There are currently more than 1.3 million CDL drivers working in the US. If you want to start working as a CDL driver, you first need to become qualified. Doing so isn’t always easy, but once you are you’ll then have more working options available to you. So what is a CDL license?
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know. Just keep reading.
What Is a CDL License?
A CDL is a commercial driver’s license. It’s a type of trucking license that’s legally required to drive certain vehicles in the transport industry. To get one, you need to complete a CDL course to show that you have the skills and knowledge to operate such vehicles safely.
What Jobs Require a CDL License?
There are various jobs that require a CDL license because they involve driving specific commercial vehicles. These include things like buses, dump trucks, semi-trucks, and more.
Many jobs that require a CDL license are well paying since they require additional qualifications which most people don’t have. If you obtain a CDL, there are several jobs you may be able to get such as a bus driver, long-haul cargo driver, concrete truck driver, and heavy equipment operator.
What Types of CDL Are There?
A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle over 26,000 pounds. There are, however, different types of CDL licenses. These cover different vehicle weights (including trailers) and different types of cargo.
You’ll need a Class A CDL license to drive a combination of vehicles that have a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of 26,000 pounds or more, provided that the trailer weight exceeds 10,000 pounds. A Class A license is also needed to tow a cargo trailer that weighs over 10,000 pounds, regardless of how much the truck weighs.
Some vehicles that require a Class A license include:
- Livestock carriers
- Tanker trailers
In most cases, if you have a Class A license, you’ll be able to operate other vehicles that require a Class B or C license.
A Class B license is requireed to operate any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more which is towing a vehicle (trailer) having a GVWR of not more than 10,000 pounds. This means that many more vehicles require a Class B license, including:
- City buses
- Tourist buses
- Large passenger buses
- Segmented passenger buses
- Box vans
- Dump trucks with small trailers
- Straight trucks
Some states allow a Class B license owner to drive Class C commercial vehicles.
You’ll need a Class C license to operate any vehicle that can transport 16 people or more. This includes the driver and also applies if you’re transporting hazardous materials. Some states require a driver to have a Class C license for any commercial vehicle that doesn’t fall under Class A or Class B.
What CDL Endorsements Are There?
In addition to the class types, some states issue special CDL endorsements for specific vehicles. For these, you’ll need to do additional testing after you’ve obtained your initial license. These endorsements can vary between states, but most stick to the same guidelines.
This endorsement is for the transportation of hazardous materials. To get this, you’ll need to take a Hazmat ELDT theory course and a written exam at the DMV that relates to the safe handling of such materials.
N endorsements allow you to transport flammable and non-flammable liquids and gases. A written test is also required for this.
With a P endorsement, you can operate a passenger vehicle that can carry 16 people or more (including the driver). To get this endorsement you’ll need to take an ELDT theory course and a written test as well as a road test. If you want to start working as a school bus driver you’ll also need to pass a federal background check and obtain an S endorsement on top of this one.
This endorsement is a requirement for school bus drivers, along with a thorough background check. As bus drivers are transporting people rather than cargo, they have more responsibility than most other CDL drivers. To get this endorsement you’ll need to take an ELDT theory course and pass a difficult road skill test to show that you can drive a school bus safely and confidently.
T endorsements cover towing both double and triple trailers. To get this you’ll need to complete a written test that covers the safe operation of long motor vehicles.
With this endorsement, you’ll be able to drive tankers that carry hazardous materials. This requires a written knowledge test which is typically the same as the one required for the N endorsement.
Basic Requirements for a CDL
Depending on your state, CDL training and requirements can vary to some degree. There are, however, some basic requirements that you’ll need to meet, regardless of where you are. Some of these include:
- Be over the age limit (18-21 depending on location)
- Hold a non-commercial driver’s license
- Not hold a CDL in any other state
- Not have previous driving disqualifications
- Acquire a commercial learner’s permit
- Pay a fee through the DMV for your CDL
Your CDL course will include both classroom training and practical training. Both of these are crucial to ensure you have the skills to drive a commercial vehicle and the knowledge of how to do it safely. Once you’ve completed your CDL exam and obtained your license, you’ll be able to start applying for jobs that you’re qualified for.
Getting Your CDL License
Now you’re no longer asking “what is a CDL license?”, but you might still be wondering where to get started. At Online CDL Course, we offer online courses for the federally required ELDT theory training that are approved in all 50 states. You can train online from the comfort of your own home so that you can prepare to take behind-the-wheel ELDT training and the CDL exam.
To find out more about our courses, click here to contact us today.