If you’re planning on driving a truck or other commercial vehicle, you’ll need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). In most states, a Class A license is one designation of CDLs. Laws and requirements for a Class A license differ from one state to another. So if you’re interested in getting a CDL, start by checking your local laws.
Different Categories of CDLs
Every state has its own regulations regarding commercial driving permits. However, in most states, Class A licenses are required for driving "any combination of vehicles weighing over 26,001 lbs., provided the towed vehicle or vehicles weighs more than 10,000 lbs." Class A CDLs allow you to drive tractor-trailer rigs across state lines.
Class B CDLs permits the license holder to operate "any single vehicle weighing over 26,001 lbs. but not in excess of 10,000 lbs., when driving only in the state where the license was issued." Generally, Class B CDLs lets you drive dump trucks, buses, and delivery trucks within the state.
Some states use a Class C driver license for bus drivers transporting more than 16 passengers, as well as for the movement of certain types of hazardous materials. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for information on how the different types of CDLs are classified in your area.
How to Get a Class A License
If you want to drive an interstate truck, a bus, or a large delivery vehicle, you must get the appropriate CDL for your state. You also must be of age - over either 18 or 21, depending on the state.
Whichever license you apply for (unless you have previous experience from the military or prior employment), you will need to attend a training course where you gain experience while supervised by a qualified instructor. You will then need to pass the written and road skills tests, and pay any required fees.
Applying for a Class A Driver's License
To receive your Class A license, you will need to:
Become familiar with the CDL laws in your state, including age requirements. You must meet all of the requirements before you apply - including holding a passenger car driver's license.
Apply for a CDL instruction permit.
Pass a written CDL test and pay the necessary fees.
Complete an approved training course or acquire the necessary experience to pass the CDL driver road test at the DMV or an approved third-party testing site.
Drivers with CDLs can also apply for license endorsements. These additional certifications on a license allow the driver to operate vehicles with hazardous cargo, to tow livestock carriers, or to drive tanker-trailers and other specialized equipment. Some states also issue Class A licenses which allow drivers to operate Class B and Class C vehicles by default.
If you want to become a commercial driver, start by understanding the exact requirements in the state where you plan to apply for your license.
Don't forget to sign up for an I Drive Safely drivers class once you've obtained your license to stay sharp on defensive driving trends on the road. A drivers class can also prepare you for a lifetime of safe driving.