Commercial Drivers License vs Regular: What Are the Differences?

class B CDL training
CDL Commercial Driver Inside of His Truck. Transportation Industry Theme.

Do you want to make a career of driving a large vehicle? If you want to make a living as a trucker, then you are going to need to get your CDL license. There is a lot of training and studying that goes into obtaining a CDL.

Fortunately, the average American can apply for a driver’s license in six weeks, and in many states, that’s the maximum waiting period. If you’re losing patience, read this entire post, then apply!

However, many drivers wonder if they only need a CDL or if they might want a commercial driver’s license with a hazmat endorsement.

To learn more about your license options, then read this guide on commercial drivers license vs regular.

What is Commercial Driver’s License?

A Commercial Driver’s License is a type of driver’s license that is required for any driver operating a large commercial vehicle. This license ensures the safety of the public on the roads by certifying that the driver of these large commercial vehicles has met all the state requirements for operating these vehicles.

Before a driver is issued this license they must complete a written and road test to test their knowledge and driving skills of operating a large commercial vehicle. They must also pass a physical examination to prove they are healthy and fit enough to take on the responsibility of operating a large commercial vehicle.

What is a Regular Driver’s License?

A regular driver’s license is a document that certifies a person has the necessary qualifications to operate a motor vehicle on public roads. It is issued by the individual’s state or country and usually requires you to take a driver’s license test, which tests your knowledge of driving rules and road signs.

In addition to being able to demonstrate driving knowledge, applicants must also provide proof of identity and legal residency. The holder of a regular driver’s license is issued a specific class of license for the type of vehicle they may operate. Generally, regular driver’s license classes are classified as ‘passenger car only’ or ‘passenger and commercial,’ and they may also entitle the holder to additional privileges, such as towing, motorcycle, and moped operation.

Commercial Drivers License Vs Regular Driver’s License

Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and Regular Drivers License (RDL) both provide the same privileges to legally operate a motor vehicle depending on your license type. However, there are some key differences.

Skills Test

Commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and Regular drivers are both required to pass a skills test to obtain licensure. However, the skills test for each varies vastly. The state may set different requirements for the CDL skills test than the regular driver’s license test.

For the CDL, the applicant must demonstrate skills specific to commercial vehicles. This may include air brakes, overall vehicle inspection, basic maneuvering, and driving in different road conditions.

The skills test for RDL typically consists of more basic driving maneuvers, such as parallel parking, backing up, use of turn signals, and driving in straight lines. Depending on the state, the skills tests for each license may also have different prerequisites, like vision testing, traffic sign recognition tests, and quizzes on applicable driving laws and regulations.

Requirements for Obtaining

To be eligible for a CDL, drivers must meet certain age and residency requirements, pass a written test, hold a valid regular driver’s license, and hold a medical certificate. Drivers must then pass a skills test, usually conducted in the vehicle for which the driver is seeking a license.

It is generally a comprehensive assessment of the driver’s ability to safely and accurately combine braking, accelerating, inspecting, and stationing a vehicle in different scenarios. On the other hand, the requirements for an RDL are generally much less stringent and include age and residency, a written driving test, and a vision test.


A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is a special license that permits individuals to operate large trucks and buses that transport goods and people on public roads. Depending on the type of vehicle operated, there are several classes of CDLs.

Class A applies to vehicles that can tow trailers with a maximum weight of at least 10,001 pounds. Class B CDL training authorizes holders to run specific large vehicles, such as buses or heavy trucks, while Class C applies to smaller, specialized vehicles, however, some specialized commercial motor vehicles fall under either class A or class B categories.

An RDL is the most common type and is valid for driving any size car or truck. An RDL is issued by individual states, and restrictions can vary greatly depending on the jurisdictions. Therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations of the state in which you live.


Commercial Driver’s Licenses and regular driver’s licenses differ when it comes to renewal. For regular driver’s licenses, the process of renewal typically occurs every five to eight years, depending on what state you live in and your individual driving record. Commercial Driver’s Licenses, however, need to be renewed every year, regardless of state laws.

The renewal includes filling out extensive paperwork, proving your ability to drive safely, and taking a series of written and on-road tests to verify you are fit to get back behind the wheel. In addition, to be eligible for renewal, commercial drivers need to give proof that they are cleared to drive in other states (interstate) and in their home state.


A CDL costs anywhere between $75 and $125 (though sometimes as much as $150) to obtain and is valid for four to six years, depending on the state. In comparison, a regular driver’s license can cost anywhere from around $25 to $60 and is usually valid for four or five years.

The situation is further complicated when applying for a hazardous material endorsement or additional endorsements needed to access certain restricted areas of a city or state. Fees for additional endorsements can range from $10 to upwards of $50.

Get The Career Jumpstart You’ve Been Waiting For

To recap, a commercial driver’s license is required to operate a commercial vehicle, whereas a regular driver’s license is only needed to operate a non-commercial vehicle. CDL holders must have more education and training, be subject to more stringent regulations, and have different medical requirements.

To ensure safety and compliance, those who operate commercial vehicles must obtain a CDL license. To learn more about the difference between commercial drivers license vs regular ones, contact your state’s department of motor vehicles.

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