Class A vs Class B CDL – Honest Comparison (2021)

| Last Updated: November 7, 2021

Do you have trouble deciding between getting a Class A and Class B CDL?

You aren’t alone. Many trucking aspirants are usually confused about which CDL they should take between Class A and Class B. 

We’ve found that one is ideal for truckers looking for optimal employability, lifelong career, and higher earning potential, and the other for those looking for a short-term career.

Let’s discover this together!

TL;DR: Class A vs Class B CDL

Class A

Class B

PROS

PROS

  • Higher earning potential
  • Ideal for a lifelong career

  • Higher demand for Class A drivers

  • Permission to drive Class A and Class C CMVs

  • Longer driving distances, hence more sightseeing

  • Costs less than Class A
  • Permission to drive Class C vehicles
  • Ideal for a short-term or transition career

CONS

CONS

  • Takes less than Class B
  • More expensive than Class B
  • Holders earn less than Class A truckers
  • Geographically limited to a state or one metro area
  • Fewer job opportunities with high competition
  • BEST FOR

    BEST FOR

    Best for people looking for a long-term or lifelong career with high earning potential and job security.

    Best for people looking for a short-term or transition career.

    What is a Class A?

    A Class A CDL is a legal permit granted to commercial drivers licensing them to operate any vehicle whose gross combination weight rating (GCWR) is 26,001 pounds or more, towing another whose gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 10,000 pounds or more. 

    The acronym “CDL” stands for “Commercial Driver’s License“, and collectively refers to the legal permit issued to commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers for Classes A, B, and C CMVs.

    What Can I Drive With a Class A CDL?

    With a Class A CDL, you can drive any of the following types of CMVs:

    • Semi-tractors
    • Trailers
    • Livestock carriers
    • Tanker vehicles
    • Flatbeds
    • Tractor-trailers, also called big rigs, semis, or 18-wheelers 
    • Truck-trailer combinations, including triple and double trailers

    With the proper endorsements such as Passenger (P) and School Bus (S), Class A CDL truckers can drive vehicles in Class B and Class C. 

    How Long Does It Take To Get a Class A CDL?

    Class A CDL aspirants take seven weeks on average to obtain their commercial driver’s license through a full-time CDL training program by attending classes eight hours a day, five days a week. 

    However, you can get your CDL sooner in four weeks if you attend an accelerated program by a trucking company or CDL school. 

    There’s another aspect of the process that will determine how long it takes to pocket your CDL. Once you pass the skills test, the CDL takes 2-3 weeks to arrive by mail. 

    What is a Class B CDL? 

    A Class B CDL is the legal driving permit for drivers operating any single vehicle whose gross vehicle weight rating is 26,001 pounds or more, or any combination vehicle with a gross combination weight rating amounting to 26,001 pounds or more that pulls another with a gross vehicle weight rating less than 10,000 pounds. 

    What Can I Drive With a Class B CDL?

    If you obtain a Class B CDL, you can drive any of the following types of commercial motor vehicles in the US:

  • Garbage trucks
  • Cement mixers
  • Dump trucks
  • Buses such as school, tourist, city, and segmented buses
  • Straight trucks
  • Box trucks, including delivery trucks and furniture trucks
  • With the proper endorsements, such as HazMat endorsement, Class B CDL drivers can drive Class C CMVs. 

    How Long Does It Take To Get a Class B CDL?

    Most aspirants take 2-3 weeks on average to obtain a Class B CDL in a full-time professional CDL training course. However, some take 6-7 weeks, depending on their availability and learning capability.

    Some accelerated CDL training courses will help you obtain a Class B CDL in one week only, but you have to put in long studying hours. You’ll then wait 2-3 weeks for the CDL to arrive via mail.

    Similarities and Differences

    Classes A and B CDLs have several differences and similarities that we will discuss in this section to make it easier for you to choose the one more suitable for you. 

    What’s The Difference Between a Class A and Class B CDL?

    Class A and Class B CDL have several differences as outlined below.

    Types of CMVs Allowed

    From the foregoing, Class A and Class B CDLs both allow the holder to drive different types of commercial motor vehicles based on the vehicle’s weight rating. 

    A Class A CDL applies to any combination vehicle whose GCWR is 26,001 pounds or more, with a towed GVWR exceeding 10,000 pounds. 

    On the other hand, a Class B CDL applies to either combination or single vehicles. For Class B CMVs, the GVWR is 26,001 pounds or more for singles. 

    Class B combination vehicles should have a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, with the towed vehicle rated less than 10,000 pounds in GVWR. 

    Photo credit: dmv.ca.gov

    Earning Potential

    Under normal circumstances and market dynamics, you will earn more as a Class A trucker than a Class B driver. 

    Employment Opportunities

    There are more job opportunities in Class A than Class B. Class B has fewer jobs with very high competition, making it harder to land a job with a Class B CDL.

