What Is a CDL?


A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required in most states to operate large trucks and other commercial motor vehicles, with requirements differing depending on where it will be applied for.

New York requires drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) to pass written knowledge and driving skills tests before operating one, although certain exemptions may exist from these requirements.

What is a Commercial Driver’s License?

Commercial Driver’s Licenses, or CDLs, are essential for those operating vehicles that transport goods and passengers over certain weight thresholds. Achieving this license requires more training and knowledge than regular driver’s license holders to ensure highway safety for all. In order to be granted one, applicants must pass written certification tests and background checks to be eligible. There are various types of CDLs depending on the cargo being hauled – hazardous materials require additional certifications/endorsements before driving can commence.

At CDL training, candidates should become familiar with various types of trucks and their classifications. Furthermore, drivers of commercial vehicles must understand that they require more excellent skill and attention than passenger vehicle drivers when it comes to traffic violations; fines and penalties could range from short-term suspensions to disqualification if these standards are broken.

Candidates seeking CDL must also pass a skills test. During this exam, candidates are expected to demonstrate their driving and maintenance capabilities while responding to various questions about cargo security, pre-trip inspections, and emergency protocols as well as knowledge about combination vehicles, air brakes, and general vehicle operation.

Drivers seeking a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) must pass written and skills tests and medical fitness assessments from approved physicians to qualify for duty. Any health issues, medications, or physical handicaps must first receive clearance from an official of the Department of Transportation (DOT) before being considered medically fit for duty. DOT also conducts random drug testing of commercial drivers.

Class A

Class A CDLs allow drivers to operate large trucks and semis, safely transporting heavy loads between locations. Training is necessary to manage these oversized vehicles efficiently and safely, requiring passing written and driving tests and meeting medical standards set forth by Austroads and National Transport Commission.

Trucking companies frequently require those holding class A commercial driver’s licenses to undergo drug and alcohol screening before hiring to ensure they hire qualified individuals capable of meeting delivery deadlines and other obligations. Unfortunately, however, this license comes at an expensive cost and can involve various fees that must be paid to apply and take the required tests.

Class B licenses allow drivers to operate vehicles that exceed 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or combinations exceeding this GVWR by no more than 10,000 pounds GVWR but under 10,000 pounds total weight rating (Tare Weight). Truckers typically need this license, enabling them to drive various vehicles, such as tractor-trailer combinations, flatbeds, livestock vehicles, and tankers.

Some states offer versions of a Class B license and may impose additional requirements before an individual can qualify. New York, for example, requires drivers to pass both a skills test and a medical certificate before being eligible for this license. Furthermore, drivers must register with Commercial Driver’s License Information System and National Driver Register to check their driving history before driving a commercial vehicle.

Class B

Class B driver’s license allows you to operate vehicles weighing 26001 or more pounds and any vehicle carrying or towing trailers exceeding 10,000 pounds – such as truck/trailer combinations, tankers, flatbeds, or bulk cargo hauling vehicles.

CDL licenses are often required of people working in transportation-related careers. While not all driving jobs necessitate having one, getting one often requires passing specific tests – some requiring only for their vehicle. In contrast, others need CDL for transporting specific cargo or passengers.

School bus drivers require a school bus endorsement on their CDL license; other specialized jobs, like transporting hazardous materials, may also require specific approvals for equipment or carrying specific cargo types, such as hazardous materials.

Class A commercial driver licenses are the most costly and flexible, granting holders access to any vehicle and engaging in interstate commerce – not to mention higher salaries within their industry.

Class A drivers tend to be men between 48 and 49 years old who predominantly identify as white. Some employers may pay for training to attain their rank A license through programs like the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI).

Class C

An operator with a class C driver’s license must operate vehicles and trailers with gross vehicle weight ratings of more than 26,000 pounds or 10,000 pounds, respectively; this applies to trucks such as dump trucks and tractor-trailer combination vehicles as well as any vehicle transporting 16 or more passengers, or carrying hazardous materials.

At first, obtaining a commercial driver’s license requires passing knowledge and driving exams. Furthermore, specific specialized endorsements may also be necessary – P (Passenger), which permits the transport of passengers; T (Tank), which enables driving liquid cargo trucks; and H (Hazardous Materials), enabling transportation of flammable, explosive or radioactive materials or hazardous substances.

To qualify for a class C driver’s license, applicants must possess vision equal to 20/40 in both eyes. A person suffering from astigmatism or other visual impairments may still meet this standard if he or she can pass a vision test using corrective lenses; diabetics managed through medication or diet may also qualify.

A satisfactory driving record and background check are essential for drivers to secure a Class C driver’s license (CDL). Furthermore, applicants must be at least 18 years old, pass a medical examination designed to ascertain that they meet the physical qualifications necessary to operate vehicles of appropriate classification (and some states include drug screening as part of this test), pay any associated fees before being granted their CDLs (prices vary according to state); then pay an application fee that varies by state.


Truck drivers provide restaurants, stores, businesses, and factories with products and materials daily. Although many items can be transported using standard trucks, some types of freight require specialty vehicles for transport down the road. Transporting such special cargo can give drivers more flexibility and higher annual salaries; earning additional CDL endorsements opens doors.

Each CDL endorsement comes with its own set of written knowledge and skills tests that must be passed for it to become valid. While costs for most of these exams vary between states, most are usually relatively affordable compared to others, such as HazMat endorsement, which requires extensive testing and background checks.

Some of the more sought-after CDL endorsements include T, N, and X endorsements that can be added to Class A, B, or C licenses; Schneider often pays its drivers to obtain them as part of their new hire training.

Additionally, truckers have many other CDL endorsement options to pursue. While this will depend on each driver’s career path and objectives, Coastal recommends all new truck drivers seek HazMat cargo endorsement as soon as possible to open up routes and job possibilities. Furthermore, it would be prudent for newcomers to obtain a P endorsement for passenger vehicle operation and an S endorsement to drive school buses.