You are interested in operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle and you understand, at a minimum, you need to get a Commercial Driver’s License. Were you aware that there are multiple commercial license types called Classes? In addition to Classes, there are also CDL Endorsements, which are essentially enhancements to your Commercial Driver’s License. Lastly, there are CDL Restrictions, which are, you guessed it, restrictions placed on your Commercial Driver’s License.


CDL Classes


What Are the 3 Types of CDL Classes?
There are three distinct classes for CDL licenses; each covers a different size (weight), type of vehicle (think bus) and cargo (think people or hazardous materials). Depending on the type of Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) you wish to drive, you will choose from a CDL Class A, B, or C license. We break down the three CDL class types below:

CDL Class A
This is the most common Commercial Driver’s License issued each year. It covers a wide range of large vehicles and allows for a lot of versatility. Your Class A CDL will allow you to drive vehicles (or combinations of vehicles) with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,000 pounds or higher. This includes units that are towed and weigh over 10,000 pounds.

Class A vehicles include (but are not limited to) big rigs and tractor trailers, livestock transport and carriers, flatbeds, and tankers. Class A CDL’s are the most versatile of all CDL classes, covering the largest, heaviest vehicles you can drive.

CDL Class B
A CDL Class B license has some restrictions related to weight. While you can drive a single vehicle with a GCWR of 26,000 pounds (just like the Class A license), you are restricted from towing overly large loads. The GCWR of a towed vehicle must be no more than 10,000 pounds with a Class B CDL.

Typical Class B CDL vehicles include large, straight trucks without trailers, tour buses, city buses and motor coaches, school buses of all sizes, and segmented buses. Dump trucks, trucks with small trailers and other similar vehicles are included in this CDL class type group.

CDL Class C
This license covers passenger vehicles and those carrying hazardous or dangerous materials. You will need additional endorsements for HAZMAT use with your Class C CDL. With the Class C CDL, you can drive smaller HAZMAT trucks and vans, passenger vans, smaller trucks with a trailer in tow, reefer vans, and more.


CDL Endorsements


CDL Endorsements: What Are They, and Who Needs Them?

While the basic Class A, B, or C Commercial Driver’s License entitles you to drive vehicles of specific weights and types, additional training and certification is needed for some forms of cargo or vehicle types. These certifications are called endorsements, and there are endorsements for different vehicle types and cargo types.

CDL endorsements are enhancements to your CDL license and can make you a more marketable driver as well as opening access to more opportunities and higher pay for you. While actual testing and requirements vary, there are several different endorsements available in most locations.

CDL Endorsements include:

Passenger Transit (P): This endorsement certifies that a driver is permitted to transport passengers and has the appropriate skills to do so safely. Bus drivers, motor coach drivers, and anyone transporting people will need this endorsement. The P endorsement includes adult transportation; it does not include school buses. A Passenger Transit endorsement can be added to any class of CDL.

School Bus (S): This endorsement includes additional testing and safety training and allows you to transport children on a school bus or van. The S endorsement requires you to first earn the Passenger Transit (P) endorsement and can be earned by drivers with an A, B, or C Class CDL.

HAZMAT (H): This endorsement requires both enhanced education and screening. Drivers must pass rigorous safety training tests and security background checks to transport hazardous materials safely. A HAZMAT endorsement can be applied to any class of CDL.

Tank Vehicle (N): This endorsement permits the driver to operate a vehicle with a holding tank for liquid or gas attached. This endorsement is only available to those with a Class A CDL or Class B CDL.

Double or Triple (T): Drivers with this endorsement can drive double or even triple trailer loads. This endorsement is available to drivers with a CDL in Class A only.

Tanker/Hazmat (X): Since some hazardous materials are liquids or gases, this combination endorsement may be required for some driving positions. The tanker/hazmat X endorsement requires the completion of the qualifications for both tanker and Hazmat endorsements and is available to those with CDL Class A and B licensure.


CDL Restrictions


CDL restrictions are placed on a Commercial Driver’s License based on the amount and type of training you have as well as restrictions based on a driver’s medical history. One common CDL restriction covers the use of manual transmission versus automatic transmissions. Depending on what vehicle you learn on, you may be fully able to operate a manual transmission—but if you are not familiar with these, your CDL will carry a restriction barring you from operating manual transmission trucks and vehicles under license.

Other common CDL restrictions cover brakes types (for example, air vs. non-air), or medical variances (diabetic, prone to seizures, hearing issues, etc).

Restrictions, like Endorsements, use a lettering system. The most common CDL restrictions are as follows:

Medical Variance (V): The “V” Restriction is issued if a driver has had a medical variance reported to the FMCSA.

No Full Air Brakes Restriction (L): The “L” Restriction is issued if a driver did not pass the written test for “Air Brakes” and did not complete their driving test using a CMV with air brakes. This restriction can be removed if a driver passes the “Air Brakes” written test and passes a driving skills test in a commercial motor vehicle equipped with air brakes.

No Full Air Brakes Restriction (Z): The “Z” Restriction is issued if the Commercial Motor Vehicle used during the CDL skills test was taken in did not have a full air braking system.

No Manual Transmission (E): The “E” restriction is issues if the vehicle that the CDL skills test was taken in has an automatic transmission.

No Fifth Wheel Restriction (O): If a CDL skills test is taken on a commercial motor vehicle that did not have a fifth-wheel coupling system, an “O” Restriction will be issued.

School Bus and Passenger Restriction (M): The “M” Restriction is issued when a driver is only authorized to drive a Class B or Class C passenger vehicle (bus).

School Bus and Passenger Restriction (N): The "N" Restriction is issued to drivers that are only authorized to drive a Class C passenger vehicle (bus).


Summary


As you can see, Commercial Drivers Licenses can be different Classes, have different Endorsements and even have Restrictions. At Roehl Transport, we hire professional Class A truck drivers and we also offer paid, on-the-job Class A CDL training for those who want to be truck drivers. To learn more about truck driving jobs in your area, use our Find A Fleet feature. Want to get paid while you get your CDL? Start with our step-by-step CDL guide and then move into our free CDL practice tests.
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