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What’s the difference between Class A and Class B CDLs?

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Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

The most important document truck drivers have is a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). A CDL permits drivers to operate certain Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) based on the class of license they hold and what endorsements they choose to add to their license.

Knowing what sets CDLs apart can be confusing. Keep reading to learn about the differences between Class A and Class B CDLs and determine which one is right for you based on what type of driving job you are interested in.

What is a Class A CDL?

A Class A CDL permits you to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. It also allows you to haul a trailer that weighs more than 10,000 pounds.

This is the most popular kind of CDL because it qualifies drivers for jobs with some of the highest earning potential in the industry. Notably, a Class A CDL allows you to operate a Class 8 tractor, better known as a semi-truck.

Vehicles you may be able to drive with a Class A CDL include:

  • Truck and trailer combinations.
  • Tractor-trailer buses.
  • Tanker vehicles.
  • Flatbeds.
  • Most Class B and C vehicles.

In addition to a Class A CDL, some of the vehicles listed above require additional endorsements. Endorsements are extra qualifications drivers can get through their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Endorsement options include:

To get a Class A CDL, you must be at least 18 or 21 years old (depending on which state you obtain it in). However, you must be at least 21 to drive across state lines, so getting your CDL at 18 will not give you access to the full range of driving jobs. This, in addition to insurance reasons, is why most trucking companies won’t hire drivers who are under 21.

What is a Class B CDL?

A Class B CDL permits you to operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more. It also allows you to haul a trailer that weighs less than 10,000 pounds.

Drivers with Class B CDLs typically get jobs that haul lighter loads, such as delivery driver, bus driver or garbage truck driver. This license is ideal for those who want to work closer to home or are not interested in hauling freight long distances. Class B CDL jobs can also be great opportunities for those not old enough to travel between states.

Vehicles you may be able to drive with a Class B CDL include:

  • Straight trucks.
  • Large buses (city, school or tour).
  • Segmented buses.
  • Box trucks.
  • Garbage trucks.
  • Cement trucks.
  • Dump trucks with small trailers.
  • Some Class C vehicles.

In addition to a Class B CDL, some of these vehicles require endorsements to operate, including:

  • (P) Passenger Transport Endorsement.
  • (S) School Bus/Passenger Transport Combo Endorsement.

To get a Class B CDL, you also must be 18 years old. Unlike those with a Class A CDL, Class B CDL holders are only allowed to drive in the state they obtained their license in.

Class A vs Class B CDL – Which is better?

There is no clear answer to which class of CDL is the best, as each offers a unique set of benefits and opportunities for drivers to enjoy, and it really comes down to what kind of driver you want to become.

When deciding whether you should get a Class A or Class B license, consider the following:

Advantages of a Class A CDL:

  • Higher earning potential.
  • Increasing demand for drivers.
  • Greater variety of job opportunities.
  • The opportunity to travel longer distances.

Advantages of a Class B CDL:

  • Good introduction to the industry (especially for those under 21).
  • Shorter hauls and lighter loads.
  • Cheaper to obtain than a Class A CDL.
  • Drivers often get home every night.

Ready to get your CDL?

Obtaining your CDL is one of the first steps to becoming a professional truck driver. Find out how to get your CDL today by following our seven-step guide.

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Schneider Guy loves the "Big Orange." He's passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He's been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he's excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through "A Slice of Orange."

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