A Guide to Commercial Driving Licenses

commercial trucks

To make the roads safe for all drivers, the government has developed a way to ensure drivers are trained and licensed to operate vehicles through setting limitations on what kind of vehicle is covered by a certain type of license.

Putting it simply, there are licenses for different types of vehicles. Classified independently, operation of specialized types of vehicles needs different endorsements in addition to obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Hence, CDL truck driver jobs require an endorsement for CDL classes A, B and C, depending on the type of vehicle the job requires the driver to operate.

To understand the process better, let us go through the details of CDL and the different classes and endorsements involved.

What Is Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)?

CDL is a type of license required to drive commercial and specialized motor vehicles like tractors, trailers, trucks and passenger buses. This was not originally a mandatory document in operating commercial motor vehicles until the signing of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act on October 27, 1986.

CDLs are also categorized into three different classes that determine the type of vehicle you are permitted to drive. Qualifications under classes A, B and C vary according to vehicle type, weight rating and other types of requirements.

passengers bus

Class A CDL

A holder of a Class A CDL is allowed to operate combinations of commercial motor vehicles. Examples of these types of vehicles, which have a weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, are tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, tractor-trailer buses, double or triple trailers, livestock carrier vehicles, flatbeds and towing trucks.

Class B CDL

Class B CDL holders, on the other hand, are only permitted to operate single commercial motor vehicles with a weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more. These vehicles are passenger buses, segmented buses and box trucks.

Class C CDL

Lastly, a Class C CDL is given to drivers who need to operate vehicles that are not qualified in Class A and B. These include smaller passenger vehicles and small vehicles that are meant to transport hazardous materials.

CDL Endorsements

Recently, some conditions have also been added to the law. Now, drivers with CDL are required to apply for endorsements, as well. With this new rule, a CDL driver can operate certain types of vehicles regardless of its class. However, obtaining an endorsement requires one to pass a specialized knowledge exam and driving skill test.

Endorsements are classified into the following:

  • (P) Passenger – an endorsement that allows a driver to carry passengers
  • (T) Tank – an endorsement that allows one to operate trucks that contain liquid cargo
  • (H) Hazardous Materials – an endorsement that allows a driver to handle vehicles containing hazmat, such as flammable liquids and radioactive substances

Generally speaking, CDL classes and endorsements are essential in making sure that only people with the knowledge, experience and skill to operate varying types of vehicles are permitted to do so. Ultimately, this reduces the risk of traffic and road accidents caused by inexperienced drivers, making roads and highways a safer place for all drivers and motorists.

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