Choose the CDL Classification You Need

New white truck at The Great American Trucking Show

What CDL Do I Need?

There are 3 types of CDL classifications. These determine:

  • What you can drive
  • How much money you can make

The class of Commercial Driver’s License that you need depends on the type of truck or vehicle you want to drive. We obviously named Class A Drivers after the Class A license, so it should be obvious which one we recommend. But we’ll try to be unbiased with the following breakdown:

Class A CDL

If you want to drive a full-size 18-wheeler, then you need to get a Class A CDL.

Combination vehicle with tractor and trailer
Class A Truck

Most trucks are combination vehicles, which means they are a truck pulling some type of trailer. The Class A license gives you the ability to drive these tractor-trailer combination vehicles, and that’s what most jobs require.

Class A can also be used to drive the vehicles covered under the Class B and C licenses, so the Class A CDL is the most versatile and useful license.

With the proper endorsements, Class A lets you haul hazardous materials and other specialty freight. Other endorsements include double & triple trailers and tank trucks for liquid materials.

Of all the CDL classifications, the Class A license allows you to take the widest variety of jobs. Especially with these endorsements.

If you’re looking to make a career in trucking, you should seriously consider the options that open up with a Class A CDL. More options means more job opportunities.

Class B CDL

Class B dump truck
Class B Truck

In contrast to the combination tractor-trailer, a Class B vehicle is typically a single body, or a straight truck. This usually means a box truck or a dump truck.

The license can be used to haul a trailer up to 10,000 pounds, so the Class B is often used for local delivery jobs or smaller cargo.

This license also covers large and segmented buses. Vehicles, such school buses and city buses, are covered by this CDL.

Two reasons you may choose to get a Class B CDL are: time and cost. With a price tag of $2,000 or less, training for the Class B license costs half as much as a Class A.

Class C CDL

Airport shuttle bus at LAX
Class C

The Class C is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver.

Compared to the other CDL classifications, jobs requiring the Class C license don’t earn as much money.

Examples of these vehicles include passenger vans or shuttle buses (such as at the airport). The Class C also includes small vehicles used to transport hazardous materials (Hazmat).

A Word on Endorsements

To make more money and get the most out of your license, you should get all the various trucker driver endorsements that are available. You never know what opportunity will come along, so it’s best to just get these endorsements and have them ready.

Below is a list of the different kinds of endorsements and their codes:

  • T – Double/Triple Trailers
  • P – Passenger
  • N – Tank Vehicle
  • H – Hazardous materials
  • X – Combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials endorsements
  • S – School Bus

These are relatively easy to obtain, and you can get them when you pass the written test for your Commercial Driver’s License. Additionally, you will have to pass a TSA background check if you plan on driving a HAZMAT truck.

Now that you know which CDL class you need, read on to the next chapter to learn your options for earning your CDL.


About The Author
Contributor: Clyde Hoggatt (Technical writer for 5+ years).

Expert Review: Luke Nold (Experienced truck driver for 5+ years and published writer for Fleet Magazine).