What Can You Do with a Class A Commercial Driver’s License?

If your idea of an exciting job is being on the open road instead of behind a desk, consider training for a Class A commercial driver’s license. Since 1986, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) has been required to operate certain vehicles such as semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, and buses. The federal government passed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act to improve highway safety as well as outline the minimum requirements for a CDL. However, individual states actually issue the licenses and have their own requirements. Find out how to get a commercial driver’s license below.

Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

There are three main types of commercial driver’s licenses: Class A, Class B, and Class C. In most states a Class A CDL allows the driver to operate any vehicle with a semi-trailer or trailer with two or more axles. This group also includes any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds, provided that the gross vehicle weight rating of the towed vehicle is in excess of 10,000 pounds.

The difference between a Class A and Class B commercial driver’s license is a Class B CDL allows the driver to operate any heavy straight vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds, as well as any vehicle towing another vehicle, not in excess of 10,000 pounds.

Finally, a Class C CDL allows the driver to operate any vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or is used in the transportation of materials classified as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

How to Get a Commercial Driver’s License

Most states require candidates to pass a practical and written exam before earning a CDL. Unless you have previous experience operating a commercial vehicle, it is highly recommended to take a training course before attempting the exams.

Research the requirements in your state to ensure you understand them prior to selecting a training course as there may be a lot of variation between areas. For example, in Pennsylvania a CDL is required for anyone to drive a vehicle that carries 16 or more passengers including the driver, a school bus transporting minors, and any vehicle carrying hazardous materials, while in California a driver must have a CDL if their primary employment is driving, whether or not they actually drive a commercial vehicle.

Career Opportunities in Commercial Truck Driving

Earning a Class A CDL qualifies you for job opportunities with a wide variety of trucking companies. While the license will get you hired, some companies require new drivers to complete a certain number of “ride along” hours shadowing an experienced trucker to learn the finer points of the routes and loading protocols. Once you have the required mileage under your belt, you could also go on to start your own transportation company.

Driving a commercial motor vehicle requires a higher level of knowledge, experience, and physical ability than simply driving a car. By regulating commercial driver’s licenses with Class A CDL permit tests, the government keeps our highways and roads safer. Visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicle’s website to learn more about Class A CDL requirements in your state or to learn more about CDL training and permit test preparation.

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a commercial truck driver in the Pennsylvania area, McCann School of Business and Technology can help you get the CDL training you need in as little as five weeks.

McCann’s CDL Training: Class A Tractor Trailer program provides instructors with field experience, full-size equipment and the opportunity for students to clock the driving hours needed to complete their CDL training.

Click here to learn more about McCann’s CDL Training: Class A Tractor Trailer* program and where our training facilities are located.

*CDL Training: Class A Tractor Trailer is not within the scope of ACICS accreditation and is not eligible for Title IV funding.