Trucking is a multidimensional industry that offers various niche specialties and numerous career growth opportunities. If you’re thinking that trucking only offers one type of training and work that fits all, you’re in for a big surprise. From operating a small passenger van to transporting an oversized load across the country, trucking has something to offer anyone who’s interested in pursuing a career in transportation.
First things first: What’s a CDL?
If you’re considering a career in trucking, it might be helpful to cover the basics first. CDL stands for a Commercial Driver’s License. This legal document is required to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), such as tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, and passenger busses.
Before you rush to your local DMV to gather more information on how to study and pass your CDL test, let’s dissect the different types of CDLs and see which one will suit your future trucking career best.
Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses
There are several classifications of Commercial Driver’s Licenses, based on the vehicle type, gross weight (GSWR), and type of cargo that each CDL holder will transport. So if your goal is to become a bus driver, you won’t need the same classification and training as you would if you wanted to operate a tanker truck.
- CDL-A is required to operate any combination of vehicles of 26,001 pounds with a towed vehicle being over 10,000 pounds GSWR. To have a better perspective, with a CDL-A you would be able to operate tractor trailers aka 18-wheelers, tractor-trailer combinations, livestock carriers, flatbed vehicles, and most CDL-B and CDL-C trucks as well.
- CDL-B must be obtained to operate a single commercial vehicle that is not attached to a trailer and has a GSWR of more than 26,001 pounds but with a towed cargo that is less than 10,000 pounds. With this license category you’ll be able to drive city and school busses, straight trucks, box trucks, and smaller dump trucks.
- CDL-C is required to operate a single CMV with a total GSWR that is less than 26,001 pounds or towing another cargo that weighs less than 10,000 pounds. This license type will enable you to drive vehicles that transport 16 or more passengers; it will also allow you to operate double and triple trailers, passenger vans, smaller trucks transporting HAZMAT loads among a few other types of smaller vehicles.
What Are CDL Endorsements And Why Do You Need Them?
As a truck driver, you always have a lot of opportunities to level up your career and earn a bigger paycheck. Depending on your CDL class, you might be able to increase your earning potential by obtaining additional endorsements. Let’s go through the list of endorsement and the types of cargo they would allow you to transport.
List of CDL Endorsements
- H Endorsement is required to transport hazardous materials (HAZMAT). HAZMATs include various types of material such as flammable liquids and solids, toxic chemicals, gasses, radioactive materials, corrosives, and more. In order to obtain this endorsement you’ll be required to pass an additional knowledge test. (CDL- A,B, or C)
- N Endorsement allows a CDL holder to operate a tanker vehicle that transports liquid or liquified gaseous materials. This endorsement also requires an additional knowledge test. (CDL- A and B)
- P Endorsement must be obtained to transport passenger vehicles, such as busses and passenger vans. In order to add this endorsement to your CDL, you will have to pass an additional knowledge test and a road skill test. (CDL- A, B, or C)
- S Endorsement is required to operate a school bus. You will be expected to pass a written knowledge test and a road skill test. Keep in mind that each state has different additional requirements for this endorsement type. (CDL- A, B, or C)
- T Endorsement allows CDL-A holders to transport double and triple trailers. This endorsement can be obtained after completing a written knowledge test. (CDL-A only)
- X Endorsement is a combination of H and N endorsements, and in its turn it allows you to transport hazardous materials in a tanker vehicle. In order to add X endorsement to your CDL you’ll be required to pass a written knowledge test.
Wait, There’s More! CDL License Restrictions
CDL restrictions apply to the type of a CMVs or cargo that you can’t transport regardless of your CDL type or endorsements. This doesn’t necessarily reflect on your skills as a driver, but may be added due to minor medical issues, age, or other specific state regulations. These restrictions slightly vary state-by-state
List of most common CDL restrictions:
- E Restriction means you’re not allowed to operate a CMV with a manual transmission. This type of restriction applies to all CDL classifications.
- L Restriction states that you may not use full air brakes. This restriction also applies to A, B, and C CDLs.
- M Restriction stops you from operating CDL-A passenger vehicles. However, it allows you to drive a school bus and/or CDL B and C passenger vehicles.
- N Restriction allows you to only operate CDL-C passenger vehicles or school buses, unless it requires CDL-B.
- O Restriction prohibits you from operating CDL-A vehicles with a 5th wheel connection.
- V Restriction indicates medical variance, exemption, or disability that was reported to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
- Z Restriction unlike restriction L indicates that you may not use full air brakes. The difference here is that you may still operate and use brakes on vehicles with hydraulic brakes.
Fuel For Thought
Trucking industry offers a wide variety of careers and is eager to welcome newly trained professionals every day. If you’re looking for a high-paying career with fast training, and you’re not afraid to put a few miles under your belt, trucking just might just be the right fit for you!