Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

Driving a commercial vehicle is no easy feat. For this reason, the law requires aspiring truck drivers to obtain special licensing before they can hit the road and begin working.

There are multiple types of commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). The license appropriate for a driver depends on the type of vehicle the driver wishes to operate and the kind of work they intend to do.

What Is a Commercial Driver’s License?

A commercial driver’s license, also referred to as a CDL, is a unique type of license allowing individuals to legally operate large commercial vehicles, including semi-trucks, buses, and tankers. There are different requirements to obtain a commercial driver’s license, as the experiences of driving a car and truck vary greatly.

To get a CDL, drivers must learn and refine certain skills and physical abilities. Each state has its own commercial driver’s license requirements, but generally, a driver must start by getting a commercial learner’s permit. Then, they must complete entry-level driver training and pass three parts of a skills test to get the license. 

Classes of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

For prospective commercial drivers, one of the very first steps of obtaining a CDL is deciding what type of vehicle they intend to drive. Based on this information, they can decide what type of license would suit their career best.

There are three different types of commercial driver’s licenses. The right one depends on the weight of the vehicle and cargo and whether the driver intends to transport passengers or certain materials. 

Class A

Class A licenses are required for the largest, heaviest vehicles. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 26,001 pounds or greater, provided the vehicle being towed weighs more than 10,000 pounds. 

Examples of vehicles requiring a Class A license include:

  • Tractor trailers
  • Tank vehicles
  • Flatbeds
  • Livestock carriers

A CDL license can also allow for the operation of some of the Class B and Class C vehicles. 

Class B

Drivers require a Class B license for a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds or a towed vehicle weighing no more than 10,000 pounds. Some of the Class B vehicles include:

  • Box trucks
  • Straight trucks
  • Large passenger buses
  • Garbage trucks

A Class B commercial driver’s license gives drivers the option to operate some of the Class C vehicles. 

Class C

A Class C CDL is needed to operate vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) and transport hazardous materials (hazmat). Some examples of Class C vehicles include:

  • Passenger vans
  • Shuttles
  • Hazmat trucks

Additionally, Class C commercial driver’s licenses cover other types of vehicles not covered by Class A or Class B licenses. 


Beyond the different classes of commercial driver’s licenses, drivers can obtain additional endorsements on their licenses to legally operate special vehicles. Some of the common endorsements include:

  • H: Hazmat
  • P: Passenger
  • N: Tanker
  • S: School bus
  • T: Double or Triple trailer
  • X: Combination hazmat and tanker

Requirements for endorsements vary by type and state but typically involve skills testing. Not every type of CDL can get every kind of endorsement, furthering the importance of getting the right class of CDL. 

The Significance of Obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License

Driving a commercial vehicle requires a high level of knowledge, experience, skill, and ability. Therefore, going through the proper procedure of obtaining a CDL can help ensure drivers are fully prepared to take on the difficult task of driving commercial vehicles. Additionally, having a CDL aids in keeping others on the road safe. 

Still, commercial truck accidents happen every day. If you’re harmed in a trucking collision caused by someone else, do not hesitate to seek legal representation to pursue justice and compensation. Get started with a free initial consultation.

Contact the Arizona Truck Accident Lawyers at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in an accident in Phoenix, AZ, and need legal help, contact our Phoenix personal injury attorneys at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.

Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers
1221 E Osborn Rd. Suite 201
Phoenix, AZ 85014
(602) 595-5559