Class B Commercial Driver License Certification: Program Overview

A Class B Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a requirement for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers and bus drivers. Get some quick facts about the necessary training and prerequisites to qualify for a Class B commercial driver's license.

A class B commercial driver's license is required by all states for those driving heavy trucks as well as buses. The federal government sets requirements for these licenses, but each state is free to make the requirements more stringent than the federal requirements.

Essential Information

While certification programs that prepare drivers to obtain a Class B commercial driver license (CDL) aren't available, drivers can enroll in CDL training programs to get ready for the required licensing exam. These programs combine behind-the-wheel training with classroom instruction.

Required Education Completion of a Class B CDL training program at a vocational school or community college and passage of a CDL examination
Required Skills Gear shifting and vehicle control, backing, parking and docking, loading and unloading, and highway driving
Licensure Valid driver's license required to earn CDL; learner's permit for CDL sometimes needed
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 5% for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers;
6% for transit and intercity bus drivers;
6% for school bus drivers
Median Salary (May, 2015)* $40,260 for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers;
$38,290 for transit and intercity bus drivers;
$29,490 for school bus drivers

Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics*

Class B CDL Description

A Class B CDL allows a driver to operate commercial trucks that have an attached cab and cargo area with a combined weight greater than 26,000 pounds, as well as trucks with a detached towed cargo vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds. Examples of vehicles that drivers with a Class B CDL license may operate include tow trucks, dump trucks, delivery trucks and utility trucks. Drivers of certain special-purpose vehicles, such as school buses, commercial buses, certain farm vehicles and fire engines, may have to satisfy additional test requirements.

Minimum requirements for earning a CDL license have been established by the federal government. State requirements may vary but must be at least as strict as federal regulations. CDL testing may be conducted by the state or through an authorized school or training program.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for tractor-trailer and other heavy truck drivers are expected to grow 5% from 2014-2024. The median salary for these workers was $40,260 in May 2015. Transit bus drivers should see 6% job growth, while job openings for school bus drivers should grow by 6% from 2014-2024. The median salary for transit bus drivers was $38,290 in May 2015, per the BLS, and school bus drivers earned a median of $29,490.

Training Program Information

Class B CDL training programs are offered by vocational schools and community colleges to provide training in the skills and knowledge needed to pass the state CDL examination. Program length varies by school but may be completed in four weeks or less. During the first few days of training, students are taught applicable traffic and trucking laws from their state's CDL manual and federal safety regulations. Students may learn about federal rules that apply to truck and cargo transportation, and they may learn how to complete relevant paperwork associated with transporting freight.

Instruction then moves outdoors where students learn how to perform a pre-trip truck and freight inspection. Significant time is devoted to behind-the-wheel training. Drivers enrolled in CDL training practice their truck driving skills while accompanied by a driver that already holds a CDL. Skills covered include:

  • Gear shifting and vehicle control
  • Backing, parking and docking
  • Loading and unloading
  • Highway and city driving
  • Defensive driving

Common Prerequisites

CDL training programs may require that applicants have a Class B CDL learner's permit, which usually requires a taking a test. Other requirements may include a minimum age of 18 (although 21 is also common), possession of a valid driver's license without infractions and completion of a medical and drug tests.

Those seeking a class B commercial driver's license can enroll in programs in vocational schools or community college to gain the skills and knowledge needed to pass the licensing exam. Training usually includes both classroom and hands-on training behind the wheel.

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