A commercial driver’s license is similar to a regular license but is specifically for operating large or heavy vehicles in the commerce sector of the country. Many people wonder whether they should get a Class A Commercial Driver’s License and what they might be able to do once they obtain it. In this article, we’ll make sure to highlight all the uses of a commercial driver’s license, it’s various types, the process of getting it and even potential career opportunities.
What Is a ‘Class A Commercial Driver’s License’ ?
For those people who prefer driving on an open road instead of sitting behind a desk in an office all day, the Class A commercial driver’s license is exactly what you need. In the US, a commercial driver’s license or CDL became a requirement in 1986 to operate semi-trucks or big buses. This act was passed in order to ensure highway safety while making sure all commercial drivers are fully trained and well-tested before heading on the main road. Depending on the state you live in, requirements for this license may vary slightly but the main process is likely to be the same. The minimum requirements to obtain a CDL is having a regular driver’s license and passing the specific written and practical tests that are carefully designed for this job.
Types of a Commercial Driver’s License
Mainly, the commercial driver’s licenses are divided into three categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C. To obtain a license to operate a specific type of vehicle, you are required to apply for the correct endorsements on your CDL. These may include Passenger (P) which allows you to carry other passengers, Tank (T) which allows you to transport any liquid cargo and Hazardous Materials (H) which allows you to carry certain explosives, flammables or radioactive liquid. Each endorsement is only given after you pass a specialized written exam and also a practical road test to determine your knowledge as well as driving skills.
To make this entire process of getting the right endorsements easier for applicants, the license agency divided them into three main categories that are much simpler to remember.
Class A CDL
In order to legally operate a vehicle that has a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds with a towed vehicle that is heavier than 10,000 pounds, a Class A commercial driver’s license is to be obtained. Typically, a Class A CDL will allow you to operate any vehicle that has a trailer with more than two axles. A Class A CDL obtained with the correct endorsements can allow you to drive a tractor, trailer, trailer and truck combination, vehicles with tanks, carrying livestock and even flatbeds. The biggest benefit of getting a Class A CDL is that it gives you permission to drive most Class B and Class C vehicles as well.
Class B CDL
While the Class B CDL is much similar to the Class A one, the only main difference is that only a single vehicle with a maximum GVWR of 26,000 pounds can be driven, or the driver can choose to tow a vehicle that does not exceed the 10,000 pounds weight limit. Vehicles such as straight trucks, big passenger buses, buses that are segmented, small box trucks, trash trucks with only small trailers and even some combinations of tractors and trailers can be easily driven with a Class B CDL. Additionally, once a Class B CDL is attained, the driver can also legally drive most Class C vehicles.
Class C CDL
The Class C commercial driver’s license, or the CDL with the lowest requirements and least testing, is one that allows you to drive any vehicle that is transporting 16 or more passengers (driver inclusive) or carefully transport federally recognized hazardous materials (HazMat). A Class C CDL with proper endorsements will allow you to drive smaller versions of HazMat trucks, large passenger vans and any other combination vehicles that are not specifically categorized as Class A or Class B.
Getting a Commercial Driver’s License
While the process of getting your CDL is not too complex, it is important to know some basic guidelines on which their rules are based. In most states, the applicant for a CDL must be the age of 21 or above while some states allow certain drivers that are above 18. It is also necessary to note that a single-state CDL will only allow you to drive a commercial vehicle specifically in your state, but this restriction is likely to be overlooked once you are above 21.
A CDL can be applied for at your local drivers license office where they will make sure to inform you of every federal guideline that must be followed and specific requirements that must be met.
As stated earlier, every state in the US requires drivers to successfully pass both the practical and written test before obtaining their CDL. Since it is almost impossible for you to have prior experience in the handling of a commercial vehicle, it is highly recommended to take a well-known training course before applying for the CDL.
A CDL practice test is the most helpful way of preparing for the written part of your exam. Through the knowledge that you gain by attempting practice tests, your practical driving skills will also be polished. These tests cover the general knowledge areas as well as tests for specific endorsements including air brakes, passenger travel, combination vehicles, doubles and triples, HazMat and tanker. There are also tests designed specifically for each class of a commercial driver’s license to help drivers pass their tests successfully.
Future Career Opportunities
Once you’ve earned a Class A Commercial Driver’s License, you are automatically well-qualified for many jobs at truck companies. The license and additional endorsements are what make up your portfolio initially, and work experience will eventually be added to the criterion as well. Once you’ve completed enough driving jobs to achieve a sufficient mileage, you also have the opportunity to launch your own transportation firm.