What are the CDL classifications and their meaning?
What are the CDL classifications and their meaning?
There are several different classes of a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). They are classified for the different kinds of vehicles that are used for different purposes and gross vehicle weight classes. For example, a school bus is in a different class than a tanker trunk. Tractor trailers, moving vans, city buses and other kinds of trucks are included in one of these CDL categories.
Commercial vehicles are classified as having a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds. Here are the groups and what kind of CDL is needed to drive each:
- Class A CDL
With a Class A CDL, a driver is allowed to drive a vehicle towing a trailer (the “tractor” is the cab where the driver sits, and the “trailer” is where the cargo is stored) of a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds. Most larger trucks that you see on the roads and are pulling a detachable trailer are Class A CDL vehicles. Class A CDL holders drive these large vehicles on different routes that can include local driving, regional routes, or over the road driving.
- Class B CDL
With a Class B CDL, a driver is allowed to drive a vehicle towing a trailer that does not exceed a GVWR of 10,000 pounds, or weighs 26,001 pounds or more but does not have a detachable trailer. An example of this would be a dump truck, trash pick-up truck, bus, or straight truck. Most school buses are Class B CDL vehicles. Class B CDL holders often use these vehicles for delivery, construction, or mass transportation driving.
Before Your CDL- Meet the CDL License Requirements
After getting a CDL, drivers have the option to add endorsements to their Commercial Driver’s License. An endorsement allows the driver to operate special types of commercial motor vehicles, or haul specific types of goods. Each endorsement requires the CDL holder to pass an additional written knowledge test, and in some cases also pass a road skills test. These additional endorsements include:
- Hazardous materials (H) – for transporting HAZMAT
- Tanker (N) – for driving tank vehicles
- Passenger (P) – to operate a vehicle that carriers over a specified number of passengers
- Double or Triple trailer (T) – for transporting multiple trailers
Each type of CDL and endorsement requires you pass a skills test and in most cases a written test (depending on State). It is important to make sure you pass ALL the required tests- or risk having restrictions on your license- and therefore, you may not be able to drive all types of vehicles.
How Can I Get my CDL?
Steps towards a CDL include:
Truck driving schools are out there to help you prepare you to become a safe commercial truck driver. Trucking schools like NETTTS can give you behind the wheel training to help safely operate an 18-wheeler. You will also use them as a sponsor for your CDL road test! Remember that each state has its own processes to getting the CDL so make sure to do your research!
- Think ahead
Think about what you want to do once you have your CDL. Depending on the kind of truck you plan to drive, you may need a different CDL. Also consider the fact that if you have a Class A license, you can also drive Class B trucks. With a Class B license, you can only drive Class B trucks. Think not only about what you want to drive right after getting a CDL, but also 5 years down the road. Make sure you know your end game so you can prepare appropriately.
- Learners’ Permit
Just as you did years ago when you were getting your Driver’s License, you will need to have your Commercial Learners’ permit in order to hit the roads. A learners’ permit means you can practice driving a CDL truck on public roads with a qualified CDL holder sitting next to you. With NETTTS, you don’t have to get your permit before coming to school. We will help you study for the permit test and make sure you are prepared as you begin school. After that it’s time to learn and then go on the road with our instructors, so you can have behind the wheel experience.
- DOT Physical
Most types of commercial drivers’ licenses permits will require a Department of Transportation (DOT) issued medical card, which means you will be required to pass a DOT physical. This is designed to make sure you are in good physical health and are able to safely operate a CDL vehicle.
- Prove your skills
After your training, each driver will need to pass a CDL exam that consists of three parts: Vehicle Inspection Test (pre-trip), Basic Controls Test (maneuvers), and a Road Test (driving). At New England Tractor Trailer Training School, our students are taught everything from general knowledge of air brake systems and combination vehicles, to road side inspections, and are have practiced driving our trucks on city streets, rural roads, and highways with guidance from our trainers. They are allowed to practice their skills for as long as needed prior to taking their CDL test.
- Pick up your CDL
You passed – congratulations! Some states will issue your CDL to you that same day, while others assign a temporary CDL and then send it to you in the mail. Regardless make sure that everything – all spellings of your name and address – is correct before you leave the building!
CDL training school with NETTTS!
NETTTS offers both Class A CDL Training and Class B CDL Training. Attending a NETTTS school program can help to prepare you for getting your Commercial Driver’s permit, and then eventually your Commercial Driver’s License! Our instructors teach the basics of CDL trucking, including vehicle maintenance, vehicle components, regulations, driving techniques and so much more. Don’t put it off any longer! You can start by requesting more information online today or call us at (800) 542-0009.
Mike Demars is a 28-year trucking veteran, as well as a graduate of New England Tractor Trailer Training School with well over a million miles logged on the road. Prior to being the Regional Director of Safety & Training for our Connecticut locations, Mike spent over a decade on the road as an owner/operator of a long haul transportation company and previously managed drivers as a Driver Manager and Safety Director. He has achieved the level of Master Instructor and holds his certificate in Collision Avoidance, and is often sought as an industry expert to discuss practices within the field and to testify in transportation and trucking matters.