The USDOT provides three types of Commercial Drivers License for commercial truck drivers. These licenses are further qualified by six endorsements that designate specific types of commercial vehicle that the license holder is permitted to use. Understanding the requirements for each type of license and what vehicles fall under the jurisdiction of CDL licensing is important for drivers in the transportation industry.
Class A CDL
Commercial vehicle classes are determined by a variety of factors including weight and purpose. Drivers towing a vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds may need a Class A CDL license. According to the Department of Transportation, any driver operating a vehicle and trailer with a combined weight more than 26,001 pounds is required to have a class A CDL provided that the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the trailer exceeds 10,000 pounds.
Class B CDL
A class B CDL license is required for vehicles weighing in excess of 26,001 pounds or that are pulling another vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 10,000 pounds. While the requirements for this and other CDL licenses are maintained by the Federal government, all CDL licenses are issued at the state level. All states are required to meet the minimum standards for commercial motor carriers set by the USDOT.
Class C CDL
Class C commercial licenses are designed to cover large passenger vehicles and vehicles used to haul hazardous materials. Class C licenses are required for individuals operating vehicles that do not fall under the other types of commercial license. Vehicles that carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver, and any vehicle carrying hazardous materials requiring a placard or defined as a selective agent require a Class C CDL to operate.
There are six endorsements for the three types of CDL license. These endorsements acknowledge that the license holder has passed a test certifying his ability to drive a specific type of commercial vehicle. The six types of vehicle covered by the endorsement system are: School buses, tank vehicles, multiple trailers, passenger, hazardous materials and hazardous materials/tank vehicle combinations. The tests required for a given endorsement may include written and practical components in addition to the testing required to obtain the appropriate type of CDL license. For example, a school bus driver would require a class C license with an S endorsement.