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What Is a Class A License?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2014
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A class A license is a type of driver's license issued in the United States. Individuals who possess this type of license are legally allowed to drive very large vehicles with trailers. Some class A truck drivers also need to have special endorsements on their licenses to drive more specialized vehicles. Also, some drivers may have restrictions on their class A licenses that limit the types of vehicles they can drive.

Drivers who hold a class A license or a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) are legally allowed to drive vehicles over a certain weight. In most states, this weight is 26,000 pounds (11793.4 kilograms). They are also allowed to operate almost any other vehicles as well.

They can operate all vehicles covered under a class B license or class C license, for instance. A class C license is sometimes referred to as a regular license, and individuals with this license are legally allowed to operate everyday cars and trucks.

Many drivers who work in the commercial trucking industries will need to have certain endorsements on their licenses. An endorsement allows a driver to operate certain types of vehicles. Different endorsements are typically represented by different letters on a class A license.

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The letter “H” represents a hazardous material endorsement, which allows a driver to operate a vehicle hauling cargo that is toxic, or otherwise harmful to the environment. Radioactive materials and petroleum products are considered to be hazardous materials. Many of these dangerous materials must be hauled in a tanker trailer, and the letter “N” represents a tanker endorsement. This endorsement allows a driver to drive tanker trucks. Drivers who have a combination of these two endorsements may have the letter “X” on their class A license.

Some commercial trucks are also able to haul two or three trailers at one time. Many drivers and motor vehicle departments refer to these as double and triple trailers. The letter “T” on a class A license allows the holder of a class A license to operate trucks hauling more than one trailer. A driver hauling more than a certain number of passengers must also have an additional endorsement, known as a passenger endorsement. This is usually represented by either the letter “P” or the letter “S”.

A class A CDL license may also have certain restrictions. One example of this is an air brake restriction, which prohibits drivers from operating vehicles with air brakes. This restriction is sometimes represented with the letter “L”.

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