What Class of License Do You Need to Drive an 18-Wheeler in Texas?

A commercial driver’s license, or CDL, allows for commercial transport to take place. Every state has their own requirements for CDL licensing, but there are typically three types of licenses that a commercial driver can obtain:

  • Class A
  • Class B
  • Class C

CDL drivers may also obtain different endorsements, such as being able to haul hazardous materials or to drive tankers. There is a lot of confusion over the difference between the Class C CDL license and the others.

What is a Commercial Driver’s License?

Commercial driver’s licenses are issued for anyone who wants to operate a commercial vehicle. These licenses require a person to:

  • Take and pass a written exam
  • Take and pass a road test

Most CDL drivers will go to truck driving school to learn how to operate an 18 Wheeler. The test will require that the driver have access to their own vehicle for testing, and this is where an appropriate school is beneficial.

Roughly 70% of all domestic freight in the United States is transported on 18 Wheelers. Operating these rigs will require one of two main licenses:

  • Class A: The typical license that a big rig driver obtains. A Class A license allows for the operator to operate a combination of vehicles that have a weight of 26,001 pounds or higher. The vehicle(s) being towed must have a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or higher.
  • Class B: A CDL B allows the operator to operate a single vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds. If towing a vehicle, the vehicle’s weight must not exceed 10,000 pounds. Passenger vehicles that transport 24 or more persons will require a Class B license. If a driver takes their driving test in a school bus, they will be required to operate buses that weigh less than 26,001 pounds.

What is a Class C License?

A Class C license is still a commercial driver’s license, but it’s not a license that allows you to drive a big rig. The CDL C license is what drivers get when they want to operate a vehicle that does not fall within the Class A or B definition.

The Class C license allows the operator to operate a vehicle that has 16 – 23 passengers, including the driver.

A Class C license may also allow for the hauling of hazardous material under the state’s 49 CFR, Part 172, Subpart F classification.

School bus drivers, for example, would have to obtain their Class B or Class C license. This still remains a commercial license, but it is meant for drivers of passenger vehicles.

Class B and Class C licenses may seem similar due to the fact that both allow for the operation of passenger vehicles that hold numerous passengers. The difference is that a Class B license is for operating a vehicle with 24 or more passengers, while Class C allows for 16 – 23 passengers to be transported.

If a CDL holder wants to be able to operate a school bus, they will need to also obtain their School Bus (S) endorsement. The endorsement will require an additional knowledge exam along with another driving test. There is also a Passenger (P) endorsement that requires both a knowledge and driving test.

So, if you want to drive an 18 Wheeler or large truck, you’ll need to obtain your CDL A or CDL B license. If you want to drive a bus or a vehicle that has 16+ passengers, you’ll need to obtain your CDL B or CDL C license.