Getting your CDL is the first step toward beginning your driving career. The CDL you’ll want depends on the driving you would like to end up doing professionally. Also depending on your profession, you may be required to get certain endorsements in addition to your CDL.
Want to become a school bus driver? Or have you always dreamed about driving across the country and getting paid to travel as an OTR driver? Whichever it is, we’re here to help you understand the license you’ll need, as well as the differences between them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, truck drivers in 2022 earned an average of $53,090, with the top 10 percent making $75,220.
What is a Class A CDL?
You may drive OTR if you have a CDL-A. OTR trucking requires drivers to be on the road for at least two to three weeks at a time before returning for home time. On OTR routes, drivers pick up, deliver, and drop off any loads at destinations they are assigned to.
OTR drivers will likely cross many state lines, and navigate various regions, differentiating them from regional drivers. If you cross state lines, you will need a CDL-A.
A CDL-A is the license required to operate any combination of vehicles (towing, trailers, etc.) exceeding a gross combination weight of 26,000 pounds.
The CDL-A allows you to operate the following vehicles with the proper endorsements:
- Tractor-trailer (also known as a semi, 18-wheeler, and big rig)
- Double/triple trailers, and other truck and trailer combinations
- Tractor trailer buses
- Livestock Carriers
Not only will you need a CDL-A to operate these vehicles, but it’s also required to cross state lines. So if you’re looking to become an OTR truck driver, then a Class A CDL is the license you’ll want to obtain.
What is a Class B CDL?
A CDL-B is the license you will need to operate any single vehicle with a gross combination weight exceeding 26,000 pounds.
The CDL-B allows you to operate the following vehicles with the proper endorsements:
- Straight trucks
- Buses (i.e. city buses/tourist buses)
- Box trucks (delivery/moving vans)
- Delivery trucks
- Dump trucks
- Garbage trucks
For certain vehicles you may also be required to get special endorsements on your CDL-B license. Typically, a CDL-B allows you to operate within state lines and will qualify you to drive most Class C vehicles if you have the proper endorsements.
What is a Class C CDL?
With a CDL-C you will be qualified to operate single vehicles with a gross combination weight of 26,000 pounds or less. You will also be able to drive a vehicle carrying 16 or more passengers (including you as the driver).
The CDL-C allows you to operate the following vehicles with the proper endorsements:
- Passenger vans
- Hazmat vehicles
- Double/triple trailers
- Tank trucks
- Buses (school buses)
- Any other combination vehicles that do not fall under Class A or B
Again, certain vehicles may require you to receive endorsements on your CDL-C license. For instance, any driver wishing to pursue Hazmat driving will also need an H endorsement which provides the training and knowledge needed to transport hazardous materials safely.
More About Endorsements
What exactly is an endorsement? On CDL licenses, endorsements authorize drivers to operate specialized vehicles, such as HAZMAT, or liquid freight. Whether you have a CDL-A, CDL-B, or CDL-C, you may need to receive an endorsement depending on the type of vehicle you wish to operate.
Endorsements can work hand in hand with your CDL to qualify you for more specialized driving jobs. Some positions may require a combination of endorsements. A school bus driver, for instance, is usually required to get an S endorsement in addition to a P endorsement. A P endorsement authorizes you to transport 15 or more passengers, but an S endorsement is specific to operating a school bus.
Find CDL Training Today!
Whichever CDL you decide to pursue, the resources you need are all in one spot! You can find CDL training at a school near you. Or, if you’re already ahead of the game and have your CDL, you can also search for CDL driver jobs near you.