A CDL, or Commercial Driver's License, is required in the United States to legally drive certain types of large commercial vehicles, particularly buses and tractor-trailers. There are three classes of CDLs in the U.S.: class A, class B, and class C. What determines which class a driver needs depends on the type of vehicle he or she will be driving and the combined weight of the vehicle and its maximum cargo. Another important factor in determining which CDL is needed is how many passengers will be in the vehicle.
A Class A CDL is needed to drive any motor vehicle that has a gross weight of more than 26,000 lbs. with a towed vehicle of 10,000 lbs. or more.
A Class B CDL is required to drive a motor vehicle with a gross weight of more than 26,000 lbs. and will tow another vehicle, such as a trailer, that does not weigh more than 10,000 lbs.
A Class C CDL is needed for single or combination vehicles designed to hold 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or a relatively small vehicle that is hauling hazardous materials.
Class A Covers All
Any driver who has a class A CDL can drive a class B or class C vehicle, and a person who has a class B CDL can drive a class B or class C vehicle.
Those carrying passengers will need a passenger endorsement added to their CDL. Drivers hauling hazardous materials will need a CDL, either A or B. The hazardous materials endorsement is not a must when applying for a driving position but will improve the chances of being hired. Certain companies that haul hazardous materials will specify that they need this type of endorsement. To drive an interstate and intrastate commercial vehicle (semi truck), drivers will need a class A CDL depending on the vehicle's rating. Over-the-road drivers will more than likely need a class A CDL.
Limo and hotel shuttle van drivers do not need a CDL in most states, but it looks very good to the companies hiring if they have some kind of CDL with a passenger endorsement.
CDL Testing Information
To become a Class A driver, potential employees will need to pass a written and driver examination at their DMV. Most drivers will go to a driving school because the examination is not an easy one. There are community colleges that offer CDL classes. Those schools also provide curriculum for people who need a passenger endorsement.
Class B drivers can take a written test at the DMV to obtain their CDL. Hearing and visual tests are also required in order to get a class B. Those drivers must already hold a Class C license.
To get a class C, an interested applicant must pass a vision and knowledge test.