How to Get Your Class B CDL
The Complete Guide to Obtaining Your Class B CDL
Did you know that the average pay for owner-operator truck drivers is around $184k annually? Class B CDL training is affordable and can be completed quickly. A Class B is a commercial driver’s license (CDL) that allows a driver to operate a commercial vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds or heavier.
In this article, I am going to tell you everything you need to know about getting your Class B CDL, what you can expect to learn at a Class B license school. Completing Class B CDL training at a Class B license school is a good career move for those wanting to enter a field offering great pay and long-term job security.
The cost for Class B CDL training is inexpensive, and it’s the best method for learning how to get a Class B CDL. A good Class B CDL school provides job placement, which helps graduates find work in their chosen career field.
In the United States, you must possess a special class of driver’s license to operate a commercial vehicle. Getting a CDL requires you to pass a knowledge and a skills exam administered by your state of residence. The type of testing is specific to the type of CDL you wish to obtain.
There are three different types of CDLs: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Although there are similarities between each type, they are each different. Each class is defined by the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle you are licensed to drive. The endorsements you can obtain along with your CDL are also determined by CDL class.
Drivers who hold a Class B CDL can operate a vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more. They are also authorized to drive a vehicle towing another vehicle with a combined weight of up to 10,000 pounds.
In contrast, a Class A CDL allows you to drive multiple vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or greater, including a towed vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds. The types of vehicles you can tow will depend on the type of endorsements you obtain.
A Class C CDL allows you to drive a commercial vehicle that does not meet the specifications for a Class A or Class B CDL. If you will be transporting 16 passengers (including yourself as the driver) or more or any hazardous materials as defined by the federal government, you will need a Class C CDL.
The main difference between a class A and a Class B commercial driver’s license is the size of the towed trailer. With certain endorsements and a Class B license, you may be able to drive the following Class B CDL trucks and buses:
- City buses
- Tourist buses
- School buses
- Segmented buses
- Dump trucks with small trailers attached
- Box trucks used for various deliveries
Potential endorsements you can obtain with your CDL include:
T: Doubles and Triples which requires you to pass a knowledge exam and is only an option if you are getting your Class A CDL.
P: Passenger Vehicles which requires a knowledge and a skills test and is available with all CDL class types.
N: Tank Vehicles which requires only a knowledge test and can be obtained with a Class A or Class B CDL.
H: Hazardous Materials which requires a knowledge test and the TSA Threat Assessment is available with all types of CDLs.
X: Tank Vehicle/Hazardous Materials Combination which has the same requirements as the Hazardous Materials Endorsement and can be obtained with a Class A and B CDL.
S: School Bus which requires a knowledge and a skills test and can be obtained with all CDL classes.
If you have a restriction placed on your CDL, you will be prohibited from driving certain types of commercial vehicles. In most cases, having a restriction on your license is due to the type of vehicle you used when you took your CDL Skills Test. CDL restriction codes and definitions are as follows:
E: You cannot drive a commercial vehicle with a manual transmission. This can happen when you take your skills test in a vehicle that has an automatic transmission instead of a manual one.
L: You cannot drive a vehicle with a full air brake system. This restriction is usually due to failing the knowledge test for air brakes or incorrectly identifying the air brake parts. It could also be due to failing to complete an air brake system check correctly or taking the skills test in a vehicle that is not equipped with a complete air brake system.
Z: Like the L restriction, a Z restriction means you cannot operate a commercial vehicle with full air brakes. You will be given this type of restriction if you test in a vehicle with a brake system that is air over hydraulic.
M: If you have a Class A CDL but obtained a passenger or school bus endorsement by driving a Class B commercial vehicle, you will be restricted to operating a Class B or C passenger vehicle or school bus only.
N: Similar to the M restriction, an N restriction means you may only drive a passenger or school bus. You will receive this restriction if you have a CDL-B and earned your endorsement while driving a vehicle that is a Class C.
V: This restriction indicates that you have a medical issue reported by the FCMCSA. This can happen if you have been given a FMCSA waiver for diabetes or vision.
