To operate as a commercial truck driver in the country, you need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). A CDL is necessary to operate heavy trucks or vehicles carrying hazardous material in the U.S. Different kinds of commercial motor vehicles need a driver to hold a valid CDL, and many employers actively seek CDL drivers with a relevant license class.
Here’s everything you should know about different types of CDL and how you can apply for them to start a promising career as a truck driver.
New CDL Laws for Truck Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented new CDL laws in February 2022 that impact how entry-level truck drivers can start their careers. Based on these new laws, you need to complete Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) from a training provider listed on FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry (TPR) before appearing for a state-administered skills test.
Under the new regulation, CDL drivers need to train in three separate parts:
- Theory (in-person or online)
- Range (closed obstacle type course)
- Road (public highway)
Types of CDL for Truck Drivers
Let’s take a look at the three different types of CDLs that determine what vehicles you are allowed to operate.
How to Get a Class A License
Class A CDL is needed to drive any combination of automobiles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of over 26,001 lbs. if the towed automobile has a weight greater than 10,000 lbs. Once you obtain this license, you can drive tankers, tractor-trailers, livestock haulers, and flatbeds. According to Zippia, Class A CDL drivers earn $52,203 per year on average.
Before you can apply for a Class A license, keep the following requirements in mind:
- In most states, you should be at least 21 to get a Class A license.
- You must have a high school education and a diploma.
- You also need to have a non-commercial driver’s license.
- You must have a good driving record.
- You should be able to pay course and exam fees for your Class A CDL.
How to Get a Class B License
Class B license allows the driver to run any automobile with a GVWR greater than 26,000 lbs. and any automobile towing another vehicle not weighing more than 10,000 lbs. After obtaining this CDL, you can drive dump trucks with small trailers, segmented buses, straight trucks, large buses (such as tourist buses, school buses, and city buses), and box trucks (such as furniture trucks and delivery trucks). On average, Class B drivers make $44,233 per year, with the top 10% earning as much as $55,000.
To earn this type of license, you have to meet the following requirements:
- You must have a non-commercial driver’s license.
- You should have a driving record with little-to-no incidents.
- You must have a minimum of high school education to apply for and operate a commercial vehicle.
- In some states, you may receive a Class B CDL when you are 18. However, you will not be able to travel out of state in that vehicle until you turn 21.
- You may also have to go through a medical screening.
How to Get a Class C or Class B to A License
With a Class C CDL, you can operate an automobile that is designed to carry 16 or more passengers or transport hazardous materials. The vehicle should have a GVWR of fewer than 26,001 lbs. or it should be towing another automobile that has a weight of fewer than 10,000 lbs. On average, the yearly salary for a Class C driver is $37,065.
If you have a Class B CDL, you can upgrade it to a Class A license. You need to obtain a new Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) by taking the CDL Knowledge Test. It is also necessary to take the CDL Road Skills test in a Class A commercial vehicle. The road test includes vehicle inspection, fundamental skills, and an on-the-road driving test.
Most candidates that convert their Class B license to Class A will get into over-the-road (OTR) trucking, which means they can drive longer distances, log more miles, and therefore make more money than any other class of truck drivers.
Earn Your CDL with ed2go
According to Indeed, jobs for commercial truck drivers are likely to grow 4% from 2021 to 2031, which is about as fast as the average for all professions. On average, this translates into roughly 90,900 new jobs over the decade.
To prepare you for a promising career as a commercial truck driver, ed2go offers four interesting courses that comply with the new CDL laws.
- Entry-level Driver Training for Hazardous Materials – This online course prepares learners to fulfill the state-administered knowledge requirement for hazardous materials endorsement, which is required to operate a vehicle that contains hazardous materials. The course consists of 16-course hours, and students can complete it within 3 months.
- Entry-level Driver Training, Class A – Students can complete our online Entry-Level Driver Training for Class A course within 3 months. It includes 40 hours of instructional learning. You will learn all about basic operations, vehicle systems, safe operating procedures and practices, reporting errors, and non-driving activities, such as cargo management, driver hours of service, environmental problems, drugs and alcohol, post-crash procedures, and trip planning.
- Entry-level Driver Training, Class B – This online, self-paced course consists of 36-course hours and needs 3 months to complete. It prepares learners to take the state-administered CDL skills test and satisfies ELDT requirements for earning the Class B license for candidates who get a CLP on or after February 7, 2022.
- Entry-level Driver Training, Class B to A – This course can be completed in 3 months or less and includes 25 hours of learning content. Once the course is over, your completion record will be uploaded to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TPR. You can then take your state’s CDL test after fulfilling other federal training requirements, such as behind-the-wheel training.
Contact us to learn more about how to get a CDL and our entry-level driver training courses so you can start learning, no matter your schedule or location, when you are ready.
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