If you are interested in obtaining a Class A driver's license to increase your flexibility as a driver or advance your career, you need to follow a simple process. While licensing application procedures vary slightly by state, federal law oversees the requirements to obtain a Class A license. You will be expected to obtain a permit, gain driving experience with a licensed Class A driver and then take a test, much like applying for a traditional Class D license (the kind most people have if they operate only their car, van or truck).
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Class A licenses are required for the operation of vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more with a towed weight of at least 10,000 pounds. To obtain a Class A license, you will need to take a permit test, gain driving experience and take a three-part driving test.
What is a Class A License?
Class A licenses are required for the operation of vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more with a towed weight of at least 10,000 pounds. Vehicles in this category include, but are not limited to, tractor trailers, flatbed trucks and livestock carriers.
With a Class A license, you also may be able to drive certain B and C class vehicles provided you have the proper permits.
How Do I Obtain a Class A License?
A Class A license is considered a Commercial Driver License, or CDL. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the requirements of obtaining a CDL, regardless of individual state application processes.
To be eligible for a CDL, the FMCSA requires that you be 21 years of age (if you’ll be driving across state lines or transporting hazardous materials) and have no prior disqualifying criminal offenses.
In order to obtain a Class A driver's license, familiarize yourself with all the requirements, and be sure you are prepared to follow all rules and regulations.
Next, visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles or your state’s DMV website and find out when permit tests are offered. Permit tests for a Class A license include questions on air brakes, combination vehicles and general knowledge. You may be able to get a permit test study guide online or at your local DMV to help you prepare. Sign up to take a permit test once you have studied thoroughly.
If you wish to add any Commercial Driver License (CDL) endorsements, study for those exams, as well. Some endorsements, such as for hazardous materials, require a background check. Your Department of Motor Vehicles office can instruct you further in signing up for CDL endorsements.
According to the FMCSA, you are required to have your CDL permit for 14 days before taking your licensing test. As with a Class D driver's license, the last step in the process to obtaining a Class A license is to pass a test. Tests involve three parts, including a pre-trip inspection test, a basic skills test and a driving test.
How Much Does it Cost to Get a Class A License?
Fees for Class A permits and road tests are usually less than $100 in total, depending on your state. However, if you plan to attend CDL or trucking school, you may be expected to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $8,000 for courses.
How Do Class A Licenses Differ by State?
Some states do not identify licenses as Class A, B, C, D and so on. These states are Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, Rhode Island and South Carolina. You are still able to obtain licensing with similar permissions in these states; however, the Class A naming convention doesn’t exist.
To obtain additional information about Class A licenses in your state, contact your local DMV. If you are obtaining a Class A Commercial Driver License, speak with your employer to determine what, if any, additional requirements or permits are required. Additionally, employers may reimburse you for some or all of the costs associated with obtaining your Class A license, so be sure to inquire.