It is also important to note that other state-specific restrictions can be placed on your CDL based on laws for each state. Ways to remove a restriction include passing additional knowledge or road skill tests, taking the road skills test in a certain type of vehicle, passing additional medical evaluations, and paying additional fees.
Eligibility to Apply for a CDL
Per the federal government, you must be at least 18 years old to apply for any type of CDL. If you will be driving across state lines or carrying any materials that are considered to be hazardous by the federal government, you need to be at least 21 years of age. In addition, certain criminal felonies may prevent you from being eligible to obtain your CDL.
How to Get a Class B License
At this point, you’re probably wondering how to obtain a Class B license. While each state government is responsible for issuing commercial driver’s licenses, there are federal guidelines put forth by the FMCSA for obtaining a Class B license. However, each individual state can add to the list of federal Class B CDL requirements if they choose to. At a bare minimum though, every state is required to abide by the Class B license requirements put forth by the federal government. Keep in mind that it is illegal to hold a CDL in more than one state at a time.
The basic steps to obtaining a CDL, no matter what state you live in, are:
- Take the Class B permit test to get your commercial learner’s permit (CLP).
- Allow a minimum of 14 days to pass since you obtained your CLP.
- Take the Class B CDL driving test, also known as the road skills test, to obtain a CDL.
- When taking the Class B CDL driving test, you can also test for certain endorsements for your CDL.
- Pay the required exam and license fees.
Pursuant to FMCSA standards, drivers applying for a CLP must provide their current driver’s license, a 10-year driving history record, and a medical examination self-certification form. Depending on your state, the driving record can be checked electronically by the DMV or you may need to bring your own hard copy. You should check with your local DMV to find out how they check driving history. The medical examination self-certification form proves that you are physically able to safely operate a commercial vehicle.
Congratulations! Now you know how to get a Class B driver’s license.
Class B CDL Test
Federal requirements call for each Class B CDL test to have a minimum of 30 questions, though states can add more if they so choose. Additionally, applicants must score at least an 80% on the exam to pass. It’s always good to take a Class B CDL practice test to help you prepare for the real thing.
Once you have provided the required documentation and taken the required exams, you will also be required to pay any applicable fees. The fees are set by the state, and therefore, will vary from one state to the next.
From CLP to CDL
Your commercial learner’s permit (CLP) allows you to practice on the road in a commercial vehicle, however, you must have someone present with you who holds a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) while driving with a CLP. After holding your CLP for a minimum of 14 days and practicing with another licensed CDL driver, you can then work towards obtaining your CDL.
To do so, you will be required to pass the CDL skills test. To take this test, it is important that you bring a commercial vehicle that is of the same type that you are testing for. For instance, if you wish to obtain a CDL Class B, be sure to bring a commercial vehicle that falls under the requirements for a Class B CDL.
The CDL skills test consists of three parts:
- A Pre-Trip Inspection
- A Basic Controls Exam
- A Road Test
Keep in mind that some states may add additional requirements such as taking a professional CDL training course.
Class B CDL Career Options
While a class A license allows you to mainly work as an interstate tractor trailer operator, a Class B license gives you many different career possibilities. In addition to being a heavy tractor trailer operator, you may also qualify for the following jobs:
- Tour bus operator
- Transit bus driver
- School bus driver
- A supervisor or terminal manager
- Highway maintenance technician
- Engineering equipment operator
- Construction equipment operator
- A truck driver who is self-employed
- Passenger transport driver for private companies
- A driver for companies that deliver cement and concrete
- Delivery driver for furniture, shipping companies, or various other goods
Of course, the quickest way to obtain any of the jobs listed above is by acquiring the knowledge and training needed to properly operate a Class B vehicle. How do you do that you ask? By going to a Class B license school and getting the Class B CDL training they provide.
Class B CDL Training
Class B CDL training is specialized training that enables you to drive certain types of commercial vehicles, including delivery trucks and school buses. If you aspire to work in either of these careers, or one of many others, you will need to successfully complete Class B CDL training at a Class B truck driving school.