    Time It Takes to Get Your CDL

    Most Class A CDL truckers take seven weeks to obtain their CDL, while Class B CDL drivers usually take six or three weeks. 

    Class A CDL involves taking more and detailed training, which prolongs how much time it takes to study.

    Cost to Get CDL

    The longer and more detailed training requirements for Class A CDL result in a higher cost to get your license compared to Class B CDL. 

    The higher earning potential, job security, and employment opportunities also mean that trainers will charge you more to get your Class A CDL. 

    You can expect to spend $2,500-$13,000 for a Class A and $1,500-$12,000 for a Class B license. 

    How Are a Class A and Class B CDL Similar?

    Despite the many differences between Class A and Class B CDL, the following similarities are notable.

    Permission to Drive CMVs in Other Classes

    You can drive Class B and Class C vehicles with a Class A CDL with the correct endorsements. Similarly, a Class B CDL with the proper endorsements allows you to drive Class C vehicles.

    However, a Class B driver cannot drive Class A CMVs. You would have to upgrade from Class B to A first. 

    CDL Cost Spread Over the Same Variables

    The slight difference in cost between Class A and Class B CDL doesn’t mean that one has more payable items than the other. 

    Rather, the items or variables over which the cost is spread are the same for the two CDLs, only that these variables may be charged differently depending on the state, CDL school, and market dynamics. 

    Some of the variables that account for the $1,500-$13,000 total cost include:

    • $6-$43 in application fees
    • $40-$170 in CDL fees (for the license itself). For example, Alabama charges you $53.50 for Class A CDL and $43.50 for a Class B license.
    • $10-$125 in CLP fees
    • $25-$35 in CLP knowledge test
    • On average, $3,000-$5,000 in CDL training school fees. School fees can be as low as $1,500 and up to $8,000 or more, depending on the school, state, and type of CDL. 
    • $2-$80 for each endorsement you add
    • $20-$250 in Skills test fees
    • $80-$150 of Transportation (DOT) exam, depending on the state and doctor.
    • Other related variables such as meals, transport, and accommodation.

    Obtaining a CDL Without Going to School

    You can get your Class A or Class B CDL without going to a formal or professional truck driving school. 

    If you have a friendly sponsor who holds a CDL for the class you want, they can train you to operate CMVs for that class. 

    The one major downside to getting your CDL privately is that your employability rate will be lower. Most trucking companies want to employ drivers with official truck driving training. 

    What About Class C?

    A Class C CDL is a legal driver’s permit given to commercial drivers operating passenger vehicles carrying 16 or more people (including the driver), placarded vehicles transporting hazardous materials, or any CMVs that do not fall into either Class A or Class B. 

    Drivers with a Class C CDL can operate small trucks pulling a small trailer, small HazMat vehicles, and passenger vans. 

    The time to get a Class C CDL can be up to seven weeks in a full-time professional CDL program or less, depending on the school or company and your learning ability. 

    Of the three types of CDL, you will earn the least amount of money with a Class C license. 

    You can also get your Class C CDL without going to school by training under a sponsor, but your employability will be affected. 

    A Class C CDL won’t allow you to drive any vehicles in Class A or Class B, but you can upgrade to a Class B CDL and even Class A with time if you would like to explore greener pastures. 

    Bottom Line

    The type of CDL you’ll choose between Class A and Class B will depend a lot on your preferences, career aspirations, and aptitude. If you want a tougher challenge, you should go for Class A CDL. 

    A Class A CDL is ideal for commercial drivers seeking a long-term trucking career with higher employability and earning potential. 

    A Class B CDL is ideal for truckers seeking a short-term career, especially with a job that limits them geographically to one state or metro area. 

    People Also Ask

    Below is a list of questions most people ask about Class A And Class B CDL. We hope this section deepens your understanding of the two CDLs with answers to aspects not covered in the article. 

    What Pays More, Class A or Class B?

    You will earn more with a Class A CDL than a Class B license. 

    According to ZipRecruiter, the national average annual salary for Class A CDL drivers is $56,755 and $40,000 for Class B CDL drivers, according to Zippia.

    How Much Does a Class A CDL Cost?

    A Class A CDL costs between $2,500 and $13,000, with the variables being similar to those discussed above. 

    The cost here varies depending on the school, state, and other factors such as your location in relation to the school. 

    How Much Does It Cost To Get a Class B CDL?

    A Class B CDL costs between $1,500 and $12,000. The variables the total cost is spread over are the same ones we discussed earlier. 

    The total cost also varies by school, state, and other aspects like the distance between the school and your current residence. 

    How Can I Upgrade My Class B to Class A?

    The only way to upgrade your CDL license from Class B to Class A is to take the Class A CDL training course and pass the skills test for the class. 



    After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.