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Types of Vehicles That Require a CDL

Have you ever dreamt of cruising down the highway in a giant eighteen-wheeler? Big rigs are undeniably impressive machines, but before you hop behind the wheel of one, there’s an important hurdle to jump: the CDL, or Commercial Driver’s License. Not all trucks require a CDL, but for the bigger ones, it is a must-have. So, which trucks need a CDL and what kind of license are we talking about? Let’s untangle the requirements and get you ready to hit the road!

What Trucks Require a CDL?

Imagine a massive line of traffic, and a semi-truck dwarfs all the cars around it. That’s because these giants are built for serious hauling. Now, picture a smaller pickup truck used for everyday jobs. The key difference here is weight.

In the US, if you’re operating a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, you’ll need a CDL. GVWR basically means the maximum weight a vehicle can legally reach when loaded up. So, those heavy-duty trucks designed to carry tons of cargo definitely fall under the CDL requirement.

But what about some in-between cases? Let’s say you’re driving a truck pulling a trailer. Here, the combined weight of the truck and trailer (gross combination weight rating or GCWR) comes into play. If the GCWR is 26,001 pounds or more, and the trailer itself weighs over 10,000 pounds, then a CDL is necessary.

Remember: Not all commercial vehicles require a CDL. Smaller delivery trucks or box trucks might fall under regular driver’s license regulations, depending on their weight.

What Size Truck Requires a CDL

We’ve established weight is king when it comes to CDL requirements. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Needs a CDL: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more. This includes large dump trucks, concrete mixers, and some garbage trucks.
  • Needs a CDL (depending on trailer weight): Any vehicle towing another vehicle, where the combined GCWR is 26,001 pounds or more, and the towed vehicle weighs over 10,000 pounds. This applies to many tractor-trailer combinations.
  • No CDL required: Smaller pick-up trucks, delivery trucks, and box trucks typically fall under regular driver’s license regulations, as long as their weight stays below the CDL threshold.

Tip: If you’re unsure about a specific truck’s weight requirements, check the manufacturer’s label or consult your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Which Type of CDL is the Most Common?

There are different classes of CDLs, each authorizing you to operate specific types of vehicles. But for most truck drivers, the Class A CDL reigns supreme. This is the “big daddy” of CDLs, allowing you to drive pretty much any combination of vehicles exceeding the weight limits we mentioned before. Think massive tractor-trailers crisscrossing the country – those require a Class A CDL.

Other CDL classes exist, like the Class B for operating single vehicles over 26,000 pounds, or the Class C for carrying 16 or more passengers (think buses). However, the Class A CDL offers the most flexibility for truck drivers looking to haul a wide range of heavy cargo.

What’s My Next Step?

For those living in Texas who are interested in starting your CDL journey, South Texas Vocational Technical Institute offers the CDL Training: Class A Tractor-Trailer Program at all six of their campus locations, providing training for aspiring commercial drivers. Additionally, their Arlington campus offers a specialized CDL Training: Class B Program tailored to meet the needs of local drivers. We can help you get the training for the future you want. Take the next step in your journey with the vocational or skills-based education available at STVT.



Information within this blog is for general information purposes only. STVT does not assume or guarantee certification/licensures, specific job/career positions, income earning potential or salary expectations based on the programs offered at STVT. Career and program information statements in this blog do not guarantee that programs or other information mentioned are offered at STVT.