This type of training helps to ensure that you have the knowledge and safety skills to keep you, other drivers, and your potential passengers safe on the open road. Even though you can obtain a Class B CDL without completing an official training program, many trucking companies and other employers will only hire those that have successfully passed a formal Class B driver training program at a Class B driver license school.
It’s important to note that Class B CDL training is best obtained at a reputable truck driving school. Truck Driving Schools Info has partnered with some of the best truck driving schools in the nation, offering class A CDL training and Class B CDL training. These schools strive to help you become the best Class A or Class B driver you can be by offering high quality Class B driver training.
Some drivers choose self-study or training under another driver instead of a formal Class B CDL training program. The problem with non-traditional forms of training is that they may not be thorough enough to cover all the information and skills you need to know. This can lead to failing the general written exam or the hands-on exam, which will cost you more money and time in the long run.
On the other hand, going to a reputable truck driving school to get your CDL training will not only equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to obtain your commercial driver’s license, it will also help you get a job in your chosen career field much quicker. This is because almost all Class B truck driving schools offer job placement when you graduate.
Class B CDL Hands-On Training Requirements
Although the FMCSA currently doesn’t require a certain number of hours of behind-the-wheel (BTW) training, it is important to note that over 32 states as well as the top CDL training schools in the country mandate that drivers have a minimum number of training hours behind-the-wheel in order to obtain a CDL or to graduate from a CDL training program. In addition, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA), which consists of 55 driver training schools and 20 motor carriers require new drivers to have a minimum of 40 hours of on-the-road training.
Even though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires no minimum number of hours of BTW training, it’s extremely important for anyone wanting to become a Class B CDL truck driver or bus driver to attend a reputable truck driving school. Reputable trucking schools mandate that their students have a certain amount of behind-the-wheel training prior to graduating.
Selecting the Right Class B License School
If you have recently decided to pursue a career that requires a Class B license, you may be unsure of what to look for in a school. It is important to do your research and select your school carefully. You’ll want to put your hard-earned money to good use and not waste any of your valuable time. You want to attend a program that will give you the best chance at success as a truck driver, delivery driver, or bus driver.
Here are some factors you should consider when choosing a Class B license school:
Ratio of Students to Teachers
As with most types of training, the smaller the ratio of students to teachers the better. This allows for more personalized one-on-one instruction. It can better reinforce your strengths and help improve your weaknesses in skills or in a curriculum as well.
While investing in your education and training is to be expected, you shouldn’t have to go broke while doing so. Be careful not to get in over your head when it comes to paying for your Class B CDL training. Keep in mind that our partner schools are not only highly affordable, but they also offer many scholarship, grant, and loan programs to help you pay for your Class B license school costs.
When your goal is to obtain a Class B CDL license, it is important that you train under instructors that have experience operating the type of Class B vehicle you’ll be driving once you graduate and get a job. The more real-world experience your instructors and trainers have, the better. You should ask yourself one question. Would I be comfortable learning how to perform brain surgery from someone who never operated on a human brain themselves? The same can be said of operating a truck, driving a bus, or any other type of specialized skill.
Types of CDL Training Provided
You should also ask questions about your training experience prior committing to a Class B CDL training school. Ideally, your training should mostly be done behind steering wheel of a real Class B truck or bus, and not a computer simulated one. While computerized training can help, real world training experience is always much better.
In addition, you should inquire about how many students are placed into the cab of the truck with an instructor during training episodes. Too many students can obviously be uncomfortable and create a learning environment that is far from ideal.
The number and type of vehicles used for training at your potential Class B driving school should also factor into your decision. You should find out if they have one truck or bus or multiple vehicles to train on. Having to wait your turn to train on a vehicle can be a waste of time, not to mention frustrating.
