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Class A vs Class B Licenses: differences between CDLs

A driver with a Class A CDL drives a box truck down a city street.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Southwest Truck Driver Training, one of the truck driving schools Schneider partners with and hires graduates from.

The most important document you will have as a truck driver is a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This license permits you to operate a commercial vehicle based on your class and endorsements.

At a trucking school for CDL training, you’ll learn everything you need to know to pass the written exam and road skills test, both of which are required to get a CDL. First, find out everything you need to know about a Class A vs Class B CDL to decide which license is right for you.

What is a Class A license?

The most common of the CDL types is a Class A CDL. This class of license permits you to drive a Class 8 tractor, which is better known as a big rig. A Class A CDL is available for truck drivers over 21 years of age. With this type of truck driving license, you can cross state lines and operate along the interstate. In addition, you have the authorization to haul freight using dry van, flatbed, and reefer trailers with more than one axle.

A Class A truck driver is permitted to haul freight weighing up to 80,000 pounds or greater as with oversized freight. Types of trucking jobs available for a Class A truck driver include over- the- road (OTR), long haul, and full truckload freight hauling. As the most popular type of CDL, a Class A will allow you to haul most types of freight, except hazmat or tanker loads. To pick up these types of trucking jobs, you also need to get endorsements for your CDL.

What is a Class B license?

The second most popular type of CDL to get at trucking school is the Class B. This type of commercial driver’s license permits you to transport freight greater than 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVR) and with a single axle trailer. Drivers must be at least 18 years old to get a Class B CDL. For individuals who are too young to get a Class A CDL, this class of license is a good entry point into the trucking industry.

Along with the lowered age limit, a Class B CDL will only allow you to haul freight within the state where you are licensed. This means you are limited to local trucking jobs and regional truck driving jobs. Typical types of trucking jobs for a Class B truck driver include pickup and delivery (PU&D), parcel delivery, furniture delivery and household goods movers.

CDL Endorsements for truck drivers

For truck drivers, there are three types of CDL endorsements that you can add to your license:

  • Hazardous materials - With the hazardous materials endorsement, you are authorized to transport hazmat freight.
  • Tank – A tank endorsement permits you to haul tanker loads, which includes liquids and chemical hauls.
  • Doubles/triples – The doubles/triples endorsement provides truck drivers with the authority to transport two or three trailers at once.

If you have both the hazmat and tanker endorsement, as noted by an X on the back of your ID, this is called the combo endorsement.

Choosing Class A vs. Class B CDL

As you decide to get a Class A versus Class B CDL, the bottom line is you want a CDL that will pay you the most money. Generally, that will be a Class A CDL because you are able to haul more freight in terms of weight, as well as for longer distances. These truckload OTR trucking jobs pay more as a result. However, if you do not meet the requirements for a Class A CDL, the Class B can provide you with valuable behind-the-wheel experience as you build up your trucking career.

Looking to get your CDL?

Whether you’re looking to get a Class A or Class B CDL, you can follow a simple process to get yours through a driving school like Southwest Truck Driver Training or another way. Learn more and get started.

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Southwest Truck Driver Training has been providing quality CDL training since 1999, and is a partner school with Schneider to offer paid CDL training. SWTDT has locations in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., and North Las Vegas, Nev.

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