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Class B CDL: Requirements, Training, and Careers

Earning a Class B commercial driver’s license (CDL B) can be the first step toward a long and successful truck driving career. Read on to learn more about the CDL B license, including information on what distinguishes it from other commercial driver’s licenses, how to obtain a Class B CDL, and the types of careers having a CDL B can lead to.

What Can You Drive With a Class B CDL?

A Class B commercial driver’s license (CDL B) allows drivers to operate any single vehicle weighing a total of 26,001 pounds or more, as long as it doesn’t have a trailer. It also allows them to tow another vehicle weighing up to—but not more than—10,000 pounds.

There are several types of vehicles that you can drive with a CDL B, including:

  • Straight trucks
  • Box trucks
  • Dump trucks
  • Buses

While the Class B CDL is different from both the Class A and Class C licenses, drivers who hold a CDL B may (in some cases) be authorized to operate Class C vehicles as long as they have the correct CDL endorsements.

Class B CDL Jobs

Having a current CDL B opens the doors to a whole range of different driving careers, including:

  • Delivery driver
  • City bus driver
  • School bus driver
  • Fire truck operator
  • Cement truck driver
  • Tow truck driver
  • Snowplow driver

What’s the Difference Between a Class A and Class B CDL?

A Class A CDL driver is allowed to drive trucks or a combined set of vehicles with a higher gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). A Class A CDL means you can drive a combination of vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, including a towed vehicle of over 10,000 pounds, while a Class B CDL holder can operate a single vehicle of 26,001 pounds or more or tow a vehicle under 10,000 pounds.

There are three different types of commercial driver’s licenses, designated Class A, Class B, and Class C. All three allow drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles, but they aren’t the same. The main difference between the three is the maximum gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) associated with each one.

To round out the three types of commercial driver’s licenses, a Class C CDL allows drivers to operate smaller vehicles with a GVWR of fewer than 26,001 pounds and vehicles that aren’t covered under Class A and Class B licenses. It also enables drivers to operate vehicles designed to transport 16 or more occupants and vehicles for transporting hazardous materials.

Is a Class B CDL Worth Getting?

A Class B CDL license can be a wise and valuable investment in your future career and is ideal for those who want to stick to local or regional positions and are happy operating smaller vehicles. However, if you prefer the idea of driving larger trucks and want to hit the open road, a CDL A might be more suitable for you.

Upgrading a CDL B to CDL A

If you’ve already earned your CDL B and want to upgrade to a CDL A, the licensure process is now quicker than for those who are starting from scratch. In 2019, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced streamlining of requirements in the CDL B to CDL A upgrade process. Anyone obtaining a CDL A through an upgrade from a CDL B is subject to the Entry-Level Driver Training rules, which states that you must receive your instruction from a registered Training Provider listed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Endorsements for Class B CDLs

Gaining a CDL B doesn’t automatically mean that you can drive all vehicles within the designated weight range. For some, you’ll still need additional endorsements—add-ons that prove you’re trained and capable of handling certain specialized types of vehicle or cargo. There’s a range of different endorsements available to CDL B drivers, including:

  • (H) Hazmat: allows drivers to transport hazardous materials
  • (N) Tank Vehicle: allows drivers to transport liquids
  • (P) Passenger Transport: allows drivers to operate a vehicle that will transport passengers (such as a bus)
  • (S) School Bus/Passenger Transport: allows drivers to operate a school bus
  • (X) Tanker and Hazardous Materials: allows drivers to transport both hazardous materials and liquids

To add endorsements to your license, you’ll need to pass a written knowledge test on the subject, and in some cases, a road test. Those wishing to gain the (S) endorsement to drive school buses must also pay a fee and complete a background check.

How Do You Get a Class B CDL?

The process of getting a Class B CDL isn’t normally too difficult, though there are several steps to complete before you can earn this license. Each state has its own specific license requirements, so it’s important to take the time to research your local licensing body to determine your eligibility and the specific steps involved. In general, these are the steps you’ll need to take to get your Class B CDL.

Step 1: Get Your Commercial Learner’s Permit

The first step to gaining a Class B CDL is to apply for and obtain a commercial license permit (CLP), which you must acquire at least 14 days before moving on to the next step. Some states require more time, so make sure to check this before beginning the process.

To apply for a CLP, you must:

  • Be at least 21 years old or 18 years old if you plan to only drive within one state.
  • Apply and pay for a commercial learner’s permit.
  • Provide proof of your Social Security number, identity, and residency.

You’ll also need to take and pass a written exam to demonstrate your knowledge and supply the relevant licensing body with the last ten years of your driving history to make sure you haven’t had any serious incidents.

Applicants also need to provide their medical history to confirm they are fit and healthy enough to be in charge of large vehicles. Having a Department of Transportation (DOT) medical card can often aid the process.

Step 2: Complete Your CDL Training Program

Once you’ve earned your CLP, you can register to participate in a CDL B training program of your choice. In some states, it’s a legal requirement to attend a CDL school before receiving your license, so it’s a good idea to research your options early on.

CDL training programs are designed to prepare you for your future career on the road, allowing you to study for your exam and practice your driving skills in a safe and monitored environment. You can find CDL training at licensed, certified, or accredited schools or you can search for company-sponsored training with specific trucking carriers.

Currently, all certified CDL programs are licensed by the state and certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). However, as of February 2022, new federal regulations around Entry-Level Driver Training went into effect. All new CDL Class A and B applicants (and those upgrading from a CDL B to a CDL A) must obtain training from a provider or school that meets certain specific standards. Schools that qualify are on a federal registry, which should make finding the right CDL training program much easier.

Step 3: Take Your CDL Class B Test

Upon completing your training, you’ll need to take a CDL B test. You must pass both written and practical driving tests. The CDL skills test comprises a vehicle inspection test, a basic controls test, and a road test. You’ll also need to pass written exams for any additional endorsements you want to add to your license.

Is the Class B CDL Test Hard?

For most people, the CDL B test is not too difficult—if you’re a safe and competent driver and have completed a CDL training program, you’ll likely pass the exam. Make sure to read your state’s commercial driver’s license manual, which often provides much of the information you’ll need to know to pass your knowledge tests.

Step 4: Get Your License and Endorsements

Once you’ve completed your CDL training and passed the exams, you’ll earn your CDL B license. Depending on the state you live in, you might receive it in person on the day you pass your road test, or you may get it through the mail.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Class B CDL?

It normally takes between four and eight weeks (or 70-120 hours) to complete CDL training and get a CDL B license—though you may be able to finish in as little as seven days.

Class B CDL Salary and Career Outlook

While CDL B drivers may not earn quite as much as their CDL A counterparts, there’s still good money to be made if you pick the right role. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2020, bus drivers earned an average annual wage of $48,110, while light truck drivers earned an average of $41,050.

Future job opportunities are also looking positive, with the employment of passenger vehicle drivers expected to increase by an incredible 25% between 2020-2030.