Class A vs Class B CDLs: it pays to know the difference

If you’re considering a driving career, your first step is getting a commercial driver’s license (CDL – either a Class A or Class B license, depending on what you plan to drive.

Class B CDL

Drivers with a Class B CDL can drive a truck or a truck/trailer with a maximum gross weight of up to 26,000 pounds. Tractors or vehicles being pulled cannot weigh more than 10,000 pounds (and that contributes to the total combined weight limit mentioned above).

The most common vehicles driven by Class B holders include school buses, delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and road work vehicles like cement mixers. Class B holders can also operate farm machinery, though many states do not require a Class B CDL for farm work.

Class A CDL

Drivers with a Class A CDL can drive trucks and trailers with a maximum gross weight of 80,000 pounds – far more than allowed with a Class B CDL. Drivers also need a Class A CDL if they want to drive commercially outside of the state where their license was issued.

Class A licenses are required to drive semi-tractor trailers, often referred to as “semis” or “18-wheelers.” While most Class A license holders drive semis, this license also allows them to drive vehicles listed in the Class B CDL section above.

Should I get a Class A or Class B CDL?

That depends on what type of truck(s) you want to drive and the type of job you’re seeking. For example:

  • If you want to drive a school bus or a cement mixer, a Class B CDL is enough
  • If you want to drive a semi-truck, you need a Class A CDL

Do I need to go to a CDL school or training program to earn these CDLs?

Yes. CDL training programs are required for both Class B and Class A licenses.

I want to drive a semi. How do I find a good Class A CDL training school near me?

Wherever you live right now, we encourage you to check out Halvor’s Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) program.

We recruit students from 36 states – and cover the cost of lodging for trainees outside of our local training areas. We offer paid CDL training and paid OTR training as part of our federally recognized ELDT program.

If you live east of the Mississippi River, and you meet our training requirements, we’ve got a program for you.

We offer training in two locations – Inver Grove Heights, MN, just outside the Twin Cities; and Superior, WI. Lodging for CDL students is available at both locations.

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