What is a Commercial Driver's License (CDL)? 

A Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a specialized type of driver's license required for individuals such as truck drivers to operate commercial vehicles. A CDL grants permission to drive vehicles such as trucks, buses, and tractor-trailers that exceed certain weight limits or transport a certain number of passengers. It signifies that the license holder has met the necessary knowledge, skills, and medical qualifications to safely operate commercial vehicles on public roads. CDLs are typically categorized into different classes, each representing the type and size of vehicles a driver is authorized to operate.

What is a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP)? 

A Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP) is a stepping stone toward obtaining a full CDL. It is designed to provide aspiring commercial drivers with the opportunity to gain practical on-road training and experience under the guidance of a licensed CDL holder. The CLP allows individuals to practice operating commercial vehicles, such as trucks or buses, while they are undergoing training and preparing for the CDL skills test. It serves as a temporary permit that grants limited driving privileges, allowing individuals to familiarize themselves with the operation of commercial vehicles and develop their skills before obtaining the full CDL.

CDL Jobs

Overview of CDL License Classes in 2023

CDL License Class


Vehicles Allowed

Class A CDL

Allows operation of combination vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) over 26,001 pounds and the vehicle being towed weighs over 10,000 pounds

Tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, and heavy-duty vehicles

Class B CDL

Allows operation of single vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) over 26,001 pounds or towing a trailer with a GVWR not exceeding 10,000 pounds

Delivery trucks, buses, and mid-sized commercial vehicles

Class C CDL

Allows operation of vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or vehicles carrying hazardous materials

Passenger vans, small buses, and vehicles carrying hazardous materials

What is a Class A CDL? 

A Class A CDL allows individuals to operate combination vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, provided that the vehicle being towed weighs over 10,000 pounds. This class is commonly associated with tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, and other heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Class A CDL is required for those who aspire to become long-haul truck drivers, transporting large loads across state lines or within the country. These holders have the versatility to operate a wide range of commercial vehicles and have access to more job opportunities in the transportation industry.

What is a Class B CDL? 

A Class B CDL allows individuals to operate single vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more or vehicles towing a trailer with a GVWR not exceeding 10,000 pounds. This class is commonly associated with delivery trucks, buses, and other mid-sized commercial vehicles. Class B CDL holders are qualified to operate buses, including city buses, school buses, and tour buses. Additionally, they can operate straight trucks, dump trucks, box trucks, and other medium-sized commercial vehicles. 

What is a Class C CDL? 

A Class C CDL allows individuals to operate vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or vehicles used to transport hazardous materials. Class C CDL is commonly associated with passenger vans, small buses, and vehicles carrying hazardous materials. Class C CDL holders have the authority to drive vehicles that require a commercial driver's license but do not meet the specifications for Class A or Class B vehicles. This class includes vehicles such as small buses, vans, and trucks used for passenger transportation or those transporting hazardous materials in quantities requiring placards.

CDL Practise Test

How To Get a CDL?

Obtaining a CDL involves a series of steps that can vary depending on your state. It is important to refer to your state's DMV website for specific instructions. However, there are some common steps to keep in mind when applying for a CDL:

  1. Familiarize yourself with age requirements: Each state has its age restrictions for obtaining a CDL. Some states allow drivers to apply at 18, while others require a minimum age of 20. Certain states may also restrict drivers under 20, limiting them to driving within their home state. If you are applying as an 18-year-old, additional steps, such as completing a state-approved driver's education program, may be necessary.

  2. Obtain a Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP): To practice the necessary skills for the CLP driving test, you must obtain a CLP. This involves providing specific documentation, such as a clean driving record and proof of medical fitness to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), through a Department of Transportation physical exam. Additionally, you will need to pass a written exam administered by your state and pay the associated fees, for which you can even join different CDL driving schools. The CLP allows you to practice the maneuvers and skills outlined in your state's CDL manual, which will be evaluated during the CDL skills test.

  3. Prepare for the CDL test: Depending on your state, you will likely need to hold the CLP for at least two weeks, before taking the CDL driving skills test. After this waiting period, you will be required to complete both a written exam and a driving skills test. Depending on your state's regulations, you may also need to submit additional paperwork or complete additional courses. It is important to be aware of any processing fees that may be required during the final stages of the process.

  4. Obtain necessary endorsements: Ensure that you acquire the required CDL endorsements relevant to the type of vehicle you intend to operate. This involves paying an additional fee and completing a written exam and/or a driving skills test, depending on the specific endorsement you need.

