CDL Classifications Explained: Choosing The Right License For Your Driving Career

If you are stuck and feel confused about what kind of CDL classifications or commercial driver’s license to apply for, you are not the only one facing this predicament. A commercial driver’s license allows you to operate large and heavy commercial motor vehicles. But there are categories within those licenses that you have to sort through first. It will depend on the kind of employment opportunity you seek and the category of vehicles that you want to drive. It will also help a lot if you are certain about your responsibilities as a commercial vehicle driver. All this proves to be highly beneficial when selecting the CDL classifications that you want to choose as you enter the trucking industry.

Defining A Commercial Driver’s License

As pointed out above, a commercial driver’s license is required by you if you want to operate big, heavy, and placarded commercial motor vehicles. These can be for the purpose of carrying out commercial activities across state borders. The same commercial motor vehicles can also be used to carry hazardous materials from one location to another. There are several types of commercial motor vehicles working all across the country. All of the drivers working in this sector are required to have a valid commercial driver’s license. Before you apply for your dream job in the transport and logistics sector, you must understand how to obtain your commercial driver’s license and what CDL classifications are.

For example, there are specialized types of vehicles which can be a bus, a tank-truck, or a vehicle that carries hazardous material. You are required to mention the proper endorsements on your CDL before you apply for a job in any of these specializations. Also, if you are trained in defensive training techniques in addition to these specializations, you can become a much more valuable asset to the carrier or trucking company you choose to work for.

For example, if you want to obtain an endorsement, you will have to pass a knowledge exam which is specialized. You will also have to appear for a specialized driving skills test as part of a CDL Training Program. It is important to complete your training from FMCSA approved training providers only.

Obtaining Your CDL Or Commercial Driver’s License

When you are looking for a steady source of income and something that allows you to enjoy a lot of adventure on the side, you think about entering the transport sector as a commercial motor vehicle driver. But this is not enough. You have to secure your CDL before you begin your career.

Note: According to industry insiders, the workforce gap is going to increase if the country continues to face a shortage of qualified CDL professionals for the coming 5 years or so. This is why the government has made it mandatory for aspirants to obtain a commercial driver’s license before they apply for their dream trucking job.

The Process Unfolds As Follows:

1. Fulfill The Age Requirements

If you want to operate a CMV across state lines, you must be at least 21 years old. According to the Federal Government, there are a few exceptions to this rule as well. You will have to find out whether they apply to you or not. Depending on the regulations of the state, you will be allowed or qualified to operate CMVs within the state or across state borders.

2. Submit Your Application

Apply for your license without delay. Include all the appropriate documentation as specified by the state you live in. This is going to include proof of residence, identity verification, social security number, and the like.

3. Appear For The Test

All the applicants are required to submit their completed medical examination report form and the medical examiner’s certificate as well. They are then required to pass a vision and knowledge test to qualify further.

4. Obtain A Learner’s Permit

After successfully completing the test, they are able to obtain a learner’s permit. Remember that the minimum wait time to schedule your CDL road skills test is usually 14 days.

5. Appear For The Road Test

There is a pre-inspection that takes place which the applicants must pass. The road skills exam is next and critical if you want to obtain your commercial driver’s license.

But wait a minute! We haven’t discussed the various classes or categories of commercial driver’s licenses yet. Let’s have a look at what they are.

Class A License

Someone with a class A CDL will be able to operate tractor-trailers. These are the most common licenses and they allow truckers to operate a combination of vehicles the gross weight of which exceeds 26,000 lbs. The towed vehicles are usually over 10,000 LBS in weight as well. When you talk about trucks with trailer combinations, livestock vehicles, and tankers, you think of a Class A CDL.

Class B License

If you want to apply for the Class B commercial driver’s license, it means that you wish to earn a steady income as a truck driver. This is going to allow you to operate vehicles that have a gross combination weight of more than 26,000 lbs. After obtaining your class CDL, you will be able to operate the following vehicles:

  • Straight trucks 
  • Box trucks 
  • School buses 
  • Segmented passenger buses 
  • Passenger and public transportation buses 
  • Dump trucks 
  • Tractor-trailer that does not exceed the weight threshold

Class C License

If you are applying for the Class C CDL, it means that you are going to operate a single vehicle that has a weight of less than 26,000 pounds. You are also allowed to tow another vehicle that has a weight of more than 10,000 lbs and passenger vehicles with 15 passengers plus the driver. A few vehicles that a Class C CDL holder can operate include:

  • Garbage trucks 
  • Food trucks 
  • Passenger buses 
  • Cement mixers 
  • Straight trucks
  • Box trucks

And To Sum It For You

Do you know that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics has regulated driver salaries for a while now and that the median comes to $47,130 per year? Now that is very impressive. In 2020, the average was $22.66 per hour for a truck driver. Also, there is a high demand for qualified men and women willing to obtain Class A driver’s licenses over the years. This has encouraged freight carriers and fleet operators to increase driver salaries and also offer sign-on bonuses. The salaries are only expected to improve in the coming years with $68,000 in 2021 being a new record. It is expected to cross the $100,000 mark in 2024 easily. If you haven’t enrolled for your commercial driver’s license training yet, it is time to choose your category and submit your application today.

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