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 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 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
While the Class B CDL is different from Class A and Class C licenses, drivers who hold a CDL B may 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 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 types of commercial driver’s licenses, designated Class A, Class B, and Class C. All 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.
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 starting from scratch. In 2019, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) streamlined 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 state 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 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 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?
Getting a Class B CDL involves several steps before earning this license. Each state has its own specific license requirements, so it’s essential to take the time to research your local licensing body to determine your eligibility and the exact steps involved.
You need to take these steps 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 get at least 14 days before moving on to the next step. Some states require more time, so 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 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 ensure you haven’t had any serious incidents.
Applicants must also provide their medical history to confirm they are fit and healthy enough to be in charge of large vehicles. 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. In some states, attending a CDL school is a legal requirement 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 search for company-sponsored training with specific trucking carriers.
As of February 2022, additional federal regulations for Entry-Level Driver Training went into effect. As a result, 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 more manageable.
Step 3: Take Your CDL Class B Test
Upon completing your training, you must pass written and practical driving tests. The CDL skills test comprises a vehicle inspection, basic controls, and road tests. 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 tricky. If you’re a safe and competent driver and have completed a CDL training program, you’re in reasonably good shape. Make sure to read your state’s commercial driver’s license manual, which often provides 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 your state, 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 usually takes four to eight weeks (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 as much as their CDL A counterparts, there’s still good money to be made. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021, bus drivers earned an average annual wage of $51,310, while light truck drivers earned an average of $42,630.
Future job opportunities are also looking positive, with the employment of passenger vehicle drivers expected to increase by an incredible 25% between 2020-2030.