CDL Endorsements

CDL endorsements are additional qualifications or permissions added to a CDL, allowing drivers to operate specialized vehicles or transport specific types of cargo. Common endorsements include tanker, hazardous materials (Hazmat), passenger, and double/triple trailers. The specific endorsements you need depend on the type of vehicle you plan to operate and the cargo you intend to transport.

Some common CDL endorsements include:

  1. Passenger (P) endorsement: This endorsement allows you to operate vehicles designed to transport passengers, such as buses or vans carrying more than 16 occupants (including the driver).

  2. School Bus (S) endorsement: With a School Bus endorsement, you are qualified to operate school buses, ensuring the safe transportation of students to and from school and other educational activities.

  3. Hazardous materials (H) endorsement: The Hazardous Materials endorsement enables you to transport hazardous materials as defined by the Department of Transportation (DOT). It requires additional background checks and knowledge tests related to the safe handling, storage, and transportation of hazardous materials.

  4. Tank vehicle (N) endorsement: This endorsement allows you to operate vehicles that transport liquids or gases in bulk containers. Tank vehicles include tank trucks, semi-trailers, and other vehicles specifically designed for transporting liquids or gases.

  5. Doubles/triples (T) endorsement: With the Doubles/Triples endorsement, you are authorized to operate vehicles pulling two or three trailers simultaneously, expanding your capacity for hauling goods.

  6. Combination (X) endorsement: The Combination endorsement is required for drivers operating combination vehicles with air brakes.

The specific endorsements you need depend on the driving you plan to do and the specific vehicles or cargo you will handle. 

CDL Restrictions

CDL restrictions refer to limitations placed on a CDL holder's driving privileges. The license indicates these restrictions and may include specific vehicle type limitations, transmission type restrictions, and other factors. It is essential to understand any restrictions associated with your CDL to ensure compliance with regulations.

Here are some common CDL restrictions:

  1. Air brake restriction (L): If you take the skills test in a vehicle without air brakes or fail to pass the air brake knowledge test, you will receive an air brake restriction. This restricts you from operating vehicles equipped with air brakes, and you must have it removed by passing the air brake knowledge test and completing a skills test in a vehicle with air brakes.

  2. Manual transmission restriction (Z): If you take the skills test in a vehicle with an automatic transmission, you will receive a manual transmission restriction. This restricts you from operating vehicles with manual transmissions, and you must have it removed by passing the skills test in a vehicle with a manual transmission.

  3. Intrastate-only restriction: Some CDLs may have restrictions that limit driving to intrastate (within the state) only. This restriction prohibits you from driving across state lines and requires you to operate exclusively within the boundaries of your state.

  4. Vision or hearing impairment restrictions: If you have certain vision or hearing impairments that affect your ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle, your CDL may have restrictions specifying the necessary corrective measures or limitations.

  5. Medical waivers: In some cases, if you have a medical condition that may disqualify you from obtaining a CDL, you may be able to obtain a medical waiver that allows you to drive with specific conditions or limitations. These waivers are issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on a case-by-case basis.

It's important to understand and adhere to any restrictions specified on your CDL, as violating them can result in penalties and the potential loss of driving privileges.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a CDL? 

The cost of obtaining a CDL can vary depending on several factors, including the state you're in, the type of CDL you're pursuing, the training program you choose, and any additional endorsements you require. Costs typically include application fees, written test fees, training program fees, road test fees, and the cost of obtaining a CLP. It is advisable to research the costs specific to your state and preferred training program.

Here are some common cost factors to consider:

  1. Application and testing fees can range from $30 to $100, depending on the state

  2. Written knowledge test fees can range from $10 to $30 per attempt

  3. The commercial learner's permit (CLP) fee varies by state and can range from $10 to $100

  4. Training program costs can vary significantly depending on the program's duration, quality, and location. Training program fees can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars

  5. Skills test fees typically cover the pre-trip inspection, basic control skills, and road test, with a combined cost ranging from $100 to $500

  6. Endorsements cost between $5 and $10 (this does not include testing fees)

Driver Jobs

Are You Ready To Get Your CDL?

Obtaining a CDL opens doors to exciting career opportunities in the transportation industry. Understanding the different types of CDL licenses, endorsements, restrictions, and associated costs is crucial for aspiring truck drivers. Remember to check your state's specific requirements and regulations, as they may differ slightly. With the right training, experience, and dedication, you can embark on a rewarding journey as a professional commercial driver.

Apply Now

Related Tags
Share Post