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CDL Class Definitions

Since April 1, 1992, when the Act became law, all drivers have been required to have a CDL in order to drive a  Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has developed testing standards for licensing drivers. U.S. states are able to issue CDLs only after a written and practical test have been given by the State or approved testing facility.

Class A Commercial Vehicl
Truck and flatbed trailer

The minimum age to apply for a CDL is usually 21, as required by the United States Department of Transportation, although some states allow drivers who are 18 to 20 to apply for a CDL that is valid only within the driver’s state of residence. A single state CDL only restricts driving of CMVs within the holder’s state (not non-commercial vehicles), and automatically converts to a 50 state CDL at the age of 21.


A driver needs a CDL if the vehicle meets one of the following definitions of a CMV:

  •  Class A:

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

    • Washington State does not recognize class A passenger vehicles.

  •  Class B:

    • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more. 

    • Vehicles towing a trailer with a weight rating of 10,000 (GVWR) pounds or less.

    • Any vehicles listed under Class C, if properly endorsed.

  • Class C: Requires Special Endorsements 

    • Vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver.

    • Vehicles carrying hazardous materials that need a placard. 

Starting January 20, 2019 if you’re adding HME for the first time you're' required to complete hazmat training. 

For more information regarding a Hazardous Materials Endorsement (hazmat), please visit the DOL website:


Click the buttons below for additional information.

Keep in mind that the CDL classification you apply for will determine not only the type of vehicle you are allowed to drive, but also which endorsements you may be required to obtain.

CDL Testing: Backing Course
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