Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses
October 3, 2022 | Truck Accidents
If you operate a commercial vehicle that carries any kind of heavy, oversized, or hazardous material in the United States, you’re required by law to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Anyone driving a bus, truck, or passenger-carrying vehicle must have a valid CDL.
Fortunately, obtaining a license is a fairly straightforward process. However, it does require time and dedication. Applicants must pass a specialized test (and a background check, in certain instances) before they can receive their license.
CDLs are divided into three classes, each with its own designations and requirements. If you’re not sure which one you need, it can help to know a little about each.
You’re required by federal and state law to possess a CDL license if the combined weight of your vehicle and trailer exceeds 26,001 pounds.
There are also other qualifications that must be met depending on what type of vehicle you’re driving and what that vehicle is carrying. These designations are indicated by Class A, Class B, and Class C licenses. Each of these types of licenses is designed to ensure that the driver understands how to properly operate their vehicle to avoid truck accidents.
A Class A CDL is required for all vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) exceeding 26,001 pounds, provided the vehicle being towed weighs over 10,000 pounds.
You need a Class A CDL to operate any of the following vehicles:
- Livestock holders
- Trailers and trucks
In some situations, you may be permitted to operate a Class B or Class C vehicle with a Class A license.
If your vehicle has a GVWR of over 26,001 pounds and tows a trailer weighing under 10,000 pounds, you’ll need a Class B CDL.
Here are some vehicles that require a Class B CDL:
- Passenger and tourist busses
- Straight trucks
- City busses
- Truck and trailer combinations
- Dump trucks with small trailers
In some instances, drivers with a Class B CDL can operate certain Class C vehicles.
A Class C CDL is required by law whenever a driver operates a vehicle designed to carry more than 16 passengers. A Class C license is also required whenever a driver is transporting federally classified hazardous materials.
A Class C CDL is required when operating hazmat trucks, passenger vans, and other commercial vehicles that don’t require a Class A or Class B CDL.
Permits and Restrictions
Before obtaining a CDL, drivers must apply for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) to practice operating the vehicle they’re seeking a license for. If the driver is going to be operating the vehicle across state lines, they must be over the age of 21 and obtain a CDL.
Drivers Under 21
Certain states offer permits to individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 that allow them to operate commercial vehicles within the confines of a single state. The restrictions on these permits automatically lift when the driver turns 21.
If a driver passes their skills test with a car that has an automatic transmission, they could be restricted from operating commercial vehicles with manual transmissions.
Additional restrictions apply to a range of factors, including:
- Whether the driver wears corrective lenses
- Whether the driver wears prosthetics that affect their ability to operate a vehicle
- Whether the vehicle is equipped with air brakes
- Whether the vehicle is operated exclusively in the daytime
This is only a small list of possible restrictions. Check with your state and local governments for more information.
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