What is a Class A License?

By Chelsea Levinson - Updated March 09, 2018
White Bus driving along the asphalt road at sunset.

A Class A license is a type of commercial driver’s license. Since April 1, 1992, the U.S. government has required that drivers must hold a CDL to operate commercial vehicles such as tractor-trailers and buses. These requirements are in place to keep the roads safe. Operating oversized vehicles requires certain skills and a lot of practice. The states are responsible for granting CDLs to drivers. There are three classes of CDLs: Class A, Class B and Class C. If you want to pursue a Class A license, it’s helpful to understand the similarities and differences between the classes of CDLs.

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With a Class A license, you can operate any combination of vehicles weighing more than 26,001 pounds, where the towed vehicle or trailer weighs more than 10,000 pounds. Usually a Class A license is obtained to operate tractor-trailers or truck-and-trailer combinations.

Class A License

A Class A license allows you to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight of 26,001 pounds when towing a vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds. There are two parts here: The truck you are driving and the trailer you are towing. The trailer should be more than 10,000 pounds, and both the truck and the trailer together should weigh more than 26,001 pounds. Essentially, this license applies to tractor-trailers and truck-and-trailer combinations.

A Class B license allows you to drive a single vehicle with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or you can tow a trailer vehicle that is up to 10,000 pounds. A Class B license could apply to a box truck or a large bus, or allow you to tow a trailer that weighs less than 10,000 pounds.

A Class C license allows you to drive 16 or more passengers, including yourself. It also allows you to transport hazardous materials. A Class C license would permit you to operate a passenger van or a small hazmat vehicle.

Note that a Class A license may allow you to operate Class B and Class C commercial vehicles. However, you may need to earn a proper endorsement on your license first.

Endorsements on Licenses

An endorsement is a permission added to a previously existing license that allows the driver to operate a special vehicle. Certain commercial vehicles may require license endorsements before you get behind the wheel. One example is driving a school bus, which requires a special license endorsement. Always check with your state's licensing law to find out about endorsement requirements before operating a commercial vehicle.

Cost of a Class A License

To obtain a Class A license, you must be 18 years of age or 21 if you plan to drive across state lines. You must also have a valid state driver’s license. You have to pass a written exam and a road skills test. If you’re new to driving commercial vehicles, then you should consider taking a CDL training course. The cost of these training courses varies widely from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the company.

The fee for obtaining your Class A license from the DMV varies by state. In Nevada, for example, a CDL that requires a skills test costs about $145, and each endorsement costs an additional $15. In Pennsylvania, a CDL costs about $95, plus additional fees for any endorsements. Keep in mind that each test you take comes with a fee attached. Check with your state’s licensing law to find out how much a CDL costs where you live.

About the Author

Chelsea Levinson earned her J.D. from Cardozo. As a former policy researcher, she has a passion for communicating legal issues to the public. She has created legal and policy content for Vox, Levo, Run For Something and more.

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