In the United States, a class B license is necessary for driving commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds (11,794 kg) or more. Each state has different regulations for obtaining a class B license, including proof of residency, associated fees, and the steps involved in applying. Although each state has its own particulars, basic guidelines and requirements are nationwide, issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Such requirements include taking a written knowledge test, paying appropriate fees, passing a medical exam, and taking a road test. Further rules apply to drivers needing special endorsements or additional permissions.
Regardless of the specific state, the first step in getting a commercial class B license is the application. Applicants must meet minimum age and health requirements. Some states permit drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 to get either a non-commercial or a commercial class B license, although these drivers are not permitted to cross state lines. Federal regulations stipulate all interstate drivers must be at least 21 years old prior to obtaining a commercial license of any class.
Health requirements primarily relate to vision, although regulations covering diabetes, heart conditions, epilepsy, and other medical conditions are a part of federal guidelines. Vision acuity, according to DOT guidelines, must be a minimum of 20/40, unless impairments are exempted via medical statements and DOT approval. Every driver must take and pass a DOT physical, with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requiring new DOT physicals once every two years.
Candidates for a class B license, provided they meet application requirements, must take and pass a written knowledge test to obtain a class B permit. Fees are involved for testing, although each state’s fees may vary. Once the permit is granted, you are allowed time to train and practice on the appropriate vehicle. It is the responsibility of the driver candidate to obtain training or a vehicle in which to practice. Additional knowledge tests and associated fees may be required for some endorsements, such as passenger vehicles, school buses, or hazardous materials.
Depending on the state, there may be a minimum time frame required between obtaining a class B permit and taking the road test for full Class B license privileges. For example, New Jersey requires a minimum of 10 days between getting a permit and taking the road test. Typically, the road test includes proper pre-trip inspection, a test of basic skills like straight line backing and simulated docking, and a live road test with a testing official. Scores are based on the use of signals, mirrors, and other equipment, as well as handling the vehicle in real traffic situations. Successfully passing the road test is the final step in getting a class B license.