What Is a Class A Commercial Driver’s License?

Earning your Class A Commercial Driver’s License is a great way to begin a new career in a relatively short amount of time.

Check out our blog, How You Can Start Truck Driving, to learn more about beginning your career as a truck driver.

Drivers of heavy vehicles need authorization, the commercial driver’s license, CDL, to operate.

There are different licenses that drivers will hold to drive the various kinds of commercial motor vehicles, CMVs. You can drive passenger buses, semi-trucks, dump trucks, and tractor-trailers if you have a CDL. 

Individuals with only automobile driver’s licenses aren’t permitted to operate these vehicles.

Drivers of CMVs are highly trained to maintain safety on the highways. The CDL ensures that only qualified individuals drive CMVs. However, the three classes of CDL (A, B, and C) determine the type of vehicle you are authorized to handle.

class a commercial driver's license

In addition to other specific requirements, a vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating, GVWR, determines its CDL classification.

Finding Work with Your Class A Commercial Driver’s License

Most companies look out for CDL drivers with one of the license classes. If you are a truck driver, you need to get a Class A commercial driver’s license.

The Class A CDL allows a driver to drive a combination of vehicles with at least 26,000 pounds GVWR.

The weight of the towed vehicle must be more than 10,000 pounds. A holder of this class of CDL can operate tanker vehicles, flatbeds, truck and trailer combinations, and livestock carriers. Depending on the required endorsement and state, the driver can also drive some vehicles that require Class B and Class C licenses.

You must be 21 years or over to apply for a CDL. However, some states, like Oklahoma, allow drivers 18 to 20 years old to operate trucks within their state of residence. The first step to obtaining a CDL is getting a commercial learner’s permit, CLP. The authorization allows you to practice operating commercial motor vehicles.

Successful completion of training by FMCSA-approved training providers is a prerequisite for obtaining a Class A license. Check the FMCSA Training Provider Registry, TPR, for the list of approved training providers.

Is an Endorsement on Class A Commercial Driver’s License Necessary?

You have to apply for an appropriate endorsement to enable you to drive certain specialized vehicle types.

You can get the following permissions on your CDL:

  • Passenger (P): It allows you to carry passengers.
  • Hazardous Materials: This endorsement allows you to transport dangerous materials like radioactive substances, flammable liquids, and explosives.
  • Tank (T): It allows you to operate trucks holding liquid cargo.
  • School Bus (S): It allows a driver to operate a school bus

To qualify for an endorsement, drivers must pass a specialized knowledge assessment and maybe a specific driving skills test.

Successful completion of training offered by FMCSA-approved training providers qualifies you for S, H, and P endorsements. Also, you must undergo an in-depth background check if you want to obtain an S endorsement.