A commercial driver’s license, or CDL, is required by federal law to operate a commercial vehicle. There are many different classifications and endorsements, making it challenging to understand which ones you need for your job. Whether you’re looking to take on new routes or just getting started in a trucking career, find out how Duncan and Son Lines, Inc. can help you prepare for a successful career.
Class A CDL Meaning
The most comprehensive CDL class, a Class A license allows you to drive a wide range of commercial vehicles. Any commercial vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, over 26,000 pounds requires a Class A CDL. This includes any combination of vehicles and trailers.
You also need to verify the weight of the towed vehicle. The main difference between a Class A and a Class B license is the trailer’s weight or other towed vehicle. A Class A CDL is required if the towed vehicle weighs more than 10,000 pounds.
A common Class A vehicle is a tractor-trailer or semi-truck. These big rigs are over 26,000 pounds, and trailers can weigh over 10,000 pounds. You’ll also need a Class A to haul many tanker vehicles, flatbeds, livestock carriers, and other trailer configurations.
If your vehicle doesn’t meet the weight requirements, then check the endorsement requirements. Some cargo types require a Class A CDL to carry, even if the vehicle itself doesn’t meet these requirements. When in doubt, discuss your current training level and any requirements for our team’s desired positions and routes.
Class B CDL Meaning
This mid-level CDL classification is common among bus drivers, box truck drivers, and other mid-sized commercial vehicles. Depending on your cargo, you’ll typically need a Class B CDL for operating furniture trucks, delivery trucks, city buses, school buses, and other straight trucks or large buses. Many Class B and C driving positions are local routes, but you can still pick up long-haul trucking positions as a Class B commercial driver.
The official requirement is any single vehicle with a GVWR over 26,000 pounds or any detached trailer or other cargo vehicle weighing less than 10,000 pounds. Always check your endorsement requirements, as you may need to be certified with a Class A license regardless of the truck size.
Class C CDL Meaning
Finally, the Class C license is used to legally haul lighter double- and triple-trailers, operate smaller buses, or drive HazMat vehicles. This requirement authorizes you to drive any single vehicle with 26,000 pounds or less GVWR. You can also operate a towing vehicle, as long as the other vehicle weighs less than 10,000 pounds. This includes multiple trailers.
How To Receive a CDL
The exact requirements to receive a CDL depend on your state. If you live near the I-10 corridor between Southern California and Arizona, our team at Duncan and Son Lines, Inc. can help you navigate the process. The process can also change from year to year as requirements are updated, and new safety components are added. It’s essential to understand the latest requirements before you attempt to receive your CDL.
You need to apply for a CDL at your local DMV office. A commercial license follows federal guidelines, so every state will require you to pass a driving skills test and written exam. You can operate your truck with a CLP, or commercial learner’s permit in some cases.
Training will include information about safely driving, inspecting, and maintaining your commercial vehicle. These heavy vehicles require unique driving considerations, particularly if they’re equipped with air brakes. Understanding the differences between commercial driving and personal driving and reviewing federal highway safety laws, is an essential step before climbing behind the wheel.
Class A CDL drivers are certified to drive any vehicle considered a Class B or Class C commercial vehicle. Pending passing your test and receiving any necessary endorsements, a Class A license is all you need to take on a wide range of commercial driving opportunities.
What are the different CDL endorsements?
An endorsement is an additional safety feature that allows you to haul unusual cargo. Typically, this means that your cargo is hazardous or fragile, or driving conditions may be different with a particular cargo type. Passenger vehicles are also included in this list if you’re planning on driving with more than a set number of passengers. The exact steps to receive an endorsement depend on the state. All require a skills test, but you may also need to take a written exam covering your new endorsement information. Here are the endorsements you can receive on your CDL:
- Additional trailers (T): This endorsement allows you to drive with two or three trailers attached to your commercial vehicle. As long as your CDL certifies you for the total GVWR, you can haul double or triple trailers. Driving with multiple trailers requires careful driving and an understanding of your rig, so the skills test for this endorsement is a crucial opportunity to put your training to the test.
- Hazardous materials (H): An H endorsement equips you with the knowledge needed to haul HazMat cargo safely. This can include highly explosive, highly corrosive, and other dangerous cargo.
- Passenger (P): Driving with more than 15 passengers requires a P endorsement. This certification, combined with your required CDL classification, allows you to operate school buses, city buses, and other large vehicles.
- Tanker (N): Tank trailers require special considerations, inspections, and safety features, so you’ll need this endorsement before you hook up to a tanker. Some tanks carry hazardous materials, which may require an H endorsement as well.
In more cases, a new endorsement gives you access to not only new routes and new cargo, but new pay levels. Most trucking companies understand that these cargo options come with greater certifications and, in some cases, greater potential hazards to the driver. If you’re looking for a way to earn more and have more flexibility in your routes, consider adding one or more endorsements to your CDL.
Discuss endorsement options with our team at Duncan and Son Lines, Inc. Some endorsements are in higher demand than others, and the pay difference can be more significant in some cases. There may be some cargo you’re uncomfortable transporting. Review all these factors with our friendly team before considering the best way to get started or grow your commercial trucking business.
Launch a CDL Career With Duncan and Son Lines
Receiving your commercial driver’s license is the first step in a fulfilling career as a truck or bus driver. At Duncan and Son Lines, Inc., we’re committed to helping you navigate your career successfully. Apply today to see how you can take the next step in your career and earn a competitive income as a truck driver. Our family-owned business treats you like family, so you can join a culture and a business model that you’re proud to call your company.