Which CDL Do I Need?

Driving many types of commercial vehicles in the United States requires the operator to have a commercial driver’s license or CDL. The type of vehicle will determine the CDL type you need.

Different types of vehicles require different classes of licensing; Class A, Class B, or Class C. The class of license needed is determined by the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle to be driven and other factors.

The CDL classification that you apply for will not only determine the type of vehicle you can operate, but also any endorsements that you may be required to obtain.

Here is a brief overview of the different CDL classifications and the different vehicles that you may be allowed to operate with each one.

Class A CDL

Class A CDL’s allow a driver to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more including a towed vehicle weighing over 10,000 pounds.

Towing allowances will depend on the different endorsements that you obtain. Class A CDL’s with the proper endorsements will allow you to operate:

  • Tractor-trailers
  • Tractor-trailer buses
  • Livestock carriers
  • Flatbeds
  • Tanker vehicles
  • Truck and trailer combos, including double and triple trailers

Class A licenses may also allow the operation of some Class B and C vehicles with the proper endorsements.

Class B CDL

A Class B CDL is required to operate single vehicles with a weight of 26,001 lbs. or heavier GVWR and/or a vehicle weighing 26,001 lbs. or more towing a vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs.

Just like with a Class A CDL, you may be required to obtain specific endorsements to operate some vehicles with a Class B license.

With a Class B CDL and the proper endorsements you can operate the following vehicles:

  • Large buses like; city buses, tour buses, and school buses
  • Segmented buses
  • Box trucks
  • Straight trucks
  • Dump trucks with small trailers

A Class B license may also allow the operation of some Class C vehicles with the correct endorsements.

Class C CDL

If the vehicle that you are operating does not meet the requirements of a Class A or B license, a Class C CDL may be required.

Class C vehicles include any vehicle carrying hazardous materials (HAZMAT), as described by federal guidelines, or a passenger transport carrying 16 persons, or more, including the driver.