Commercial Driving Definition: What Does it all Mean in Virginia?

They have transported gnomes and yachts, chandeliers, and bucking broncos. The shippers competing on A&E’s Shipping Wars are many things, but one thing many of them are not: they are not commercial drivers. To be a commercial driver in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you have to be in a class by yourself, literally. You have to possess a Class A, B, or C Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and give up your regular Virginia (or out of state) driver’s license. You may want to do that if you enjoy driving the open road, meeting new people, and making a solid living helping keep America moving.

What is Commercial Driving?

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles regulates CDLs for the state. Commercial driving is safe operation of a commercial vehicle, which the DMV says is:

  • “A single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more if the vehicle(s) being towed has a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds
  • A vehicle that carries 16 or more passengers, including the driver
  • Any size vehicle that transports hazardous materials and that requires federal placarding”

Commercial truck drivers could be over-the-road (OTR), livestock carriers, refrigerated van drivers, or drivers carrying milk, wine, gasoline, or other liquids.

How is Commercial Driving Classified in the State of Virginia?

Virginia DMV has several classes of CDL. Here is a brief review:

  • Class A — If you intend to drive any combination of vehicles with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, and the vehicle or vehicles being towed has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds, you need a Class A CDL; this classification includes tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, and tractor-trailer buses
  • Class B — If you are planning to drive any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or one vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more that will tow another vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less, you need a Class B CDL; vehicles include straight trucks, large buses, segmented buses, and trucks towing vehicles with GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less
  • Class C — A Class C operator will drive any vehicle not included in classes A or B that carries hazardous materials, or is designed to carry 16 or more occupants, including the driver

Your classification of CDL allows you to also operate anything beneath that class, so a Class A operator can also drive Class B and C vehicles if you have necessary endorsements.


Endorsements allow you to specialize. If you have your heart set on driving tank trucks filled with delicious Virginia wines, you need a tank truck endorsement, N. Endorsement H permits you, with a Class C CDL, to drive hazardous materials like oxygen or propane tanks, corrosive chemicals, or fireworks.

Why is Formal Education Important for Commercial Driving?

An old saying in the trucking industry is, “If you bought it, a truck brought it.” Even with efficient freight rail systems, ships and barges, commercial trucks are the backbone of American industry. The driving public trusts CDL drivers to know their profession.

Formal education helps drivers to appreciate the risks. Road practice and classroom preparation help a driver be prepared with the many daily challenges:

  • Low clearances
  • Backing up
  • Loading docks
  • Weigh stations

Today’s reality, reflected in an honest response from a real commercial driver at, is that you cannot even step up into the cab of a commercial truck without going through a truck driving school.

What Benefits Does a Training Program Offer?

How long is a typical commercial tractor-trailer rig? What tire pressure is desirable on an 18-wheeler? Most folks holding personal driver’s licenses in Virginia will not know any of those answers. A CDL commercial driver needs to know all that, and more.

A qualified training program offers new drivers complete instruction in all aspects of commercial driving:

  • Vehicle systems
  • Documentation, including today’s electronic logbooks
  • Operating systems

Go through a tightly controlled training program and you will know what to expect from the 20-foot cab pulling a 53-foot trailer. You will know tire pressure is between 85 and 110 psi, far higher than 32 psi for most personal vehicles.

A good commercial driving school also gives you plenty of road practice, through range and road operations. You learn to back up, turn safely, avoid jackknifing, and more.

At Advanced Technology Institute, you can acquire the skills to earn your CDL in as little as eight weeks. You can test with Virginia’s DMV and be ready to start an entry-level position with any of the dozens of motor freight companies and shippers operating in the Old Dominion. Contact ATI today to learn more.

Commercial Driving Training