What Is A CDL (Commercial Drivers License) And When Do You Need One?

Mike Cross
Updated May 16, 2021
What is a CDL And When Do You Need One

There are a few different types of license when it comes to driving vehicles besides a normal drivers license. The most common other types of license for vehicles that you will encounter is a CDL.

CDL stands for a Commercial Drivers License.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about CDLs. In this article, we will cover the specifics of what it is, the steps it takes to get a CDL, and also when you need a CDL.


What Is A CDL And When Do You Need One
What Is A CDL And When Do You Need One

Types of CDL

There are a few different types of commercial drivers license that you can get. They are called

  • CDL A
  • CDL B
  • CDL C

Each one has some specific requirements for each one, and each one allows you to drive a particular type of vehicle. Read on to learn all the details about the three types of commercial drivers license that you can get.

Class A CDL

Class A CDL is for your big trucks. A class A CDL allows you to drive anything that has more than two axels. You also need a class A CDL if you are needing to drive a vehicle that is greater than 26,000 pounds that are towing a vehicle that is greater than 10,000 pounds. If you have a class A CDL then, you may be able to drive things that require a class B CDL or class C CDL with the proper endorsements. We will get into endorsements later in this article though.

Class B

Class B CDL is similar to class A, but are for smaller vehicles. A class B CDL allows someone to operate a vehicle that is greater than 26,000 pounds or a vehicle that is towing a trailer that does not exceed 10,000 pounds. Just like with class A CDL if you have a class B, you can operate things requiring a class C CDL, but you can not operate things that need a class A CDL. You can also get endorsements for your class B CDL.

What about Class C

Class C CDL is for people that are mainly driving others around. A class C CDL allows you to operate a vehicle that has sixteen or more occupants including you. That means it can hold at least fifteen passengers. If the vehicle holds less than that, then you don’t have to have a special license, but for more, you need a class C CDL. Class C CDL does not let you operate anything that requires a class B or class A, but you can get endorsements to drive special class C vehicles.

How to Get CDL

So, now that you know the three different types of commercial drivers license, you may be wondering how you get one.

Well, the first step to obtaining a CDL is determining what type you need. This depends on the type of vehicle that you want to drive. If you just want to drive a bus, then you only need a class C CDL, but if you're going to drive a big truck, then you will probably need a class A or at least a class B.

Once you know what kind of CDL you need, then you can get the book for your state to study. Also, a lot of states require you to take a class to learn how to drive larger vehicles.

How to Get CDL
How to Get CDL

After you have completed the required pre-requirements for your state to get your CDL, you then must take a few tests to prove to the state that you know what you are doing.

Most states have a written test that varies depending on the class of commercial drivers license that you are seeking. The questions will be about safety and laws of driving a commercial vehicle.

After you pass the written test, then it is time for you to take the driving test.

On the driving test, you go out with a test proctor and follow the directions that they give you. This is to show that you know how to operate the vehicle. Once you complete the test successfully, you have your CDL.


Outside of getting your CDL, you can also get different endorsements.

These endorsements extend the level of your commercial drivers license and let you take loads that you normally wouldn’t be able too.

One of the most common endorsements is a hazmat one. This enables you to take loads that are considered hazmat. Hazmat loads can be toxic or dangerous.

Another type of endorsement is a tanker endorsement. A tanker endorsement lets you take liquid loads that are in a tank. The last endorsement we will cover is the oversize endorsement. The oversize endorsement allows you to take really big loads that are taller or wider than normal loads.

Outside of the endorsements mention though, there are plenty of others that you can get and have to learn about them with farther research.

Who Needs CDL?

So, the last question is who needs a CDL. Well, the answer is pretty simple. Anyone that is driving a commercial vehicle needs a CDL.

Depending on the vehicle and the size and weight of it will determine what class of CDL you need. If you want to drive tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, tank vehicles, livestock vehicles, or flatbeds, then you will most likely need a class A CDL because these are large and heavy.

Truck's Driver With CDL
Truck's Driver With CDL

If you want to drive straight trucks, large passenger buses, segmented buses, box trucks, dump-trucks with small trailers, tractor-trailers, then you will need a class B CDL depending on the weight. Beside that, if you are trucker, i think you should get best GPS for trucker, it is cecessary equipment for drivers.

I know some of these are repeats from the class A list, but it all depends on the size that you are planning on driving. The smaller things need a class B while the bigger need a class A. If you want to drive small hazmat vehicles, passenger vans, school buses, or anything else not covered by class A and class B, then you need a class C CDL.

For everyday people class, C is the most common type to have. This is because you might encounter situations in your daily life that isn’t job-specific where you might need a class C CDL. For example, if you want to drive a youth group van or a bus, then you will need a class C CDL to do so legally.

By having a class C CDL, it will allow you to be able to help your church out or organization out by being able to drive group places. The class B and class A CDL, however, are more job specific. CDL is not just limited to truck drivers though.

Some other jobs might require a CDL like construction work, delivery drivers, or many others, so you never know when you might have to get a CDL depending on what job you want.


So now you know that CDL stands for commercial drivers license and that there are a few types of CDLs. There are class A CDLs for big vehicles that weigh greater than 26,000 pounds or are towing something that is greater than 10,000 pounds.

There is class B CDL for anything greater than 26,000 pounds or towing something that is less than 10,000 pounds, and lastly, there are class C CDL for large passenger vehicles that have more than sixteen people including the driver.

You now also know the basics of how to get a CDL, and you know who might need a CDL. You also know that there are endorsements you can get to expand the limits of your CDL.

The rules for CDLs, however, vary some by state though, so if you plan on getting a CDL you should look into your state's requirements, but after reading this you have a good starting point of knowledge on CDLs.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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