A Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a professional license that allows you to drive certain types of vehicles. The type of CDL you'll need will depend on the type of vehicle you want to drive. Here's a look at the different types of CDL licenses and the vehicles each allows you to operate.
Where do you get a CDL license?
You apply for a CDL at your state's Department of Motor Vehicles or Secretary of State, like you would any other type of driver's license. However, while your home state issues you a CDL license, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees the process, rules, and regulations surrounding CDL licenses.
What are the requirements to get a CDL license?
To get a CDL license, you must first pass general knowledge and skills tests specific to the type of vehicle you want to drive. You must also be at least 18 years old to obtain a CDL and at least 21 years old to transport hazardous materials. Additionally, you must possess a valid standard driver's license before getting a CDL.
Are CDL drivers held to a higher standard?
Yes. CDL drivers are held to a higher standard because of the increased responsibility that comes with operating a commercial vehicle. For example, you may be required to adhere to different hours-of-service regulations than non-commercial drivers. You may also be subject to random drug and alcohol testing. Additionally, any traffic violations you receive while driving your personal vehicle during off-duty hours can severely impact your commercial driver's license and, in turn, your Class A CDL job.
What types of vehicles require a CDL?
The type of vehicle you want to drive will determine the class of CDL you need to get. The FMCSA lists the different classes as follows:
- Class A is any combination of vehicles with a "Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds." Class A CDL jobs also include operating vehicles such as flatbeds, tankers, livestock carriers, and trailers over 10,000 pounds.
- Class B is any "single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not exceeding 10,000 pounds GVWR." Vehicles requiring a Class B CDL include straight trucks, large dump trucks, and some buses.
- Class C CDL allows you to operate any vehicle that is "designed to carry 16 or more passengers," provided the vehicle being towed is not heavier than 10,000 pounds. Some vehicles requiring a Class C CDL are passenger vans and small buses.
What is a CDL endorsement?
An endorsement is a special authorization that you get in addition to your CDL that allows you to drive certain types of vehicles or haul certain types of cargo. For example, you may need an endorsement to transport hazardous materials. To get an endorsement, you must pass a knowledge test in addition to the general knowledge and skills tests already required for your CDL license.
Depending on what type of vehicle you want to drive, you'll need a corresponding Commercial Driver's License (CDL). Whatever your driving goals may be, from a Class A CDL job to a school bus driver, there's definitely a license out there for you.