A New Driver’s Guide to Truck Classifications

When you’re just starting out trucking, learning all eight different truck classifications and their meanings may seem like a daunting task. Knowing what they mean is crucial because it tells you what vehicles require a CDL to drive and how much weight you can carry according to the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR. To aid you in the learning process, here’s a brief guide to the classifications.

What Are the Classifications?

Light Duty

The light-duty vehicle classification is the least restrictive and contains the vehicles with the lowest GVWR. Class 1 vehicles weigh up to 6,000 pounds and include small commercial vehicles and even some minivans and SUVs. Class 2 vehicles weigh between 6,001 and 10,000 pounds and include smaller pickup trucks. Even when used for commercial purposes, a driver isn’t required to hold a CDL to drive a light-duty truck.

Medium Duty

In Classes 3 through 6, vehicles manufactured exclusively for commercial use appear. While Class 3 still contains mostly personal vehicles between 10,001 and 14,000 pounds, Class 4 (14,001 to 16,000 pounds) covers many passenger vans, box trucks, and delivery trucks. Class 5 extends up to 19,500 pounds, and Class 6 goes up to 26,000 pounds. Some vehicles in these classes are cherry pickers, single-axle trucks, and school buses. In the medium-duty classes, drivers are unlikely to need a CDL, but the vehicles begin to be regulated by federal and state safety standards for the operation of commercial motor vehicles.

Heavy Duty

Heavy-duty vehicles are covered by Classes 7 and 8, representing trucks up to 33,000 pounds and anything 33,001 pounds and over, respectively. Operation of these units always requires a CDL, and Class 8 often requires a Class-B license. City buses, street sweepers, and some small semis fall under Class 7, and Class 8 represents big rigs, dump trucks, and cement trucks.


In some cases, like specialized large vehicles and oversized loads, a truck requires experience and skill that isn’t represented by these classifications. This is generally determined by a truck’s safety on interstate highways. Hauling these loads requires specific permits and a pre-approved route in addition to any necessary CDL certifications.

Why Is Classification Important?

These classifications are crucial signposts for new truck drivers who want to make sure they are getting the right training and certification for what they want to be doing. Each class represents a different set of skills and experiences necessary to succeed in vehicle operation. If you want to drive big rigs and do cross-country routes, you need to know what class of vehicle you’ll be driving and what certification that requires.

For new truck drivers looking for a start in the industry, Hamrick school offers CDL training and certification courses to fit your needs and goals. Our courses offer hands-on training from teachers with real-world experience and knowledge. To learn more about our admissions process, call us at (330) 239-2229.

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