What's the Difference Between a Class A and Class B Commercial Driver's License?

March 27, 2023

What's the Difference Between Class A and Class B CDL?

If you're thinking of jumping into the commercial truck driving world, or if you're a business that depends on freight transportation, it's crucial to know the difference between the Class A and Class B CDL, or Commercial Driver's Licenses. Even though these licenses are necessary for operating commercial vehicles, plenty of folks are still in the dark about how they are different.

Think about it this way: Class A CDL is like the big dogs of the commercial driving world. It is required if you're operating a combination of vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds and have a towed vehicle that's over 10,000 pounds. Basically, if you're hauling some serious weight, you need a Class A CDL.

On the other hand, a Class B license is more like the smaller pups. You'll need one if you're driving a single vehicle that weighs over 26,000 pounds, or if you're towing a vehicle that's less than 10,000 pounds. So, if you're not hauling as much as the big dogs, a Class B license is all you need.

In this post, we'll take an in-depth look at the difference between Class A and Class B CDL, including:

  • training and testing requirements
  • salary potential
  • job opportunities and more


Our goal is to educate our readers on this topic and provide an enjoyable reading experience that breaks down the complexities of the commercial truck driving industry in a way that is easy to understand. By the end of this post, you'll have a clear understanding of which of the CDL types is best suited for your career goals or business needs.


What is a CDL?

A CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) is a type of driver’s license that allows you to to operate commercial vehicles in the United States, such as large trucks and buses. A driver will need to finish a training program for whichever of the CDL types they choose. The classes will have a written exam, a skills test, and a medical examination.

Both a Class A CDL and a Class B license require that you must be at least 18 or 21 years old, depending on the state where you get the license. Now if you want to drive a truck across state lines, you must be at least 21 years old. Also, it's important to know that most trucking companies don't hire drivers under 21 because of insurance rules.

Before we begin, you should know that either a Class A CDL or Class B license is required in the 4 scenarios below:

  • Operating a vehicle that weighs over 26,001 pounds, excluding trailers
  • Towing a trailer that weighs more than 10,000 pounds
  • Driving a vehicle designed to carry 16 or more people
  • Transporting hazardous materials


Class A Commercial Driver's License

If you're interested in driving the big rigs, a Class A CDL is likely what you'll need. This type of license is required for drivers who operate combination vehicles with a total weight of 26,001 pounds or more. Think of it like driving a behemoth on wheels!


CDL Class A - Endorsements and Restrictions

A Class A license comes with some potential for extra endorsements, depending on your career goals or business needs. These endorsements include HAZMAT, which means you can transport hazardous materials (don't worry, you'll get special training for this); tanker, which allows you to drive tanker trucks filled with liquid or gas; and double/triple trailers, which gives you the ability to tow multiple trailers at once. It's like unlocking special powers in a video game!


CDL Class A Endorsements are certifications that drivers can acquire through their state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The most endorsements you'll most commonly see are listed below:

  • Double/Triple Endorsement (T)
  • Hazardous Materials Endorsement (H)
  • Tank Vehicle Endorsement (N)
  • Tanker/HAZMAT Combo Endorsement (X)


Advantages and Disadvantages of a Class A CDL

Obtaining a Class A CDL can open up a world of opportunity, and the pay can be quite lucrative. You'll need to complete training courses, pass written and practical tests, and potentially spend money on courses or other resources that could help you obtain your license. But the rewards are worth it - in addition to higher pay than Class B CDL drivers, you'll have access to jobs that allow you to explore different parts of the country. Earning your Class A CDL takes determination and hard work, but the opportunities that await you on the other side are worth your effort. With a CDL A license in hand, you will be able to visit new places and build a successful career for yourself.


Training Requirements for Class A license

Getting your Class A CDL means you'll go through a training program that includes a classroom setting and a hands-on driving experience. You'll learn driving techniques, basic vehicle upkeep, and everything else you need to know about driving a big rig. And don't worry – there's a skills test to show off your new talents in driving those massive combo vehicles. Sure, the whole process might seem challenging at first, but just imagine yourself hitting the open road in your giant truck. Trust us, it's totally worth it!


Overall, a Class A license is the way to go if you want to drive the biggest and baddest commercial vehicles on the road. With some extra endorsements, you can unlock even more career opportunities and experience the thrill of driving specialized vehicles. Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility (and a lot of fun, too)!


The benefits of a Class A CDL

  • Higher earning potential for jobs that require a Class A license
  • A preferable option for those who are seeking a long-term career as a driver
  • Operate a wider range of commercial vehicles
  • Travel longer distances and explore different parts of the country

Certain vehicles and trailers require a CDL A license to drive them. These vehicles are harder to drive and require special training to handle them safely:

  • Tractor trailers - which may also be referred to as semis, big rigs, or 18-wheelers
  • Truck & trailer combinations - including double and triple trailers
  • Certain Class B and Class C vehicles - depending on the necessary endorsements
  • Double and triple trailers
  • Tractor-trailer buses
  • Livestock carriers
  • Tanker vehicles
  • Flatbeds


Some typical job titles for those with a CDL A license include:

  • Over the Road Driver (OTR Driver)
  • Semi Truck Driver
  • Truck Driver
  • Line Haul Driver
  • Tow Truck Driver
  • Log Truck Driver
  • Tractor Trailer Operator
  • Production Truck Driver

What is a Class B License?

If you're interested in driving a straight truck or a bus, a Class B CDL is what you'll need. This type of license is required for vehicles with a total weight of 26,001 pounds or more, but the vehicle being towed (if there is one) must not exceed 10,000 pounds. In other words, think of a large delivery truck or a school bus.


