Trucking Tips: Types of CDL Licenses & How to Earn Them

Published Date: 3/28/2023

Updated Date: 3/29/2023

What are the different types of CDL Licenses?

Ranging from Class A to Class C, there are 3 types of CDL Licenses to choose from when pursuing a career as a professional driver. It is critical to find out the purpose of each type to ensure you obtain a CDL License that best suits your professional goals.

Types of CDL Licenses

If you are interested in driving Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV) professionally, you will need to earn a Commercial Driver's License (CDL License) to legally perform your duties.

CDL Licenses are primarily differentiated from one another based on the type, weight, and capacity of the vehicle being operated. Understanding the slight differences between the types of CDL Licenses can help you choose which is best for your needs.

For example, those seeking to become a truck driver at Swift Transportation will need to obtain their Class A License to be eligible for employment.

Class A License

The Class A CDL License is the most common of commercial licenses and is required to obtain for all aspiring truck drivers in order to legally pursue a career in trucking.

Like most grading systems, the Class A License is considered the highest ranking of licensure and provides drivers with the opportunity to drive vehicles of all class levels. Allowing them to operate combination and single vehicles from Class A to Class C. 

Vehicle types requiring a Class A License include:

  • Flatbeds
  • Tank vehicles
  • Livestock carriers


Class B License

A Class B CDL license is the type of license that a driver of single vehicles would need to obtain ahead of starting their professional career or driving one legally.

Though this license also grants drivers the ability to operate Class C vehicles. They will need to obtain additional licensing to operate a Class A vehicle – including associated truck and trailer combinations.

Vehicle types requiring a Class B License include:

  • Box trucks
  • Straight trucks
  • Segmented buses
  • Large passenger buses
  • Dump trucks with small trailers
  • Transporting 16+ passengers (driver included)
  • Combination vehicles below Class A and Class B
  • Tractor-trailers that do not exceed weight thresholds


Class C License

A Class C CDL License is specific to operating single Class C vehicles or combination vehicles that are not aligned with Class A or Class B criteria. Alternatively, this license can include the professional transportation of small hazardous materials vehicles.

Vehicle types requiring a Class C License include:

  • School busses
  • Passenger vans
  • Small HazMat vehicles
  • Combination vehicles not covered by Class A or Class B



Swift Transportation Academy driving instructor speaking with student driver.

What is the best way of obtaining a CDL License?

If you want to know how to get your CDL License, understand that it will include various skills and knowledge tests as well as passing a medical exam in order to meet all of the CDL License Requirements.

Noting that those who hold a CDL License are held to a higher standard when it comes to operating any type of motor vehicle on public roads. Which means that any serious traffic violations can result in their CDL License being taken away.

In order to obtain a CDL License you must complete the following steps:

Step 1: Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP)

Aspiring drivers will need to obtain their Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP) in order to participate in Over-the-Road Training with the support of a licensed CDL driver.

This is a step that will require drivers to pass knowledge tests as well as a driving record check that will go back 10 years and span the entire United States.

Most commercial driver trainees will also need to complete a physical examination in order to obtain a DOT medical card at this stage in their licensing journey.

Step 2: Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT)

If you are applying for a Class A or Class B License, you will need to complete Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) with a registered training provider prior to taking your CDL License tests.

Noting that drivers with their Commercial Learner's Permit (CLP) will be required to possess it for 14 days and complete all their ELDT training within that period of time.

Only once their ELDT training is finalized, drivers will become eligible to take their CDL skills tests to earn their Commercial Driver’s License.

Step 3: Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

In order to get your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), aspiring drivers will be required to pass 3 separate tests before earning their CDL License. These tests will include:

  • Vehicle Inspection Test
  • Basic Controls Test
  • Road Test
Swift Transportation 2023 blue dry van tractor and trailer.

Become a truck driver today

If you find yourself intrigued by the thought of becoming a professional driver, today may be the day to kickstart an ultra-rewarding CDL career path with Swift Transportation.

Whether you’re already a Class A Commercial Driver or consider yourself a trainee: We want to hear from you!

The Author

Swift Marketing

Swift Transportation is the Nation's #1 full truckload carrier. Swift offers Driving careers in our Linehaul, Refrigerated, Flatbed, Intermodal, Teams, and Dedicated divisions.