, radioactive, or otherwise dangerous substances
  • School Bus (S): Driving a school bus for a school, camp, recreational facility or another employer; this position also requires a comprehensive background check.

Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)

Before you can acquire any of the different types of CDL,  you’ll need to start with your learner’s permit. This allows you to learn to drive a large, commercial vehicle safely and to practice all of the requirements needed to get your actual CDL.

Learning more about the different types of CDLs and how they qualify you to drive a variety of commercial trucks and vehicles can help you choose the right path for your own career and training. You’ll also be more aware of the potential opportunities and ways to advance in the field.

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