Different Types of CDL Licenses, Endorsements, and Restrictions

In this Article

Legislation dating back to April of 1992 requires professional drivers to carry a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) in order to drive Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV). 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has developed and issued standards for the testing and licensing of Commercial Driver’s License holders. These standards require states to issue Commercial Driver’s Licenses to Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers only after the driver successfully completes the required examinations administered by the state. You are required to get and hold a CDL if you drive a vehicle in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce that meets any of the classifications of a CMV described below.

Classes of Commercial Driver's Licenses

The Federal standard requires states to issue a commercial license to drivers according to the following license classifications:

CDL Class A

Any combination of vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 or more pounds provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.

CDL Class B

Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR.

CDL Class C

Any single vehicle or combination of vehicles that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers. Or, a Class C license may be needeed if the material being transported has been designated as hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103, and is required to be placarded under subpart F of 49 CFR Part 172, or is transporting any quantity of a material listed as a select agent or toxin in 42 CFR Part 73.

CDL Endorsements List

Drivers who operate special types of CMVs also need to pass additional tests to obtain any of the following endorsements on their commercial license:

If you fail the air brake component of the general CDL knowledge test or perform the skills test in a vehicle not equipped with air brakes, you are issued an air brake restriction, preventing you from operating a CMV equipped with air brakes.

You must take the skills test in a motor vehicle that represents the type of motor vehicle you operate or expect to operate as defined by the vehicle classifications described above. While these classifications are general for the class of vehicle, additional requirements exist for the passenger and school bus endorsements. To obtain a passenger endorsement, you must test in a passenger vehicle. To obtain a school bus endorsement, you must test in a passenger vehicle equipped with school bus features (lights, signs, etc.).

If you possess a Class A CDL but obtain your passenger or school bus endorsement in a Class B vehicle, the state must place an M restriction indicating that you can only operate Class B and C passenger vehicles or school buses. If you have a Class B CDL but get your passenger or school bus endorsement in a Class C vehicle, the state must place an N restriction indicating that you can only operate Class C passenger vehicles or school buses.

CDL License Restrictions List

List of common types of CDL License restrictions:

  • B = Corrective Lenses
  • C = Mechanical Aid
  • D = Prosthetic Aid
  • E = Automatic Transmission Only
  • F = Duel Outside Mirror
  • G = Daylight Only Operation
  • J = School/Activity Bus Only
  • K = CDL Intrastate Only
  • L = No Air Brake CMV
  • M = Group B or Group C Passenger Vehicles
  • N = Group C Passenger Vehicles Only
  • Q = Bus Only
  • T = Hazmat Prohibited
  • U = Hearing Aid Required
  • V = Medical Variance Required
  • W = Medical Waiver Required
  • X = No Cargo in CMV Tank Vehicle
  • Z = No Full Air Brake Equipped CMV

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