Class B License Endorsements and Restrictions

While a Class B license doesn't have as many endorsements available as a Class A CDL, there are still a few options to consider. For example, you can obtain a passenger endorsement, which allows you to drive a bus with passengers, or a school bus endorsement, which lets you drive a school bus. Who knows, you might even become the favorite bus driver of all the kids in your town!


Class B License Advantages and Disadvantages

One of the best things about having a Class B commercial driver’s license is that it doesn't take as long or cost as much to get it, compared to a Class A license. This means you can start driving and making money sooner. Plus, there are loads of jobs out there for Class B drivers, especially in delivering stuff and moving people around. The not-so-great part is that Class B drivers usually don't make as much money as Class A drivers, and there might not be as many different types of jobs to choose from.


Class B CDL Requirements

Ready to snag a Class B CDL? You'll need to dive into a training program that mixes classroom learning with real-world driving practice. You'll pick up the basics, like keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape, and some specialized skills for the kind of wheels you want to command. To show off your new expertise, you'll need to pass a skills test that checks out how well you can handle a single commercial vehicle. Although the road to getting your Class B license requires effort and focus, it can lead to a satisfying job and a stable income, making it a worthwhile investment in your future.

Overall, a Class B CDL is an excellent option for drivers who want to drive commercial vehicles but do not need the extra power and flexibility that a Class A license offers. With a few additional endorsements, you can specialize in driving certain types of vehicles while still continuing to work in the transportation industry. Just remember to keep the wheels turning and have fun!


The benefits of a Class B CDL Commercial Driver’s License

  • A great starting point for people new to the industry, especially those under 21
  • Less expensive to obtain than a Class A CDL, making it a more cost-effective option
  • Typically drivers are home every night, making it a suitable choice for those who value a predictable schedule and work-life balance
  • Shorter hauls and lighter loads make a good fit for drivers who prefer this type of work


To drive the vehicles below, drivers must have a CDL B license:

  • Limousine
  • Transit bus
  • School bus
  • Dump truck
  • Boom truck
  • Cement truck
  • Garbage truck


A Class B CDL is best considered in the following scenarios:

  • Targeting a specific job that only requires a Class B license
  • Trucking is viewed as a short-term job before moving into a different career
  • You're interested in working within a specific area, such as a single city or state


Certain vehicles that require a Class B CDL also require drivers to have specific endorsements to operate them. These endorsements include:

  • Passenger Transport Endorsement (P)
  • School Bus/Passenger Transport Combo Endorsement (S)


Difference between Class A and Class B CDL

Having gone over the basics of a Class A CDL and Class B CDL, let's dive into the primary difference between Class A and Class B CDL.


Class A vs Class B - Training and Testing Requirements

The biggest difference between Class A and Class B CDL is the requirements for training and testing. Obtaining a Class A CDL can be a lengthy and costly process, as it requires more classroom instruction and driving experience, and passing a more comprehensive skills test. In contrast, obtaining a Class B license typically requires less training and testing, as it's tailored to driving specific types of vehicles.


Class A vs Class B - Job Opportunities and Salary Potential

Another major difference between Class A and Class B CDL are the job opportunities and salary potential. While both types of licenses can lead to fulfilling careers in the transportation industry, Class A CDL drivers often have access to more diverse job opportunities and higher pay. Class B CDL drivers, on the other hand, may have fewer options for specialized driving jobs, but can still earn a good living with opportunities in delivery, transportation, and other industries.


Class A vs Class B - Endorsements and Restrictions

Both a Class A CDL and Class B license comes with opportunities for extra endorsements, such as HAZMAT, tanker, and passenger endorsements. However, the endorsements available for Class A CDL are typically broader in scope, as they allow drivers to operate a wider range of vehicles and haul more types of cargo. Class B CDL endorsements, on the other hand, are often tailored to specific types of vehicles, such as buses or straight trucks.


In summary, the difference between Class A and Class B CDL comes down to training and testing requirements, job opportunities and salary potential, and endorsements and restrictions. It's important to weigh these factors carefully when choosing which type of CDL to obtain, based on your career goals or business needs. Just remember, no matter which CDL you choose, it's all about hitting the open road and enjoying the ride!


Conclusion: Class A vs Class B CDL

In conclusion, understanding the difference between Class A and Class B CDL is important for anyone looking to enter the commercial truck driving industry or for businesses that rely on freight transportation. While both types of licenses are required for driving commercial vehicles, the training and testing requirements, job opportunities and salary potential, and endorsements and restrictions can vary significantly between the two.


Whether you're interested in driving the biggest and baddest combination vehicles with a Class A CDL or prefer the simplicity of driving a straight truck or bus with a Class B CDL, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a fulfilling career in the transportation industry. Don't rush into selecting a CDL; think about what it can provide you in terms of success and opportunity, as well as its shortcomings, then make an informed choice. No matter if you're driving a big rig on the highway or making local deliveries in a straight truck, what matters most is enjoying the journey and embracing the excitement of being on the open road!


Are you a Class A CDL driver with over 2 years of experience under your belt, and considering a change in your trucking career? MigWay is currently seeking experienced drivers like you to join our team. When you choose MigWay, you're not just joining a company that sees you as another number; you're becoming an invaluable part of a trucking family that is passionate about delivering excellence and taking pride in their work.


If you're ready to take on a new adventure with a company that genuinely appreciates your talents and commitment, our recruiter is eager to learn more about your story and how it can beautifully intertwine with MigWay's journey to success.


Our drivers enjoy:

  1. Competitive pay and benefits
  2. Modern equipment and technology
  3. Flexible scheduling and home time
  4. Supportive work culture


Join a team that values safety, professionalism, and excellence. Click the link below to connect with a MigWay recruiter and learn more about joining our family.

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