If you are considering getting your commercial driver’s license (CDL), you have likely heard about the different classes of license available. Most often, you’ll hear comparisons between the class A vs class B CDL. There is also a class C license, although this is less common.
So, which class of CDL do you need to become a truck driver? The short answer is that a class A license is more universal and is usually a better option. However, if you are planning to drive a smaller truck, a class B CDL may be enough for your needs.
What Vehicles Require a Class A CDL?
You will need a class A commercial license to drive a combination vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more and a towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds. A standard semi-truck is a type of combination vehicle since it has two different parts: the tractor and the trailer.
The majority of over-the-road (OTR) trucking jobs require a class A CDL. Given the expense to ship freight over a long distance, it makes sense that the vehicle would need to be larger in order to be more efficient.
With a class A license, you can also drive vehicles that require a class B CDL. This is true as long as you have all the necessary endorsements in order to do so.
What Vehicles Require a Class B CDL?
There are two types of vehicles that fall under the requirements for the class B license. You can operate a vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more without an attached trailer or a combination vehicle hauling a trailer that weighs less than 10,000 pounds.
With a class B CDL, you can drive straight trucks/box trucks (including many delivery vehicles), buses (with the proper endorsement), and construction vehicles.
This license also meets the requirements for class C vehicles, which include smaller vans with more than 16 passengers and other miscellaneous commercial vehicles.
Which License Should You Earn?
In most cases, earning a class A CDL is a good choice. This gives you more flexibility in choosing a career. Even if you decide to drive a smaller vehicle instead, you will keep your options open.
Additionally, most regional or local jobs that involve a class B vehicle require previous experience. It is usually easier to get your foot in the door with an OTR job, at least for a year or two. A class A CDL allows you to do this.
However, there may be some circumstances when a class B CDL is sufficient. If you already know which company you will be working for and you know that they only require a class B license, it may be quicker to just earn this license. If you do this, you should be confident that you will not want to switch to a class A vehicle in the future. In the case that you do need to earn your class A license later, you may need to go back to school to do so.
Get Your Class A CDL
Phoenix Truck Driving School offers high-quality class A CDL training. You can earn your license and hit the road in as little as four weeks with our accelerated programs.