Obviously, you’ll want to make sure that the school will train you on the same type of vehicle you plan on operating once you get a Class B job. For example, if you plan on getting a job as a coach bus driver, you’ll want to make sure you train on a full-sized coach bus and not a small-sized school bus. The same goes for trucks as well. There’s a big difference between training on a bobtail truck as opposed to training on a delivery van.
Not only should your training program have enough vehicles for the number of students they serve, but they should also have vehicles that are newer, up-to-date, and in good operating condition. Having an older or run-down vehicle can impact your success as a Class B CDL student.
The condition of the practice lot is another point to consider. Some schools have lots that are paved, and some schools have dirt and gravel lots. Being able to practice on a paved lot is generally more beneficial to you, the student, since most of the roads and highways you’ll be driving on will are paved.
Job Placement Assistance
Since your final goal in attending a Class B license school is to obtain your Class B CDL license and achieve gainful employment, job placement assistance can be highly important when it comes to choosing the right school for you. Some schools have little to no job assistance whatsoever.
However, the best schools will do what they can to help you get a job as soon as possible after you graduate. They will have days where recruiters from trucking or bus companies visit the school and chat with the students. They will also give you vital up-to-date information on the companies that are currently hiring drivers.
The more partnerships a school has with the local truck and bus companies, the better chance they’ll have of getting you a job in your chosen career field. Of course, once the school is able to get you an interview, it’s up to you to convince the company you have what it takes to be a valuable asset to their team.
Class B CDL Training Cost
Undoubtedly, one of the most important factors you’ll have to take into consideration when deciding on a Class B license school is the cost of the program. This is where you’ll either receive what you pay for, or get hosed by a “fly-by-night” school. Realistically, you can expect to spend anywhere from $1,495 on the low-end, all the way up to $13,000 on the high-end for tuition at a Class B CDL training school. Each school sets their own tuition rates, so your Class B CDL training cost can vary from school to school.
It’s always a good idea to request information from the school and ask the recruiter exactly how many hours of classroom instruction, lot training, and over-the-road training you’ll receive once you start attending as a student. Also, you’ll want to make sure the kind of equipment you’ll be training on justifies the cost of tuition. If you find out you’ll be training on outdated poorly maintained vehicles and the cost of tuition is $10,000, run and don’t look back!
Of course, keep in mind that the cost of tuition will vary depending on the type and length of the CDL training school you attend and in what area of the country you will be attending. Bear in mind that your tuition is an investment into your future and your career. The money you spend now will make you much more money later on.
Financing Options for Truck Driving Schools
One factor that prevents many students from attending a Class B CDL training program is money. The good news is, there are several options for financial aid depending on the school you attend and your personal and financial situations. Here are the options for financial aid for most CDL Class B training programs:
Federal Pell Grant
A Pell Grant is a subsidy that comes directly from the U.S. government. If you meet the financial qualifications, you can get money via the Pell Grant for Class B CDL training school without having to pay it back. This grant is for students who have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree in the past and who attend school at a participating institution.
A state grant is similar to the Pell Grant, except the money comes from the state government instead of the federal government. Each state can set their own requirements and decide who has a financial need for a state grant.
Workforce Investment Act Grant (WIA)
This federally funded employment and training program provides qualifying individuals up to $9,000 for tuition and books. The amount given depends on the financial need and the applicant’s course of study. To qualify, you must be in need of training to re-enter the workforce and have little or no work history.
Workforce Credentials Grant (WCG)
This program is specific to certain schools in Virginia. The state government is helping to offset tuition expenses by up to 66% for qualifying careers, including Class B CDL drivers. You will pay 1/3 of your tuition expenses when you register for the program and the remainder of your tuition will be paid by the state once you have successfully completed the program.
Federal Direct Loans
Offered by the United States Department of Education, federal loans are available with low-interest rates in order to help you pay for your Class B CDL training. You must be an undergraduate student with financial need in order to qualify for a subsidized federal loan.
Subsidized Federal Loans
Your school will determine the amount you can borrow through these loans and it may not be more than your financial need. Under certain conditions, such as attending school part-time, the first six months after you complete your education or program, and during a deferment period, the government will pay your interest on a subsidized loan.
