How to Get Your Commercial License (Class A or Class B)

All About Commercial Licenses & the DMV

How to Get Your Commercial License (Class A or Class B)

A Class A License is the most permissive commercial license and allows the holder to drive for compensation (i.e., for their job). It allows the holder to drive vehicles with trailers with more than two axels that weigh over 26,000 pounds and the vehicles permitted by B and C license classes.

A Class B License is the second most permissive commercial license, allowing the driving of a single vehicle of more than 26,000 pounds, towed vehicles of less than 10,000 and Class C vehicles.

Class A License and Class B Licenses are the two classes of commercial licenses. The difference between these two is not the process of obtaining them, but the material conditions of their use. A Class B License permits the driving of different vehicles than a Class A. As such, what the practice permit allows use of and the actual driving test will be different. However the written test and the application procedure is the same for both.

A commercial driver’s license may first be obtained at age 18 for driving in California. At 21, a commercial driver can be allowed to operate across state lines and haul hazardous materials.

Before you go to the DMV to get your license, you should obtain by mail or internet, the medical examination form, the DL 51, and have it completed by your doctor or primary care physician. It certifies that you are physically fit and competent enough to drive a large commercial vehicle. You will need to present this completed form when you go to the DMV to apply.

The next step is to go to the DMV and fill out applications. The first application, a DL 44C, is the basic application for a commercial driver’s license. A DL 939 is a 10-year history review that looks over your past ten years of driving if you have had a license of any type before applying for a commercial one. This must also be filled out. After this, you will be asked for your thumbprint, have your picture taken and your Social Security Number verified. You will also have to verify your birth date and legal presence with original government documents- your passport is an example. You will also need to pay the application fee. The application fee varies on exactly what you are applying for. An original commercial license fee is $70, while a renewal is $40. You must also pass your vision test and turn in the DL51 medical form you filled out earlier. Finally, one must take the written test. If you pass in three tries, you will be granted a Class A or a Class B driving permit. This allows you to practice diving with someone who already holds the type of license you are applying for.

If you are applying for a new hazardous materials certification or a renewal, you will take a written test, probably at the same time as your commercial written test. After this, you must pass a threat assessment administered by the TSA. You will need to fill out an application over the phone and pay the 94-dollar fee. You will also be asked to submit a current driver’s license as proof of identity and legal status. After this, you will need to appear for finger printing. After 30 days, you will be notified as to whether you have been approved. If you have, you can receive a hazmat endorsement. If you are not certified, you must address the reason therefore by appeal to the TSA. Those with certain criminal records are ineligible to haul hazardous materials.

The last hurdle is the driving test itself. After sufficient practice, call the DMV and schedule a commercial license driving test. Bring the kind of vehicle you want to drive. After passing a pre-trip inspection (you have three tries), you will take the driving skills test. If you pass that in three tries, you have your commercial license! If not, you will have to reschedule and try again.

A non-commercial Class A or B License, meaning one that will not be used for activities you would be paid for, may also be obtained to allow the private driving of Class A vehicles. The fee for applying for a non-commercial Class A or B License is $34. The process is the same.

Commercial Licenses - Keep on Truckin'
Under most circumstances, a driving test is required. However, there are situations under which a certificate of driving skill may be presented. A certificate of driving skill (A DL 170) may be presented if your employer is certified to do such. Members of the military returning to civilian life can also obtain a “troops to trucks” Military CDL driving waiver if they were employed in the military in the last year, haven’t been convicted of certain crimes and operated an equivalent vehicle.
VC 15250(a)

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