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

As a truck driver for Prime Inc., you’ll have the opportunity to earn competitive pay and enjoy lots of exciting perks while pursuing a career on the road.

You’ll also have a tremendous responsibility every time you sit behind the wheel, to deliver your cargo on time, while keeping the roads safe for everyone. Driving a commercial vehicle takes a higher level of skill than driving a regular consumer car, truck or van.

The federal government requires a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, for truck drivers, as well as those who operate other commercial vehicles for a living, such as straight trucks or buses.

There are four scenarios where drivers are required to have a CDL:

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

Because different types of commercial vehicles have different skill requirements, there are three categories of CDLs which are known as Class A, Class B, and Class C.

Let’s take a look at the requirements and vehicles you may drive under each class, with particular attention to the key differences between Class A and Class B.

Different Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

The type of CDL required depends upon the type of vehicle you want to drive. Here’s a summary of the different CDL classes and the vehicles that may be operated with each.

  • Getting a Class A CDL entitles you to operate a combination of vehicles — such as a semi-tractor and trailer — with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. It also entitles you to haul a trailer that weighs 10,000 pounds or more. Special endorsements can be obtained for hauling specific types of cargo, such as hazardous materials. The following types of vehicles may be driven with a Class A:
    • Tractor-trailer, also known as a semi, big rig or 18-wheeler
    • Truck and trailer combinations, including double and triple trailers
    • Tractor trailer buses
    • Tanker vehicles
    • Flatbed vehicles
    • Most Class B and Class C vehicles, depending on endorsement requirements
  • A Class B CDL lets you drive a single vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds or more without a trailer. It also allows you to operate any vehicle towing a trailer that weighs less than 10,000 pounds. The following types of vehicles may be driven with a Class B:
    • Straight trucks
    • Large buses, such as city buses, tourist buses and school buses
    • Segmented buses
    • Box trucks, including delivery trucks and furniture trucks
    • Dump trucks with small trailers
    • Some Class C vehicles with the correct endorsements
  • The Class C CDL applies to vehicles not covered by Classes A or B. It is needed to drive vehicles that transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, and for some smaller vehicles that haul hazardous materials.

Comparing the Class A and Class B CDL

In addition to being required for driving a big rig, there are other advantages of choosing a Class A CDL. There are typically more jobs available that require a Class A than a Class B. For example, you are guaranteed a job as a company driver when you obtain your Class A CDL during the training program with Prime, Inc, as long as you meet their qualifications.

Acquiring a Class A CDL offers other advantages:

  • Jobs requiring a Class A typically have higher earning potential.
  • It is the preferred choice of most drivers wanting a long-term career on the road.
  • It authorizes the driver to operate a greater variety of commercial vehicles.
  • It typically allows drivers to travel longer distances and see the country.

The market for Class B jobs is very competitive, as there are fewer of them. Drivers might choose a Class B CDL under the following circumstances:

  • The driver has a particular job in mind that only requires a Class B.
  • Trucking is seen as a short-term job before moving on to a more permanent career.
  • The driver wants to work a more limited geographic scope, such as within a single metro area or state.

Are you looking to pursue a career driving semi-trucks? Then you’ll need to obtain your Class A CDL.

Prime Inc. offers a driver training program to prepare you for your Class A CDL exam, so you can acquire the skills you’ll need to drive the commercial vehicle you plan to operate.

Ready to get started with the next step? Apply now to see if you qualify to begin training and get on the road to truck driving success! 

Have questions and want to speak with a Recruiter? Call 866-290-1568 today.

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