Unsubsidized Federal Loans
Unsubsidized federal loans are available to all students with no requirement of financial need. Your school determines what you can borrow based on other financial aid you will receive and the total cost of the CDL training program. However, you are responsible for paying the interest accrued during the entire period of the loan. If at certain times you elect not to pay the interest, it will accumulate and be capitalized into the loan.
In-School Payment Plans
With a school sponsored payment plan, you have a payment arrangement directly with your educational institution. There is no third party involved.
Private funding can include scholarships offered by private parties or specific people. These are usually a gift and are not required to be paid back.
Financial Assistance for Military Personnel and Veterans
As a military member or a veteran, you may qualify for special financing programs. There are financial assistance programs for both active duty military members and veterans as well as their spouses and dependents. Speak to the financial aid office at your school of choice to learn more about the financial assistance you may qualify for.
The following programs can help you pay for your Class B CDL training:
- Post 9/11 Bill Military Friendly School
- Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB)
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E)
- Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program (DEA)
- Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR)
- Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)
- DoD Tuition Assistance (TA) Program
- Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA)
If you are currently in the military or are a veteran of the armed forces, be sure to request information about the all financial programs local CDL training schools are currently offering by filling out the orange information request form on this page.
Time Commitment for CDL Class B School
One of the benefits of pursuing a career as a bus or a truck driver is that the time you must invest for training is shorter than many other careers. Most Class B CDL training programs are between 4 and 8 weeks or 70-120 hours. Although, some can be completed in as few as 7 days. If you choose to get your P (passenger) endorsement you can add an additional 3-5 days to your training time.
Certain schools also offer a combined CDL-A and CDL-B training course. These programs generally last between 6 and 8 weeks.
CDL Class B: Truck Driver Training vs. Bus Driver Training
Class B truck driver training programs are ideal if you want to drive a fuel truck, mixer truck, straight delivery truck, dump truck, and also for other heavy truck drivers. Class B bus driver training is better suited for you if you want to drive a motor coach, school bus, or tour bus. Although these trainings have many commonalities, they are different. Let’s examine truck driver training in depth and then move on to bus driver training.
Class B CDL Classroom Instruction for Truck Drivers
Before getting in the driver’s seat at your CDL training facility, that you will need to learn classroom theory. Depending on the school you attend, this will comprise about ¼ of your total educational hours. Classroom theory includes the following topics:
- Federal and state regulations, rules, and guidelines as outlined by the FMCSA
- Industrial relations
- Safe operating procedures
- Load limits
- Securement and completion of required records, log books, and forms
- CDL permit preparation
- Air brake systems
- Operating practices
- Map reading
- Trip planning
For most training courses, you will take your general knowledge Class B CDL permit test after you have completed the classroom portion of your education. You will need your CLP in order to move on to the driving and hands-on portion of your training. After you graduate from a Class B CDL license course, you will then take your CDL Class B driving test.
