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.

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Essential Information

While certification programs to 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 (2012-2022)* 11% for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers;
10% for transit and intercity bus drivers;
9% for school bus drivers
Median Salary (May, 2013)* $38,700 for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers;
$36,700 for transit and intercity bus drivers;
$28,330 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 reported that jobs for tractor-trailer and other heavy truck drivers are expected to grow 11% from 2012-2022. The median salary for these workers was $38,700, as of May 2013. Transit bus drivers should see 10% job growth, while job openings for school bus drivers should grow by 9% from 2012-2022. The median salary for transit bus drivers was $36,700 as of May 2013, per the BLS, and school bus drivers earned a median of $28,330.

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.

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