If you want to be a truck driver in Alberta you will need to get a Class 1 Licence. A Class 1 driver’s licence in in Alberta will give the most options for driving careers. We go over the costs of a Class 1 licence in Alberta, cost for an air brake endorsement (Q) and courses plus how to get your Class 1 licence in Alberta in 6 Easy Steps. 

What is a Class 1 licence in Alberta

Air Brake (Q) Endorsement and Other Endorsements

6 Easy Steps to Get your Class 1 Licence in Alberta

Class 1 Licence Costs in Alberta

Contacts, Forms and Resources

First we will go over the basics of a Class 1 licence in Alberta, then move on to show you how to get it, how much it costs and provide you with all the resources you need. 

What is a Class 1 Licence in Alberta?

A Class 1 licence in Alberta is a driver’s licence that allows you to drive any motor vehicle or combination of vehicles other than a motorcycle. You can drive a motorcycle only for learning purposes. To drive a motorcycle legally you need a Class 6 licence.

What kind of vehicles can you drive with a Class 1 Licence?

With your Class 1 licence in Alberta you can drive almost any type of vehicle: 

  • any single motor vehicle with 3 or more axles
  • any motor vehicle with 3 or more axles that is towing a trailer with one or more axles

The above-mentioned vehicles (depending on the type of vehicle) can sometimes referred to as semi-trucks, semi-trailers, 18-wheelers, truck tractors or tractor trailers. 

You can also drive:

  • school bus (if you obtain your “S” endorsement)
  • transit bus
  • motor coach
  • taxi
  • ambulance

You can drive a school bus without the S endorsement if it is not directly related to transporting children to and from school. 

What is an axle? An axle is a shaft on which two or more wheels revolve

What is the difference between a Class 1 and a Class 3 licence in Alberta?

A Class 1 licence let’s you drive your standard big rig, a truck with a large trailer attached to it, air brakes and all. You can also drive almost any other type of vehicle including buses.

class 1 truck

A Class 3 is more for single vehicles with 3 axles, like a dump truck or large fixed box truck. These can sometimes be referred to as tandem trucks. They typically have one axle in the front and two in the rear. This means you could drive the cab of a transport truck which is sometimes referred to as bobtailing. 

class 3 truck

If the truck itself is equipped with air brakes you will need a Q endorsement on your Class 3 licence. You can pull a trailer provided it doesn’t require air brakes by law. This where you would need your Class 1 licence.

Interested in getting your Class 3 licence instead? You can find out all the different types of vehicles you can driver and what the requirements are with our guide to Getting your Alberta Class 3 Licence in 6 Easy Steps

Endorsements

Endorsements in Alberta are letters that go beside your class of licence. There are many types of endorsements, usually relating to a restriction placed on your licence. Others grant extra privileges to drivers. You usually need to complete special courses in order to obtain these endorsements.

What Kind of Endorsements can you get in Alberta?

In Alberta, the relevant endorsements to truck driving are:

  • “Q” – Air Brakes
  • “S” – School Bus
  • “V” – Extended Length Vehicle Combinations

“Q” – Air Brakes Endorsement

Before you can do your Class 1 road test, you will need to get your air brakes endorsement. This is marked on your licence by a “Q”. You do not need an air brakes endorsement while you are learning to drive a vehicle with air brakes.

The actual “Q” endorsement will not appear on your Class 1 licence. It will appear on all other licence classes that allow you to drive vehicles with air brakes. It will not appear on your Class 1 licence because in order to get a Class 1, you need to have completed your air brakes test so it is implied that if you have a Class 1 licence, you have the air brake endorsement. 

You must complete an air brakes course by an Alberta Transportation authorized organization. The course will be comprised of in-class and practical instruction. Upon completion of the course you will perform a practical test with the same organization. Upon successful completion of the practical test, they will give you a form to take to a Registry Agent office where you will write your knowledge test.  

To find a Registry Agent office location near you, use their online location finder

“S” – School Bus Endorsement

You must already have a Class 1, 2 or 4 driver’s licence to get an “S” endorsement. In order to get your school bus endorsement you must pass a School Bus Driver Improvement Program within 12 months of being employed as a school bus driver. Your employer will arrange this after your are hired. 

“V” – Long Combination Vehicle Endorsement

This endorsement is for experienced drivers only. You need a clean driving record and 2 years or 150,000 kilometres of driving experience. You will also need to undergo further professional training. This endorsement would allow you to drive double or triple trailers, for example. Contact the Alberta Motor Transport Association for details. 

