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What Is a Class a Truck?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

A class A truck is commonly a very large type of truck such as a semi-tractor or a large cement mixer, dump truck or mobile crane. The driver of a class A truck must possess a special driver's license demonstrating that the driver has had sufficient training in the operation and general safety of the vehicle. Typically equipped with air brakes and large diesel engines, the class A truck can have transmissions with more than 20 forward gears and three or more reverse gears all designed to allow the large truck to use its power to the fullest and most efficient manner when dealing with heavy loads.

Unlike a common driver's license, the operator of a class A truck is tested on the operation and serviceability of the air brake system, fuel system as well as the application of tire chains in some areas. This commercial driver's license, or CDL, as it is more commonly called, is awarded to the driver of a class A truck only after he or she attends and successfully graduates from a truck driving program. This program teaches prospective truck drivers not only how to drive and back up a class A truck, but it also explains the purpose and method of filling out driver's logs and weight distribution when loading the trailer.

Semi-trucks are common class A trucks.
Semi-trucks are common class A trucks.

There are many types of class A truck other than the common semi-trucks that are seen traveling the highways of the world. Many of the larger cement and gravel hauling trucks are class A type trucks requiring the driver to possess a CDL. Some of the largest fire engines are also class A-rated and require that the fireman that drives the truck be specially trained as well. Commonly, the air brake system is the defining system that separates a class A from a class B truck in most areas.

Class A truck drivers can drive vehicles that are heavier than 26,001 pounds.
Class A truck drivers can drive vehicles that are heavier than 26,001 pounds.

Many of the long-haul semi-trucks are like rolling motel rooms complete with beds, television and even microwave ovens. These class A truck units are often on the road for weeks at a time and require all of the special options to enable the driver to rest, eat and relax while taking a break from driving. Many of the drivers of these long-haul trucks work in teams with one driver driving while the other is sleeping or resting. This allows the class A truck to remain in motion and work virtually nonstop, thus letting the owner of the truck make the maximum amount of money the truck can earn.

Discussion Comments


@nony - That does seem kind of high. I’ve heard lower ranges but like you said it would depend on who you worked for. There is a company that’s hiring drivers in our area, and they are even offering to provide the training for new applicants to get their class A CDL license.

That’s pretty cool when you think about it. They do that because it helps them not only train the applicant for what they need to get their license, but at the same time they can groom them so to speak to work with the company’s unique requirements. I think it makes sense and is a great way to start out in this career.


They’re always advertising these CDL truck jobs on the radio where we live. There seems to be quite a demand, at least in our area. The starting salaries they mention on the radio are almost unbelievable, like somewhere in the $65,000 per year range.

I think it would depend on who you were working for to get that kind of money right off the start. I do understand, however, that truck drivers can get generous compensation packages because they’re on the road so long and they put their lives in danger.

Still, that’s a pretty decent starting salary. It beats where I started when I got my first job right out of college.


One of my uncle's has his own cement business, and all of his driver's are required to have a class A CDL license.

The air brake system is probably one big reason these are considered a class A vehicle, but you would also need to be pretty skilled at driving a truck.

They have to do a lot of backing up, and many times they have to get in and out of tight spots. Some drivers are a lot better at this than others.

If a company uses his business on a regular basis, some people will request certain driver's because of their skill. Just because someone passes the required tests to get their CDL license doesn't necessarily mean they are very good at it.


Both of my grandparents are over the road semi-truck drivers. You never used to see female truck drivers, but there are more of them all the time.

This is the way they have made their living for a long time. There are a lot of truck jobs out there, and if you can partner up with someone, you can make a lot more money.

This is one way they can both be on the road together, instead of one person being gone most of the time.

One year when I was younger, I went with them on the road for a week. This was a big adventure for me, and I loved sitting in that big truck and watching them maneuver it and hear all the sounds a big truck like that makes.

The bed and TV in the sleeper was also a big draw for me. It was a week that I will always remember, but I know I wouldn't want to make my living being on the road all the time.


My brother works as a truck driver for a large construction company. He has to have a class A drivers license for this type of work because he drives several different kinds of trucks.

He is responsible for getting supplies and equipment from one job to another. He never knows where he will be or what he will be driving from one week to the next.

He also has to keep a log book of all of his miles and make sure the weight he is hauling is not over the legal limits.

Stopping at weigh scales he passes on the way is all a part of his job. Sometimes it can be time consuming to keep track of every mile he drives, but he would really receive a big fine if he wasn't in compliance.


My husband is licensed to drive just about any vehicle on the road. Through the company he works for, he also has access to all kinds of trucks, including class A trucks.

This really came in handy when our son was involved in an accident with our van. He pulled out in front of a vehicle and the van ended up straddling a concrete barrier.

When the police got there, they had no idea how they were going to get the van out of there. By this time my husband was there and he told them he had access to a mobile crane and could take care of that for them.

Because this crane was available for him to use, and he had a CDL class A license to drive it, he was able to drive the crane to the scene of the accident and remove the van.

Our son was out a vehicle to drive for awhile, but thankfully nobody got hurt.

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    • Semi-trucks are common class A trucks.
      By: gwimages
      Semi-trucks are common class A trucks.
    • Class A truck drivers can drive vehicles that are heavier than 26,001 pounds.
      By: torugo
      Class A truck drivers can drive vehicles that are heavier than 26,001 pounds.
    • Mobile cranes are classified as class A trucks.
      By: Kadmy
      Mobile cranes are classified as class A trucks.