What’s the difference between Class A and Class B CDLs?

by | Apr 10, 2024

CDL Class A vs B: Understanding the Key Differences

two or more axles, straight truck

Establishing a career in the commercial trucking driving industry, therefore, would mean acquainting oneself with the different types of licenses required, since the choice should primarily lie on a Class A or B. The subtleties of CDL class A vs. B are very clear in this article, giving clear insight into what is a class A CDL, the differences between class A and B, and how to decide on the proper CDL for you when taking up a career in the transportation industry.

Understanding CDLs

A Commercial Driver License (CDL) is a key to a door in your career as a driver and transportation. It says you have been found legally qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safely along the highways.

These differences help in the determination of the size and weight and, also, the way this type of CDL will be categorized when licensed to operate this kind of vehicle. The other difference is that the Class A and Class B license CDLs are the other difference whereby each has its role to play in the trucking and transportation industry.

What is a Class A CDL?

A Class A CDL enables you to operate combination vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of more than 26,001 pounds, where the towed vehicle itself weighs more than 10,000 pounds. This broad classification covers a range of large vehicles, making the Class A license a gateway to operating the giants of the road.

Vehicles Operable with a Class A CDL:

  • Semi-trucks or tractor-trailers (commonly referred to as 18-wheelers)
  • Truck and trailer combinations, including flatbeds and tankers
  • Livestock carriers and tractor-trailer buses
  • Double and triple trailers, provided you have the correct endorsements

Training for a Class A CDL:

Class A CDL requires a person to get instructions from classroom theory and practical hands-on experience while driving. New drivers are educated on the safety of driving, how to maintain vehicles, and how to follow federal and state regulations.

The examination is devised in a manner to ensure they can drive a large combination vehicle safely and perfect in them the skills of driving a commercial vehicle with double and triple trailers.

What is a Class B CDL?

As for the CDL B license, it qualifies driving either a single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) over 26,001 lbs or one that can tow a vehicle with a maximum weight of 10,000 lbs. This class of license suits individuals who are required to drive straight trucks, delivery trucks, and buses in more localized areas.

commercial motor vehicles, class b vehicles

Vehicles Operable with a Class B CDL:

  • Straight trucks and large buses (including city, tour, and school buses)
  • Segmented buses, dump trucks with small trailers, box trucks, and garbage trucks
  • Cement trucks and other similar vehicles designed for local operations

Training for a Class B CDL:

In addition, training to be issued a Class B CDL combines classroom learning with practical driving, only that it focuses on vehicles that are usually less complex than those operated with a Class A license.

The curriculum has to do with mastering the operation of single vehicles, while much emphasis is put on safety, maintenance, and local traffic regulations. The training culminates in a skills test tailored to these vehicle types.

Differences Between Class A and B CDLs

It will be important to understand that there exists a difference between a Class A and Class B Commercial Drivers License (CDL). This will distinguish the kind of vehicles that will be under your consideration in relation to the operation allowed. Also, this will help guide you into the potential career paths that one may take and the differences that the commercial driver will expect in remuneration.

If you ever wanted to know the difference between Class A and Class B CDL, then this is a key bit of knowledge that will really allow you to know for sure which one you are going to need to have in your possession to hold the position of a commercial truck driver. Last but not least, what will better help in making the choice of CDL class between A and B is individual career intentions.

Vehicle Operation and Weight

  • A CDL Class that allows the applicant to drive a combination of vehicles over 26,001 pounds Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR), and the towed vehicle over 10,000 pounds. These could be tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, double and triple trailers, tanker vehicles, and flatbeds. The important feature that is dominating under the Class A vehicles is the hauling capabilities, most needed when it comes to long freight transportation from state to state or distance.
  • Class B CDL, on the other hand, is the operation of single vehicles that are over 26,001 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) or towing a vehicle not heavier than 10,000 pounds. Class B includes straight trucks, large passenger buses, such as city, school, or tour buses, segmented buses, and box trucks. The next category includes those kinds of vehicles that have dump trucks with small trailers and garbage trucks. In general, these classes of vehicles are normally used for either intra-city or regional deliveries and basically for the carriage of passengers or waste collection.

CDL Training Program and Testing Requirements

  • Training for a Class A CDL is more comprehensive due to the complexity and challenges of operating combination vehicles. It includes extensive classroom instruction on federal regulations and vehicle maintenance, along with significant hands-on driving experience. The skills test for a Class A license is rigorous, assessing the driver’s ability to safely maneuver a large vehicle, including pre-trip inspection, vehicle control, and on-road driving.
  • Training for a Class B CDL still involves both theoretical and practical components but focuses on operating single vehicles. While it covers many of the same topics as Class A training, including safety regulations and vehicle inspection, the practical driving instruction and skills test are tailored to the specific types of vehicles Class B license holders will operate.

truck driving school, training requirements, school bus endorsement,

Job Opportunities and Salary Potential

  • This is why most Class A CDL holders have many more job opportunities at much higher pay than Class B. For example, a Class A driver would be eligible for jobs such as OTR (over-the-road) trucking, specialized freight hauling (with further endorsements), and jobs requiring the transport of things like hazardous materials or over-dimensional loads.
  • In a nutshell, Class B CDL drivers, city bus drivers, delivery drivers, or operators of construction and waste collection vehicles that do not involve traveling throughout the state or interstate travel would be in order. Even though this earning potential may be less for the driver holding a Class B compared to the holder of a Class A CDL, most of these jobs typically have more hours on an ongoing basis and often offer nights at home, something that would highly appeal to family-oriented persons or anyone valuing their work-life balance.

road driver

Endorsements and Restrictions

Endorsements are available for both A and B CDL Drive Classes and allow the driver to operate specified vehicles or carry certain types of cargo. The nature of the vehicles is usually handled by each class of license, however, generally tends to mean that some endorsements are more synonymous with one class of license rather than another.

When the opportunity is given, some types of cargo include double and triple trailers (T), hazardous materials (H), or tank vehicles (N).

It also includes driving endorsements under the Class B CDL, such as passenger (P) and school bus (S) endorsements, which would be very helpful for people who would be interested in driving a bus carrying passengers or children for local transportation in his or her respective community.

In effect, the decision to go for a Class A or B License shall finally be fully dependent on the kind of things that one would like to be involved with during their careers, the kinds of vehicles that they would like to drive, and the lifestyle that they would like to live within the trucking/transportation business.

It will have opportunities and risks of its sort, just like any other track. The time, money, and determination needed to be invested in an advanced training and certification program should be weighed beforehand.

Choosing the Right CDL for Your Career

Deciding between the two of them only depends on your career needs, which type of driving you like, and what kind of lifestyle you’d like to cultivate. If your dream is to roam the country while driving the largest vehicles and potentially making good money, then it’s Class A CDL for you. If, on the other hand, relishing the idea of consistent, local routes, regular hours, and dealing with less complicated vehicles, then the Class B license will do just fine for the needed requirements.

commercial vehicles, commercial driver's license, vehicle designed


The difference is only whether a driver wants to take a Class A or a Class B CDL Licenses. The roads offer different opportunities and, for sure, their very own set of challenges in the trucking and transportation field. As the growing understanding of the differences between the classes of licenses continues, this will become extremely important to guide training and career goals related to the acquisition of a particular license type. But perhaps, with that much thought going into it and adequate training, it promises to be a lucrative and rewarding career in driving a commercial vehicle, coupled with freedom on the road and satisfaction at making the backbone of the economy possible.

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