You might be able to drive a local delivery van in your home city with just a regular driver’s license. If you want to drive a bigger vehicle – one with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) over 26,001 lbs, you will need a commercial driver’s license. There are also several endorsements and restrictions that can expand or restrict the type of vehicle you’re able to drive. States may have different requirements for these endorsements, and you may have to repeat the testing process if you move from one state to another. Since the classifications vary, it is a good idea to check with your state’s department of motor vehicles for specific classes, restrictions, endorsements and testing procedures.
Endorsements show that you have the skill to handle extra add-ons. To get a special endorsement, you might have to take another written and skills test. Some endorsements include hazardous materials (this endorsement requires a background check), tank vehicle, passenger-carrying vehicle, school bus and double or triple trailer.
Restrictions limit the vehicle you can drive or where you can drive it. Some examples of restrictions include school-bus-only, no vehicles with air brakes, driving inside your state only, or a requirement to wear corrective lenses when driving.
Once you get your CDL, you can add endorsements and remove some restrictions with further testing and training. For example, you might decide that you really want to drive a gasoline truck. You can return to the department of motor vehicles to get an endorsement for hazardous materials and tank vehicles.