Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

Drivers who wish to operate large commercial vehicles are required by law to obtain special licensing. The type of license a driver must get depends on the type of vehicle they intend to operate.

Requiring a proper license is just one way that state and federal governments aim to minimize the frequency of truck accidents.

Commercial Driver’s Licenses

In California, there are three types of commercial driver’s licenses. The type of CDL a driver should obtain depends on the work they’ll be doing and the vehicle they’ll need to drive.

Commercial Class A

Getting a commercial Class A driver’s license allows drivers to operate vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more if the towed vehicle weighs 10,000 pounds or greater. 

Some of the types of vehicles Class A drivers are allowed to operate include:

  • Semi-trucks
  • Flatbed trucks
  • Livestock carriers
  • Tanker trucks
  • Any vehicle with double or triple trailers

A CDL Class A allows for the most flexibility, as it allows drivers to operate some vehicles that require a Class B or Class C license. 

Commercial Class B

A commercial Class B license allows a driver to operate a single vehicle with a GVWR of more than 26,000 pounds or a vehicle towing a trailer that weighs less than 10,000 pounds. Additionally, drivers can drive any 3-axle vehicle that weighs over 6,000 pounds.

Examples of Class B vehicles include:

  • City buses
  • Passenger buses
  • Tour buses
  • Box trucks
  • Dump trucks

A Class B license allows drivers to operate some vehicles requiring a Class C commercial license. 

Commercial Class C

A Class C commercial license is needed for a driver to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver themselves. Additionally, drivers who plan to transport hazardous materials (hazmat) must also have a Class C CDL. 

Drivers with a Class C license can operate passenger vans and hazmat trucks. Additionally, drivers with this license may operate commercial vehicles that do not require a Class A or B license. 


Along with the different types of commercial driver licenses, there are also several endorsements drivers can add to their licenses. An endorsement allows you to drive specific types of vehicles, depending on the type of endorsement. 

Some of the common endorsements include:

  • School bus (S)
  • Tanker (N)
  • Passenger (P)

Endorsements may have separate requirements. 

Obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License in California

Drivers who wish to get a commercial driver’s license in California must meet the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requirements

This includes applicants who are:

  • Applying for an original Class A or B CDL
  • Upgrading their existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL
  • Obtaining endorsements, including school bus, passenger, and hazardous materials endorsements

As of February 2022, commercial driver’s license applicants must complete federal Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT). The training does not need to happen in California, but the program must be conducted by a provider registered on the Training Provider Registry (TPR). 

Along with driver training, applicants seeking a Class A or B must complete a minimum of 15 hours of training behind the wheel and submit a California Commercial Driver Behind the Wheel Training Certification as proof. 

The Importance of a Proper Commercial Driver’s License 

Driving a commercial vehicle is not for the faint of heart. The experience of driving a large commercial vehicle is unlike that of driving a car, which is why special licensing and practice are required.

Trucks are dangerous, and their size and weight pose great risks to drivers and others sharing the road. Therefore, the primary objective of making drivers obtain a special commercial driver’s license is to try to avoid truck accidents. 

Unfortunately, some truck crashes are unavoidable, even with proper licensing. For this reason, truck accident attorneys are available to help collision victims fight for justice and obtain proper compensation for their accident-related losses.

Contact the San Diego Truck Accident Law Firm of Mission Personal Injury Lawyers Today To Get More Information

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident in San Diego or Chula Vista, please call Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a free case evaluation with a personal injury lawyer or contact us online.

We proudly serve San Diego County and throughout California.

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers
2515 Camino del Rio S Suite 350, San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 639-4784

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers – Chula Vista Office
690 Otay Lakes Rd #130, Chula Vista, CA 91910
(619) 722-3032

We also serve the state of Texas. Contact our personal injury law office in El Paso for legal assistance today.

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers – El Paso Office
201 E Main Suite 106, El Paso, Texas 79901
(915) 591-1000