6 Steps to Get your Class 1 Licence in Alberta:
The Process

We have broken the whole process down into 6 easy steps so you can get an overview of how you can obtain your Class 1 Licence in Alberta:

Step 1: Ensure you meet the minimum requirements 

Step 2: Sign up and attend school

Step 3: Take the knowledge tests

Step 4: Complete your medical test

Step 5: Complete your road test

Step 6: Exchange your license

Step 1: Minimum Requirements

The minimum learning or licensing age is 18 years.

You must have at least a Class 5 or a Class 5 GDL operator’s licence to learn. You may not apply for a Class 1 licence if you are still a probationary driver with a Class 5 CDL. Some truck driving schools in Alberta actually require you to have a Class 5 before you can take one of those courses.

Though we have listed the medical test as Step 4, if you have concerns about your health, vision or hearing, you may want to do this first so you don’t go through the time and expense of the other steps only to find out you can’t pass the medical requirements to get your Class 1 licence.

If you are not from Alberta and don’t have an in-province, licence, you will need to complete an extra step before starting your Class 1 licensing process.

Out of Province Licensing

If you are not from Alberta or just moved there, you first need to switch your licence to a Class 5 Alberta driver’s licence. You have 90 days to do so after you have moved to the province.

You must attend a Registry Agent office in person to switch over your license. When you go to the office make sure you have:

  • Current valid out-of-province driver’s licence
  • Proof of residency in Alberta, which can be a lease agreement, employment letter or utility bill
  • Proof of Canadian residency like permanent resident card, passport or birth certificate

If everything is in order you will be issued a temporary Class 5 licence on the spot but it will have a GDL (probationary) endorsement on it.

Once everything is processed and verified, that endorsement will be removed and you will receive an actual full Class 5 driver’s licence card in the mail, likely in 2-3 weeks.

Step 2: Schools & Courses

There are many schools that provide Class 1 licence training in Alberta and Q endorsement air brake courses. Some may require you to have your knowledge test and medical test done before signing up so these steps aren’t always completed in the same order. If you are serious about getting a Class 1, call a couple of them and find out what their requirements are. 

When looking for a school to attend the first thing you want to do is make sure they are licensed by the government of Alberta. You can go to their website to see a list (current as of May 2018) of approved and licensed schools in Alberta that offer different types of driver training. Look for one that offers Class 1 and Q training. 

Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Training

You must take an air brakes course which is usually one full day. This is to get a Q endorsement on your licence which is a requirement for your Class 1. After the day of training you will do a practical test with the same organization typically. Once you pass, you will then be issued a form to take to a Registry Agent where you will have to write your knowledge test. 

Most schools will offer the air brakes (Q endorsement) course with their Class 1 course because the endorsement is required to get a Class 1 licence in Alberta. Many schools won’t allow you to do Class 1 courses if you haven’t got done your air brake endorsement (or at least finished the course and passed the practical test) because you need to know the basics before you step into the truck. 

You should have no problem passing the air brake practical test because they will prepare you for it all day and you will complete it shortly after, typically at the same place. Pay attention and you will be fine. 

Class 1 Licence Training 

Though it is not mandatory that you go to a truck driving school for your Class 1, if you have not had extensive experience with trucks it is highly recommended you do so. You are unlikely to pass the road test if you don’t have experience driving trucks, especially with air brakes.

traffic cones

You will (or should) have already done your air brake training before doing your Class 1 training, so you can at least know somewhat what you are doing before climbing into the truck. You need the course and endorsement anyways before doing your Class 1 road test. Many schools actually offer the air brake training course as part of their package.

Though we have listed the knowledge test as Step 3, you can do it anytime prior to your road test and don’t have to wait until you complete your Class 1 training. Some schools want you to have done your Class 1 knowledge test before starting. In the course you will usually not go over the actual knowledge test. You will be focusing mostly on the fun stuff, which is actually driving the truck!

Step 3: Knowledge Tests

Before you can do the road test for a Class 1 licence, you must pass a knowledge test. Actually, you must pass 2 knowledge tests. 

Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Knowledge Test

As we have discussed, you must have your Q endorsement to get your Class 1 licence. You also need this before you even do your road test. 

After you have done your air brake course and passed your practical test, go and write your knowledge test at an Alberta Registry Agent office. The test is 30 multiple choice questions. You must answer at least 25 of them correctly to pass. There is no time limit and you can take the test as many times as you want, however usually one once a day.

