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Pennsylvania Driver's License vs. CDL License

There is a tremendous difference between a commercial and a non-commercial driver's license. A non-commercial driver's license (or a general-use or passenger-vehicle driver's license) only allows you to drive vehicles that weigh 26,000 pounds in gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or less.

Commercial drivers usually haul large volumes of materials such as food, fuel or different sorts of supplies for every industry imaginable. There are three different categories of commercial driver's licenses: combination vehicles, heavy straight vehicles and small vehicles.

Combination vehicles are a combination of vehicles, such as a tow truck that is towing a coupe. In order to fit into this category, a combination of vehicles must exceed 26,001 in gross combination weight rating (GCWR) with the smaller vehicle exceeding 10,000 pounds in gross combination weight rating (GVWR).

In order to fit into the Heavy Straight Vehicle' category, the vehicle must exceed 26,001, but the vehicle it tows must not weigh more than 10,000 pounds in GVWR. Small vehicles are vehicles such as panel vans that are used to transport 16 or more passengers.

What sets a commercial driver's license apart from a general-use driver's license is first the size and weight of the vehicle driven. More importantly perhaps, is the number of endorsements you can have added to a commercial driver's license but not a general-use driver's license. Also, you must have a commercial driver's license in order to drive certain types of vehicles or haul certain materials.

In addition, if you are having your commercial driver's license endorsed, the Pennsylvania Transportation Cabinet must perform this.

If you plan on drive a passenger vehicle, you will need the "P" endorsement. If you want to drive a school bus, you will need the "S" endorsement. If you want to drive a double or triple trailer truck, you will need the "T" endorsement. If you want to haul hazardous materials, you will need the "H" classification. To operate a tank vehicle, such as a water or fuel truck, you will need to obtain "N" endorsement. And if you want to drive a truck that carries hazardous materials, you will need the "X" endorsement.