What is the Main Difference Between CDL-A and CDL-B?

CDL class a Illinois vs Illinois CDL class b

Are you interested in a career in the transportation industry? Or does your employer require you to have a Commercial Driver’s License or CDL?

If you’ve been researching different CDL classes, you likely have questions related to the licensing process and the requirements to start a truck driving career. 

Understanding the difference between Class A and Class B CDL can help you better understand which license you need to become a commercial truck driver. 

Ultimately, determining which CDL class is best for you depends on your individual career goals and interests. This article takes a closer look at the difference between CDL-A and CDL-B classifications to help you understand which is right for you and your career goals.

CDL Class A and CDL Class B Defined

Class A CDL or CDL-A

  • CDL-A allows the driver to operate any vehicle with a semi-trailer or a trailer with two or more axles. A common Class A vehicle is a tractor trailer, also known as a semi.
  • This includes combination vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, provided the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.

Class B CDL or CDL-B

  • CDL-B allows the driver to operate any single vehicle with a GVWR greater than 26,001 pounds. Common vehicles include school buses, dump trucks and straight trucks.
  • Can tow a vehicle as long as it does NOT exceed 10,000 pounds GVWR.

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Difference Between Class A and Class B CDL

To break it down, if your commercial vehicle weighs over 26,001 pounds (excluding trailers), you need a Commercial Drivers License or CDL, to drive that vehicle. Driving a commercial vehicle requires greater knowledge, experience, and physical ability than simply driving a car.

If you are pulling a commercial trailer that weighs over 10,000 pounds (most commercial trailers do), you will need a Class A CDL. Combination vehicles, such as tractor trailers or semi-trailers, always meet the requirements for CDL-A. If you’re interested in pursuing virtually any commercial driving career, this may be the best option for you.

A CDL-B is typically only for lighter vehicles, such as a straight truck or bus. So, a CDL-B could be considered more “limiting” in regards to the type of commercial driving career opportunities you can pursue. 

We’ll now explore the difference between CDL A and CDL B vehicles and careers, including the benefits and considerations for each.

Why should I earn a CDL-A License in Illinois?

To operate the following vehicles, drivers are required to hold a CDL-A commercial license. These vehicles and trailers often require greater training and skill to maneuver:

  • Tractor trailers
  • Truck & trailer combinations
  • Double and triple trailers
  • Tractor trailer buses
  • Tanker vehicles
  • Livestock carriers
  • Flatbeds

Common job titles for CDL-A operators include: 

  • Truck Driver
  • Line Haul Driver
  • Log Truck Driver
  • Over the Road Driver (OTR Driver)
  • Production Truck Driver
  • Semi Truck Driver
  • Tractor Trailer Operator
  • Tow Truck Drivers

If you hold a CDL-A, you are also authorized to operate any vehicle that requires a CDL-B license. This allows you to operate a wider variety of commercial vehicles and have broader career opportunities, which can potentially increase your earning potential.  

What can you drive with a CDL B license?

A CDL-B commercial license is required to drive the following vehicles:

  • Limousine
  • Transit bus
  • Cement truck
  • School bus
  • Dump truck
  • Boom truck
  • Garbage truck

If your job only requires operating one of these vehicles, you may not need to earn your CDL-A.

These types of CDL B driving jobs may be ideal for those who want to work in a more limited geographical area (stay close to home), or if trucking is not a long-term career path. 

Get Your CDL A License Training at MTI

The first step toward earning your CDL-A is enrolling in a FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) approved ELDT (Entry Level Driver Training) training program. MTI’s CDL Schools in Illinois and Missouri offer a CDL Training Course.

At MTI, students learn truck driving procedures and techniques through classroom learning and behind-the-wheel driving practice from instructors with real-world trucking experience. 

Here’s what you can expect when you attend MTI to train for your CDL license:

  • Classroom theory focusing on CDL A requirements, driving safety, combination vehicles, air brakes, trip planning, and more.
  • Behind-the-wheel experience operating commercial vehicles on the driving range to learn driving skills such as backing, parking, docking, managing speed and space relations, how to handle driving conditions, driving hazards, and more.

After completion of the CDL Training Course, students will be prepared to take the CDL licensing exam and earn their CDL A license.

  • Satellite Location (CDL Range):
    • 4600 Rodger St. Springfield, IL 62703

In addition to the Illinois CDL school, MTI also offers the CDL Training Course at the Springfield, Missouri campus.

  • CDL Training Springfield, MO
    • 3600 S. Glenstone Outer Road Springfield, MO 65804
    • (417) 884-1562
  • Satellite Location (CDL Range):
    • 5284 W. Sunshine Brookline, MO 65619

Get on the road to earning your CDL A license