What is a Commercial Drivers License?

A commercial driver’s license or CDL is a license that allows drivers to operate heavy vehicles on the roadway. CDL’s are broken down into different classifications or “classes” of vehicles based on their weight and are defined by letters. In addition, drivers can earn endorsements for different types of vehicles within those weight classifications. These endorsements are also defined by letters.

Examples

CDL Requirements - Commercial Drivers License Test - Smith & SolomonClass A – This license allows you to operate a combination vehicle, most commonly associated with a tractor pulling a trailer (pictured), with a GCWR of 26,001 or more pounds, with the GVWR of the trailer weighing in excess of 10,000 pounds. (GCWR = Gross Combined Weight Rating, or the total weight of both the tractor and trailer. GVWR = Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or the total weight of any given vehicle.) In order to obtain a CDL A, a driver must pass a written CDL permit test and a road-skills test.

Note – If a driver has a CDL A, they can drive a Class B or D (common car or SUV) vehicle.

Tractor Trailer

Class B – This license allows you to operate any single vehicle, most commonly associated with a straight truck (pictured), with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds. It also allows you to operate a single vehicle towing a trailer that is less than 10,000 pounds GVWR. To obtain a CDL B, a driver must pass a written commercial driver’s license test and road-skills test.

Note – A driver with a Class B license can also drive a Class D vehicle, but NOT a Class A vehicle.

CDL Requirements - Commercial Drivers License Test - Smith & SolomonClass C – This license allows you to operate any combination vehicle with a GVCWR under 26,001 pounds or any single vehicle under a GVWR of 26,001 pounds that is designed to carry 16 or more passengers including the driver or hazardous materials. This classification of license is commonly associated with limousines and small buses.

Note – A driver with a Class C license can also drive a Class D vehicle, but NOT a Class A or Class B vehicle.

Endorsements

Endorsements are categorizations that allow a driver to operate special vehicles within the above classifications. As an example, a Class A license with a N endorsement allows a driver to operate a tractor pulling a tanker trailer. And a Class B license with a P endorsement allows a driver to operate a bus that carries more than 16 passengers including the driver. This is often associated with motor coaches and city buses.

To obtain an endorsement, you must pass an additional written commercial driver’s license test, and for some, an additional road-skills exam.

T – Double/Triple Trailers – written test only

CDL Requirements - Commercial Drivers License Test - Smith & Solomon

P – Passenger – written test and road skills examination

CDL Requirements - Commercial Drivers License Test - Smith & Solomon

N – Tank vehicle – written test only

CDL Requirements - Commercial Drivers License Test - Smith & Solomon

H – Hazardous Materials – written test only
X – Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials endorsements

CDL Requirements - Commercial Drivers License Test - Smith & Solomon

S – School Bus – written test and road-skills examination

CDL Requirements - Commercial Drivers License Test - Smith & Solomon

For additional information about CDL requirements, go directly to the Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCSA) website. The FMCSA is the Federal Government Agency that oversees the laws that govern commercial motor vehicles and the companies that operate those vehicles.

I know you may have forgotten me by now, but as I sit here looking at my assigned tractor I can only ponder on how I got here. I was a student of your school a couple a years ago.  I just thought I should take the time to thank you and the staff for setting me on a great path that has paid off for the last 2 years. I also, especially, want to thank Jeannette for all her support and knowledge. And let's not forget the dedicated instructors that spent every cold and hot day out on the tar mat teaching and sharing trucking stories.  I graduated your school during the summer of 2012 and landed a local driving job immediately and haven't looked back since. My life is back on track after being laid off in early 2012 and I'm on target to make over $75,000 this year. Again, thank you for the new skill. I just learned that truck drivers are more in the demand than ever as rules, laws, and regulations get more challenging, along with the next generation of truck drivers starting to retire creating a big hole in the industry.

Thank you All for Everything