Some CDL Class B programs also include classes to help you get a job after graduation. Topics covered in these classes include:
- Interview techniques
- Interpersonal relations
- Filling out employment applications
- Information on CDL careers
Class B CDL Skills Training for Truck Drivers
A majority of your Class B license training will be spent practicing hands-on skills. For the training portion, schools can utilize both manual and automatic vehicles as well as computerized simulations. Your training will prepare you for the road by allowing you to first drive safely in a controlled environment. Skills you will learn and master include:
- Pre-trip Inspection Straight Truck
- In-cab inspection
- Air brake systems
- Straight backing
- Off-set backing
- Alley dock backing of a straight truck unit
- Parallel parking
- Defensive driving
- Hooking/unhooking a trailer
- Cab familiarization
- Proper shifting techniques
- Proper method of driving commercial vehicles on city streets and highways
- Advanced truck driving techniques such as skid avoidance and recovery
- Emergency actions for special situations such as a break away trailer or hydroplaning
Class B CDL Classroom Instruction for Bus Drivers
Your bus driver training will also begin in a classroom setting. Approximately one-quarter to one-half of your bus driver training will be spent in the classroom learning theory. This training will also include training for your Passenger endorsement. Topics will include:
- OSHA compliance
- Garage safety
- Lockout/tagout procedures
- Hazards communication
- Blood born pathogens
- Introduction to professional driving
- Federal regulations
- Creating a drug and alcohol-free workplace
- Preventing harassment
- Fatigue management and wellness
- Safety best practices
- Preventing driver distractions
- Map reading
- Introduction to ADA and sensitivity
- Professionalism and customer service
- Conflict/aggression management
- Accident and emergency procedures
- Evacuation drills
- Driver liability
- Rules for passengers
- Loading and unloading
- Passenger management
- Harassment on the bus
Class B CDL Skills Training for Bus Drivers
Skills training for bus drivers will cover many of the same areas that truck driver training covers. However, it will also include passenger safety. During skills training you can expect to learn and practice the following:
- Introduction to the bus
- Pre-trip inspections
- Proper following distance
- Railroad crossings
- Pedestrian awareness
- Preventing backing accidents
- Merging, lane changing, and passing
- Special driving conditions
- Mirror adjustments and reference points
- ADA, lifts, ramps, and securement
- Urban driving
- Rural driving
- Transmission use
Completing Your Class B Training
Once you have successfully finished your Class B driver training program you will be awarded a Certificate of Completion or an Undergraduate Certificate. This is based upon the type of program you attend; Undergraduate Certificates are usually given by community colleges while a Certificate of Completion will likely be given by a private trucking school. Keep in mind that you will not earn college credits for these types of courses.
Now, I’m going to show you what you can expect when it comes to CDL Class B jobs in America.
Class B CDL Jobs: What to Expect
You may be able to get hired by a bus or trucking company right after graduation or soon after obtaining your CDL. In fact, some trucking companies will offer you conditional employment when you enroll in a Class B training course. Once you have completed the course and obtained your Class B CDL, you can start working right away.
Current Salaries for Drivers with a Class B License
No matter what type of job training you are receiving, salary is an important factor in the decisions you make about a future career. After graduating from a qualified Class B license school, you can expect to earn between $20,000 and $50,000 per year. This figure will vary depending on which field you work in and which state you live in.
Currently, the national median salary for Class B truck drivers is $41,340, whereas the same figure for Class B light truck and delivery drivers is $30,580. The national median salary for bus drivers with a Class B license is $39,790 and for school bus drivers with a Class B license it is $30,150.
Labor Statistics for Drivers with a Class B License
In addition to salary, you may also wonder about the job market for people with a Class B CDL. As of 2014, there were 1,797,700 heavy truck drivers in the United States. By the year 2024, this number is expected to increase by 6% to 1,896,400. Also in 2014, there were 885,700 delivery and light truck drivers. Job openings in these fields are expected to increase by 3% to 911,900 by the year 2024.
Bus and motor coach driver jobs numbered 167,800, again in 2014. A 6% growth in these jobs is expected by the year 2024, bringing that number to 177,600. There were an estimated 487,300 school bus driving jobs in 2014. By 2024, it is predicted that there will be 524,900 total jobs in this field which represents an overall growth of 6%.
Getting your Class B license and becoming a professional truck or bus driver does take time and work. It can be a road filled with long hours and lots of practice behind the wheel. However, those who hold a CDL Class B license have many exciting and rewarding job opportunities.
I hope this comprehensive article gave you all the information you were searching for regarding the Class B CDL and how to obtain one.
Class B Driving School Near Me
If you’re asking yourself “How do I find the best Class B driving school near me?”, don’t worry, we can connect you with a high quality CDL school near you. We’ve partnered with some of the best truck driving schools in the nation. The schools we’ve partnered with have a reputation for providing high quality Class B CDL training at an affordable cost. Simply click the orange “Find Your School!” button below and request info from a Class B CDL training school near you and find out more about each school’s exciting Class B CDL training programs.
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