You should do the test as soon as possible after your finished your air brakes course so all the new information is fresh in your mind.  

Class 1 Licence Knowledge Test

In order to get your Class 1 licence in Alberta, like any other license type, you need to pass a knowledge test.

Like the Air Brake (Q) Endorsement knowledge test, it is 30 multiple choice questions and you must answer at least 25 of them correctly to pass. As long as you pay the fee, you can take the test as many times as you want, once per day.

The questions test your knowledge about safe driving practices, road signs and the law. You can take the test at most Alberta Registry Agent Offices.

To study for the test, you should review the Alberta Commercial Driver’s Guide. As you can drive many different types of vehicles with a Class 1, don’t just focus on trucks. You will also need to know about buses in particular. If you go through the Commercial Driver’s Guide thoroughly you should be fine. 

You have 1 year to complete your Class 1 licensing process before you have to take the knowledge test again. 

Air brakes (air to all foundation brakes): 
A vehicle with an air brake system has brakes that are initiated by air pressure from an engine-driven compressor. This sends air pressure through a series of hoses, reservoirs and control valves to all the vehicle’s foundation brakes.

Step 4: Medical Test & Report

Before you apply for a Class 1 licence in Alberta you need to get a medical examination by a doctor and submit the medical form.  

You can get the form online or your doctor may already have them at their office. When you book your appointment ask if you are required to bring the form or if they will supply it. 

You will have to get medical reports throughout your career and submit them to an Alberta Registry Agent Office. After you submit your first one when applying for your Class 1 licence, you will need to get one every 5 years until you are 45 years old. Then, you will need to get one every 2 years from age 45 to 65. Once you turn 65 years old you will need to get one every year. 

You must report any disease or disability that would interfere with the safe operation of your vehicle to an Alberta Registry Agent Office. 

The medical exam is valid for 6 months so make sure your Class 1 licensing process is moving along. 

Vision Requirements

There is a brief vision test that will be conducted by your doctor. You may be referred to an optometrist if there are further questions about your vision meeting the minimum standards. If your doctor doesn’t have the equipment to do the vision exam you can get it done when you apply for your Class 1 licence at a Registry Agent office. 

The minimum standards for a Class 1 licence are 20/30 vision with both eyes open examined together. You must be able to move and see with both your eyes together and open at the same time 150 degrees horizontally and 20 degrees above and below a fixed point. You also can’t be colour-blind because you need to be able to identify traffic lights. 

Step 5: Class 1 Licence Road Test

Let’s double-check you are ready to book your road test:

  • You are over 18
  • You have your full non-probationary Class 5 (GDL removed)
  • You have completed your air brake course and passed your practical test
  • You have proof of successfully completing your air brake (Q) endorsement knowledge test
  • You have proof of successfully completing your Class 1 knowledge test
  • You have a medical report clearing you to get your Class 1 license 

If you have all that, then you are ready to book your test.

Get Ready

First you will need to get a road test permit. Find a Registry Agent near you and ask if they can issue you a road test permit for a Class 1 test (which you need to complete the road test legally) and schedule a Class 1 licence road test. 

Not every location offers Class 1 road tests in Alberta. You can use this list as a starting point however it is a bit out of date and some locations we surveyed no longer offer Class 1 road tests. 

You have to supply your own vehicle and it cannot be one that requires the display of a dangerous goods placards. You must provide a tractor-trailer combination with three or more axles, equipped with an air brake system to its foundation brakes. 

Pre-Trip Inspection Test

The road test starts with a pre-trip inspection. If you do not pass this, you won’t move on to the road test part of the exam. In order to pass this you must communicate and demonstrate to the driver examiner:

  • a complete pre-trip inspection of the vehicle
  • the appropriate uncouple/couple procedures for Class 1 vehicles
  • an inspection of the vehicle’s air brake system 

While you are doing this, talk out loud and point at what you are doing. For example, “I am checking the left signal light to see that it is working, is securely mounted, and that the lens is clean and not cracked.”

Road Test

All that truck driving school money is about to pay off. You had to do the air brake course but the Class 1 course is optional as previously mentioned. If you have never driven a truck before, this training will be vital to your success on the road test.

Hopefully you are familiar with the truck you are using for the test. If you don’t have your own yet (which you likely don’t) try to borrow one from a friend in the industry or perhaps your prospective employer might lend you a rig. Schools that offer Class 1 training also typically offer to rent students a truck, usually for approximately $150 per hour. The road test usually takes about 1.5 hours. Your examiner doing the road test might also rent trucks of provide referrals. 

