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Types of CDL
and CDL Endorsements

A bus driver with CDL license with one of the types of cdl licenses

For those seeking careers beyond the typical passenger car, the world of commercial vehicles opens up a vast array of opportunities.

But before hitting the road in a big rig or transporting passengers, obtaining the right license is crucial. Proper licensing insures drivers possess the knowledge and skills necessary to safely operate these larger and more complex vehicles.

This is where commercial driver’s license (CDL) comes to play.

A person with name tag

What is Commercial Driver's License?

A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is a special type of driver’s license required to operate large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the United States.

CMVs are vehicles that weigh over 26,001 pounds or are designed to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver) or hazardous materials.

CDLs are issued by individual states, but the requirements are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). To obtain a CDL, you must pass written and skills tests, meet certain medical and vision standards, and have a clean driving record.

The 3 Types of CDL Licenses

The CDL system categorizes licenses into three classes based on the weight and type of vehicle being driven: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Each class comes with its own set of requirements and limitations.

Class A CDL

A Class A CDL is the most versatile type of CDL in the United States. This license authorizes driving any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, including towing vehicles exceeding 10,000 pounds, including:


A class A vehicle


These are the iconic big rigs that haul freight across the country. They consist of a tractor unit (the cab and engine) and a trailer or trailers.

Double/triple trailers

These are combinations of two or three trailers pulled by a single tractor unit. They are used to haul even larger loads of cargo.

Heavy construction equipment

This includes dump trucks, concrete mixers, and other large vehicles used in construction projects.

Livestock carriers

Specialized cargo designed to transport live animals like cattle, sheep, and goats over long distances.

Requirements to Obtain Class A CDL

In order to be licensed to drive heavyweight commercial vehicles, truck drivers must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Pass a written knowledge test and a driving skills test with Class A vehicles
  • Meet certain medical and vision standards
  • Have a clean driving record

Holders of a Class A license may, with any appropriate endorsements, operate most commercial vehicles within Class B and Class C.

A Class b vehicle

Class B CDL

While not as comprehensive as a Class A license, the Class B license allows driving single vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) under 26,001 pounds including:


This category encompasses city buses, tourist buses, and charter buses.


Large delivery trucks

These include box trucks, refrigerated trucks, and other large vehicles used to deliver goods across short and long distances.

Dump trucks

These are used for hauling and dumping loose materials like sand, gravel, and dirt in construction and landscaping projects, provided they have a GCWR under 26,001 pounds.

Cement trucks

These specialized vehicles transport and deliver concrete to construction sites.

Garbage trucks

These trucks collect and transport waste and recyclables from homes and businesses.

Requirements to Obtain Class B CDL

To obtain a Class B license, truck drivers must:

  • Be at least 18 years old (21 years old for interstate commerce)
  • Pass written knowledge and skills tests with a Class B vehicle
  • Meet specific medical and vision standards
  • Have a clean driving record

While less comprehensive than Class A, Class B offers a broader range of driving options without requiring operation of the largest and heaviest vehicles.

It can be a great choice for those seeking career paths in more local or specialized driving roles.

Class C CDL

A Class C CDL caters to lighter-weight commercial vehicles. The Class C license covers single vehicles under 26,001 pounds, vehicles transporting 16 or more passengers, and vehicles transporting hazardous materials (Hazmat) under specific weight limits. Class C license holders can drive:

Single vehicles under 26,001 pounds

This includes box trucks, passenger vans, smaller delivery trucks, and some non-commercial vehicles like RVs exceeding specific weight limits.

A school bus fleet

Vehicles transporting 16 or more passengers

This opens doors to driving passenger vans, shuttles, minibuses and school buses (with proper endorsements like an S endorsement).

Vehicles transporting hazardous materials (Hazmat) under specific weight limits

This allows you to handle smaller Hazmat deliveries (with the proper endorsements) within specific weight restrictions.

Requirements to Obtain Class C CDL

Similar to Class B CDL requirements

  • Be at least 18 years old (21 years old for interstate commerce)
  • Pass written knowledge and driving skills tests with a Class C vehicle
  • Meet specific medical and vision standards
  • Have a clean driving record

Class C offers a more accessible entry point into commercial driving, suitable for those seeking to operate class C vehicles and potentially transition to higher classes later.

It can be a great choice for local deliveries, school bus drivers, and specialized Hazmat roles within weight restrictions.

A truck can carry hazardous materials

Specializing with Different Types of CDL Endorsements

While the CDL class determines the base vehicle types, endorsements unlock additional permissions for specialized operations. Some common endorsements include:

Tanker Endorsement (N)

Allows a truck driver with an N endorsement to operate a commercial motor vehicle equipped with permanent or temporary tanks, such as fuel tankers, cement mixers, or liquid transport vehicles.

Hazardous Materials Endorsement (H)

Permits endorsement holders to transport hazardous materials like flammable liquids, explosives, or radioactive substances. H endorsement requires additional training and safety knowledge due to the inherent risks.

Combination Tanker and Hazardous Materials Endorsement (X)

Combines the N and H endorsements, X endorsement allowing drivers to handle both tanks and hazardous materials, maximizing versatility in specialized transport roles.

Doubles/Triples Trailer Endorsement (T)

Specifically designed for Class A CDL holders, the T endorsement enables operating combinations of double or triple trailers, often used for high-volume freight transportation.

Passenger Transport Endorsement (P)

Grants permission to CDL drivers with a P endorsement to operate vehicles designed to transport passengers, including public transit buses, shuttle vans, other large passenger buses like tourist buses, and even school buses (with additional requirements).

School Bus Endorsement (S)

Specifically required for driving school buses, involving children’s safety.

An S endorsement demands additional training, background checks, and adherence to stricter regulations.

Choosing the right CDL endorsements and CDL class depends on your desired career path and the specific vehicles you plan to operate. Researching requirements and regulations in your area is essential before embarking on your commercial vehicle driving journey.

Insurance Perks of CDL Drivers

Aside from bigger career opportunities, having a CDL license can open doors to a variety of insurance perks, from discounted rates to broader coverage and even improved risk management options.

Here’s a brief rundown:

  • Low premiums: Good driving record, professional training, and well-maintained commercial vehicle can translate to lower insurance rates from companies specializing in CDL coverage.
  • Broader coverage: Compared to personal auto insurance, CDL insurance typically offers enhanced medical and liability coverage, often including cargo protection for your business in case of accidents or losses.
  • Specialized endorsements: Need to transport hazardous materials? No problem! Specific endorsements can be added to your CDL insurance to cater to your unique needs and ensure proper coverage.
  • Fleet discounts: If you’re a fleet manager with multiple drivers, your company may be eligible for special fleet discounts that can significantly lower your insurance costs.
  • Specialized claims assistance: CDL insurance providers often have dedicated claims teams familiar with the complexities of commercial driving, ensuring smoother and more efficient claim processing in case of incidents.
happy trucker finally got one of the types of cdl offered

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