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What Can You Do with a CDL?

Holding a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) allows Drivers the option to choose between local and cross-country jobs based on their needs or interest. Meanwhile, holding a Class B or C allows Drivers to operate locally while still spending time on the road. These three options give Drivers the flexibility to choose the kind of driving roles* best suited to their lifestyle and preferences.

What Can You Drive with a CDL License?

Each class of a commercial driver’s license (CDL) prepares Drivers to operate different kinds of vehicles. Classes are ranked from A to C, with A being the highest level CDL a Driver can hold. The kind of vehicles Drivers can operate depends on the CDL license** they hold.

CDL Class A

Class A is the highest level commercial driver’s license a Driver can hold. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, holding a Class A license allows Drivers to operate Class B and C vehicles in addition to:

  • a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 26,001 pounds
  • a combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of more than 26,001 pounds provided the GVWR of vehicles being toward are in excess of 10,000 pounds

This allows Drivers to operate both straight trucks, also called box trucks or cube trucks, and combination vehicles. Straight trucks are connected from the cab to the rear by a single frame. They come in a variety of lengths and sizes but can be identified by their box-like cargo compartment.

Common types of straight trucks include, but aren’t limited to:

  • dump trucks
  • fire trucks
  • school buses
  • transit buses
  • utility trucks
  • delivery trucks
  • cement mixers
  • tow trucks and more

Combination vehicles are composed of a rig and a tractor trailer, semi-trailer, or a detachable storage department. These vehicles are often longer and heavier than other commercial vehicles. While some combination vehicles have only one attachment, others may have multiple.
Some different combination vehicle types include:

  • flatbed trailers
  • big rigs, or 18-wheelers
  • semi-trucks with trailers
  • livestock trailers
  • double trailers and more

Holding a Class A allows Drivers to transport their cargo across state lines. This can be appealing for those interested in exploring new places and traveling cross-country; however, should Drivers later choose to work locally, their Class A can be used to help secure work for positions requiring a Class B.
We recommend those interested in pursuing a Class A license start by enrolling in a CDL Class A training program. Doing so can help aspiring Drivers develop confidence behind the wheel as they prepare for their CDL Skills Test**.

CDL Class B

  • Class B is the second highest level license a Driver can hold and allows Drivers to operate:
  • a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more
  • a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more that’s towing a vehicle with a GVWR of less than 10,00 pounds or a farm trailer with a GVWR of less than 20,000 pounds
  • a bus seating 24 passengers or more including the driver
  • Class C vehicles

Class B licenses allow Drivers to operate a range of single vehicular trucks. It allows them to transport passengers, packages, supplies, and more across town. This license can be a good fit for those interested in pursuing local driving jobs rather than cross-country roles.
While specific licensure requirements may vary based on the employer, some roles that may require a Class B include school bus drivers, shuttle bus operators, and transit bus drivers. Aspiring Drivers with little to no interest in driving cross-country may find a CDL Class B training program to be beneficial for their goals.
If someone holding a Class B later decides they want to pursue cross-country roles, they must first earn their Class A. Taking a Class A training program can prepare them to safely operate long-haul commercial vehicles on interstates and other public roads.

CDL Class C

Class C CDLs allow Drivers to operate a single vehicle or a combination of vehicles not categorized as Class A or B if it is:

  • made to carry 16 to 23 people including the driver
  • a single vehicle with a GVWR less than 26,001 pounds towing a farm trailer with a GVWR under 20,000 pounds
  • used to transport hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded
  • an autocycle

Holding a Class C license allows Drivers to operate emergency vehicles, small passenger vehicles, utility service vehicles, and more. Similarly to Class B, those with a Class C transport goods, equipment, or individuals locally.

Can a CDL Be Upgraded?

If a Driver currently holds a CDL Class A, they cannot upgrade their license as this is the highest level available. If the Driver holds a CDL B, they can undergo training to earn their CDL A. Those with a CDL C have the option to pursue either a Class B or a Class A; however, they don’t have to do this in any particular order.

If someone with a Class C wants to earn their Class A, they can enroll in a related training program to learn how to operate combination vehicles. They don’t have to earn a Class B prior to earning their Class A.

Is Earning a CDL Worth It?

Whether or not holding a CDL is worth it depends on a Driver’s personal interests, career goals, and desired lifestyle. Earning a CDL can prepare a Driver for a range of local and cross-country opportunities. Holding a CDL A or B in Texas can give Drivers even more career flexibility as Texas currently:

  • employs the most Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers in the nation
  • ranks second for employing the most Light Truck Drivers in the nation

According to the Texas Workforce Commission’s 2023 Report on Texas Growth Occupation, careers for Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers are expected to grow by 14.9% between 2020 and 2030. If these predictions hold, an average of 2,149 positions may become available for Drivers in Texas.

Those interested in careers allowing them to stay closer to home, such as being a Delivery Truck Driver, may anticipate a career growth rate of 10% between 2022-32. If the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) projections hold, an average of around 203,800 openings will be available each year.

Prepare for a CDL with STVT

Whether a Driver longs for the open road or to serve their community, earning a CDL can take them one step closer toward their goals. Each CDL class qualifies Drivers to operate different kinds of vehicles, which allows them to choose their path in the trucking industry.

At South Texas Vocational Technical Institute (STVT), we’re ready to help aspiring Drivers put their goals in motion. With our hands-on CDL Training: Class A Tractor Trailer and CDL Training: Class B programs, aspiring graduates can prepare for their CDL exams** in as little as four weeks.

Interested in learning more about our programs? Call (866) 480-9766 or submit this form for more information.

*South Texas Vocational Technical Institute (STVT) cannot guarantee employment or salary.


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.