During your test, they will be evaluating you on things like your on-road driving skills, backing skills, air brake usage and hill parking. This should be a given but make sure you are still familiar with all the information from your Class 5 test. Review the Alberta Driver’s Guide for a refresher.

Step 6: Exchange your licence

You are done! What are you waiting for? Go do the annoying administrative stuff and exchange your boring Class 5 for your shiny new Class 1 licence. Then you can hit the classifieds for jobs and hit the road driving truck!

truck-driver-meme

After you complete the road test successfully you will be given a temporary Class 1 driver’s licence that is valid for 30 days until your physical card comes in the mail. 

As mentioned throughout this article you don’t have to do the steps in this order and if you go to a trucking school they may have you some things first, like your medical or Class 1 knowledge test. 

Class 1 Licence in Alberta: Cost

So now you know what the process looks like but what is the cost of a Class 1 licence in Alberta? There will be a number of fees, some ranging in price depending on the school you choose for training, truck rental or road test examiner fees. Some prices like the knowledge tests are set by the government. The below costs are assuming you are “green” (little to no experience) driving trucks and choose to go to a school. 

Costs

Class 1 Licence in Alberta

$5,295 average

Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Course $0 (Included in Class 1 Training)

Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Knowledge Test $20

Class 1 Training $4,500

Class 1 Knowledge Test $20

Medical Report & Exam $85

Class 1 Road Test $200

Truck Rental $450

Licence Reclassification $20

In summary:

  • Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Course: This is most often included in the Class 1 training. On its own, the costs of an air brake course are $175-$250 approximately, depending on the school. 
  • Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Written Knowledge Test: $20 approximately. 
  • Class 1 Training (optional): If you have some experience driving it can be as low as $1,500. 
    Extensive training including things like securing cargo, log book training, weigh scale procedures and other industry training can be up to $9,500. 
    For the average driver with no truck driving experience it will be around in $4,500. This is the most common route for new drivers looking to get their licence and prepare for their career. 
  • Class 1 Licence Written Knowledge Test: $20 approximately.
  • Medical Report: $70 – $100. Rates are set by the doctor examining you. 
  • Class 1 License Road Test: $200 approximately, varies by examiner and location. 
    Truck rental total cost would be approximately $150/hour which varies by school or rental company. 
  • License reclassification (switching from a Class 5 to a Class 1 for instance): $20 approximately. You can extend your licence for up to 5 years, which costs between $21-$84.

The average cost to get your Class 1 licence in Alberta is $5,295 for an inexperienced driver. For someone that wants to get extensive training, the cost could be over $10,000. If you have some experience driving trucks and just want to get used to towing the trailer with the air brakes, you could do everything with training for as little as $2,000. The biggest variable is if you take a course, what type and which school you choose. If you think you know what you are doing and have access to a truck you could get it done for a little as $400.

Contacts

Here are some important contacts that will assist you in getting your Class 1 licence in Alberta.

Registry Agents

Registry agents offer registration, information and licensing services on behalf of government.  You will use them to:

  • Book and take your knowledge test
  • Take your vision test  (if you have not already done one with your doctor)
  • Book and take your road test
  • Exchange your license to a professional licence

To find a location near you, use their online location finder

Service Alberta

Service Alberta provides general information to citizens regarding all government services. 

Website: http://www.servicealberta.ca/

Drivers and Motor Vehicles E-mail: mv@gov.ab.ca

Phone Numbers

310-0000 (toll-free anywhere in Alberta)

780-427-2711 (outside of Alberta)

Their hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00 am – 6:00 pm M.T.

Alberta Transportation

Alberta Transportation is the actual government Ministry responsible for everything to do with driving and that roads in Alberta. They can give you a bit more detailed information than Service Alberta.

Website: http://www.transportation.alberta.ca/

Phone Numbers

310-0000 (toll-free anywhere in Alberta)

Outside of Alberta (outside of Alberta)

Their hours are Monday – Friday 8:15 am – 4:30 pm M.T.

Forms

Medical Report

Resources

Alberta Commercial Driver’s Guide

Alberta Driver’s Guide

Alberta Transportation – Long Combination Vehicle Program

Alberta Transportation – Air Brake Program

Air Brake FAQ

Canadian Driver’s License Reference Guide

Find a Registry Agent

Licensed Driving Training Schools

Registry Agent Product Catalogue

Road Test Locations

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