What is a Class C License?

By Danielle Smyth - Updated March 09, 2018
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Class C licenses are a type of driver's license in the United States. They differ from other license classes, such as A, B and D, both in terms of what is required to obtain one and the sorts of vehicles you can drive once you possess one. Class C licenses can be commercial or non-commercial, and permissions vary by state. Some states, such as New York, no longer offer a non-commercial Class C license. In many other states, you are still able to obtain one.

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A Class C license is required if you hope to drive a vehicle containing 16 or more individuals, including yourself. Additionally, you will need a Class C license if you hope to transport hazardous materials (as defined under federal law).

What is a Non-Commercial Class C License?

A non-commercial Class C license is typically used for recreation vehicles such as tractors, lawn mowers or full-sized campers. Additional permits may also be required depending on your jurisdiction.

What is a Commercial License?

A commercial driver license, or CDL, is required to drive commercial motor vehicles of any kind, including tractor trailers, semi trucks, dump trucks or passenger buses.

On October 27, 1986, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act was signed and made it mandatory that drivers of commercial vehicles have a CDL. The restrictions to obtain a CDL are different than those to obtain Class D licenses, the kind most people have to drive their car. These unique requirements have led to safer highways since the Act took effect.

How Does a Class C CDL Differ From Other Classes?

A Class C CDL is different from other CDL licenses. A Class C license is required if you hope to drive a vehicle containing 16 or more individuals, including yourself. Additionally, you will need a Class C license if you hope to transport hazardous materials (as defined under federal law).

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.

Class B licenses are required if you wish to drive vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or more with a towed weight of fewer than 10,000 pounds. Vehicles in this category include but are not limited to large passenger buses, dump trucks and some tractor trailers.

What Vehicles can you Drive With a Class C CDL?

If you have a Class C commercial driver license, you are eligible to operate small hazardous material vehicles, passenger vans and combination vehicles not covered under classes A or B.

Do Class C Licenses Differ by State?

The rules surrounding Class C licenses are very similar in most states. However, in others (Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Rhode Island, South Carolina and South Dakota), the classification doesn’t exist. These states use different naming conventions for their license structure.

To obtain additional information about Class C licenses in your state, contact your local department of motor vehicles. If you are obtaining a Class C Commercial Driver License, speak with your employer to determine what, if any, additional requirements or permits it might have. Some employers may also reimburse you the cost of training or testing related to obtaining a Class C license.

About the Author

Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. Her experience includes years of work in the insurance, workers compensation, disability, and background investigation fields. In addition to being the content writer and social media manager for Alliance Worldwide Investigative Group, she has written on legal topics for a number of other clients. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com), and she enjoys writing legal articles and blogs for clients in related industries.

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