The biggest truck you can drive without a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) is one that has a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 26,000 pounds. Any truck with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, requires a CDL.
There are three classes of CDL. Class A, B, and C. Below I will present to you important details about them and when each of them is needed.
Class A CDL
A Class A CDL is a commercial driver’s license that is needed to drive any combination of two vehicles in which the lead vehicle has a GVWR of at least 26,001 pounds and the towed vehicle weighs at least 10,001 pounds.
Examples of two-vehicle combinations you can drive with a Class A CDL include flatbeds, livestock carriers, tank vehicles, truck and trailer combinations, and tractor-trailers.
You can drive the same two-vehicle combinations without a Class A CDL as long as the towing vehicle weighs less than 26,001 pounds and the towed vehicle weighs less than 10,001 pounds.
You can drive a number of Class C and Class B vehicles using a Class A CDL license.
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Class B CDL
A Class B CDL is a commercial driver’s license that you need to drive any single vehicle that has a GVWR of at least 26,001 pounds. You also need this special license to tow any vehicle weighing less than but close to 10,000 pounds.
Examples of single vehicles you can drive using this license include tractor-trailers, dump trucks with small trailers, box trucks, segmented buses, big passenger buses, and straight trucks.
In my opinion, the CDL class implied when one asks “What is the biggest truck you can drive without a CDL?” is Class B.
This is because Class A CDL deals with two-vehicle combinations and Class C mainly deals with passenger vans and small HazMat vehicles.
So to answer the question, you simply need to know the biggest truck you can drive without a Class B CDL.
And based on the details I presented a few moments ago, the biggest truck you can drive without this license is one that has a GVWR of 26,000 pounds. So the answer to the question is: the biggest truck you can drive without a CDL is a 26,000-pound truck.
Class C CDL
A Class C CDL is the one that you need to drive any vehicle with at least 16 passengers or to drive a small HazMat vehicle. A HazMat vehicle is a truck with a container for carrying materials classed as hazardous according to federal law.
Examples of vehicles you can drive with this license include passenger vans and small HazMat trucks. Two-vehicle combinations not covered under the Class A or Class B licenses typically require a Class C license.
- Related: Do You Need A CDL To Drive A 24 ft. Box Truck?
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Summary of CDL Classes
You need a CDL to operate virtually all types of commercial vehicles e.g. dump trucks, box trucks, semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, buses, and so on.
So if you want to rent or drive a commercial vehicle, you should know you will most likely need a CDL.
The biggest truck you can drive without a CDL is one that does not meet the conditions set for getting a Class B CDL license with the smallest of margins. In other words, it is the truck with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds.
By introducing the requirement for a CDL to operate different types of commercial vehicles, state governments have been able to reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities due to individuals driving heavy vehicles without necessary training and experience.
How to get a CDL license
To get a CDL license, you need to be 21 in most states. But before you get a CDL, you need a CLP (Commercial Learner’s Permit). This permit literally permits you to start training on how to operate a commercial motor vehicle. You need a CLP to get a CDL.
To get a CDL license, go to your nearest DMV office. Many state and federal requirements have to be met for one to be allowed to start training on how to operate a commercial vehicle. If you are permitted to go and train, you need to find an approved school to do the training.
After the training, you need to pass two tests – a practical test and a written test. The tests are designed by the state.
How to know a truck’s GVWR
To know if a truck requires or does not require a CDL, you need to know its GVWR. There are three ways you can find out the GVWR of a truck.
First, you can simply Google it. By doing this, you can find credible information on the GVWR of a truck within seconds.
Second, you can call the manufacturer of the truck. By calling the manufacturer, you can get the GVWR of a truck within seconds or minutes.
Lastly, you can inspect both door jambs of the truck for a sticker with information from the manufacturer. This information often includes GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) information for both axles. By adding the two weights, you will get a GVWR estimate that you can use.
Once you find the GVWR of your truck, you simply need to ask yourself if it is more or less than 26,000. If it is less, you do not need a CDL license. If it is more, you need one and it is probably the Class B CDL.
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