Cost and Steps to Get a Class 3 Licence in Alberta

2 Aug by Commercial Driver HQ

Cost and Steps to Get a Class 3 Licence in Alberta

So you want to be a truck driver in Alberta? You can get your Class 3 licence in Alberta easier than getting your Class 1 licence. The cost of the Class 3 licence is cheaper too, should you decide to take a truck driving course which we recommend if you don’t have much driving experience. The Alberta government is currently debating making driver training mandatory but has not implemented any changes yet. 

We have the cost estimates and go over how to get your Class 3 driver’s licence in 6 easy steps. In this complete guide we will cover:

Let’s get you on the road and earning money. 

What is a Class 3 Licence in Alberta?

A Class 3 licence in Alberta is a driver’s licence that allows you to drive large trucks, sometimes with air brakes. It is really all about the axles. If there are 3 or more axles you are looking at Class 3 licence or Class 1 or 2 depending on the vehicle. A Class 3 is a professional commercial operator’s licence that you would only get if you wanted a job in the driving industry. 

With a Class 3 Licence in Alberta you can drive: 

  • any motor vehicle that the holder of a Class 5 licence may drive
  • a single motor vehicle with 3 or more axles
  • a motor vehicle with 3 or more axles that is towing a trailer with one or more axles (if the trailer is not equipped with airbrakes)
  • a Class 2 or 4 type vehicle without passengers  (bus, taxi, ambulance)
  • a Class 1, 2 or 6 vehicles as a learner only

You cannot drive a vehicle that:

  • can seat more than 15 people including the driver
  • transports passengers for hire

What kind of vehicles can you drive with a Class 3 Licence?

With a Class 3 Licence, you can drive vehicles like:

  • a dump truck 
  • a tandem axle straight truck
  • water truck
  • vacuum truck 
  • pump truck
  • mixer (cement) truck
  • large flat bed or tow trucks 
  • garbage and front-load trucks
  • lugger or roll-off trucks 
  • larger road-rail vehicles

With a Class 3 licence, you can get a job on the oilfields, with private contractors and cities or towns. 

You can also drive a small bus, taxi or ambulance with no passengers as well as a transport cab. This might be helpful if you work in a yard or mechanic’s shop and need to test drive the vehicles.

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

Class 3 vs Class 1 licence in Alberta

The biggest difference between a Class 3 vs a Class 1 licence is the trailer. Though you can pull a trailer with a Class 3 licence, if it is equipped with air brakes that is where you need a Class 1. 

If the truck itself is equipped with air brakes you will need a Q endorsement on your Class 3 licence. Many Class 3 vehicles do have air brakes so we will show you how to obtain your air brake endorsement in Alberta too. 

If you want to drive a big-rig, 18-wheeler, tractor-trailer (pick a name) to transport goods across the province, country or even the border, you are looking for a Class 1 licence not a Class 3.

A Class 3 is more for single vehicles with typically just 3 axles, sometimes 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. 

roll-off-truck
Roll-Off Truck - Class 3 Licence Vehicle

Interested in getting your Class 1 licence instead? Check out our guide to getting your Alberta Class 1 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

The only particularly relevant to you with a Class 3 licence is the air brakes endorsement. If you want to learn about a couple others ones you could get with your Class 1, check out our Class 1 licence guide

“Q” – Air Brakes Endorsement

Some vehicles that you may drive for work will have air brakes equipped. This means 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.

 Although it is not mandatory to get your air brake endorsement, we strongly recommend it as it is very affordable and you will open up many more options for your driving career. 

If you want to get your air brake (Q) 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, followed by a practical test. After passing the practical test, the organization will give you a form to take to an Alberta Registry Agent office so you can write your knowledge test 

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

6 Steps to Get your Class 3 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 3 License 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 vision assessment

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 3 licence if you are still a probationary driver, so if you have a Class 5 GDL. Some truck driving schools in Alberta actually require you to have your full Class 5 before you can take a Class 3 training course.

Though we have listed the vision test as Step 5, if you have concerns about your vision 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 vision requirements to get your Class 3 license.

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 3 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 licence. 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 3 licence training in Alberta and Q endorsement air brake courses. Some may require you to have your knowledge test done before signing up so these steps aren’t always completed in the same order.  If you are serious about getting your Class 3, 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 3 training and Q air brake courses if that is something you are interested in.

Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Courses

Remember that getting your air brake endorsement is not necessary for your Class 3 licence, however the majority of large Class 3 vehicles you will drive are equipped with air brakes. If you want to expand your driving options, we strongly recommend getting your Q endorsement. 

In order to get your air brakes endorsement you must take a course which is usually one day. After the in-class and practical instruction is complete, you must pass a practical test. The school that administers the course will typically administer this test. Lots of schools will offer the air brakes (Q endorsement) course with their Class 3 program.

Though we have listed the knowledge tests as Step 3, you can write the Q endorsement knowledge test as soon as you are done your air brakes course. It is completely separate from your Class 3 licensing requirements. 

Class 3 Licence Training 

Though it is not mandatory that you go to a truck driving school for your Class 3, if you have not had experience driving big 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 if they have air brakes.

 

traffic cones

Class 3 course can last anywhere from 1-3 weeks. There are different options depending on your driving experience, so if you have none you may want to opt for the more intensive programs that offer lots of practical in-vehicle training. Almost all of these programs include the air brake training course.

 

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 3 training. Some schools want you to have done your Class 3 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 3 licence, you must pass a knowledge test. There is a separate knowledge test for the air brakes endorsement.  

Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Knowledge Test

As we have discussed, it isn’t mandatory you get your Q endorsement to obtain a Class 3 licence, however if you took a Class 3 training course you probably already did the training. Many large vehicles you will drive with your Class 3 license are equipped with air brakes so we are stressing the importance of completing this step to expand your career options. 

After you have done your air brake course, 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 per 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 3 Licence Knowledge Test

In order to get your Class 3 licence in Alberta, like any other license type, you need to pass a knowledge test. You can do the knowledge test for the Class 3 licence anytime throughout the process. 

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. It goes over things like parking on hills, dump truck and mixer truck truck operations. 

You have 1 year to complete your Class 3 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: Vision Test & Medical Requirements

Unlike when you apply for a Class 1 licence, you do not need a medical examination by a doctor to obtain your Class 3 licence in Alberta. This is great news because it cuts out an extra step and cost to get you on the road driving. 

Just like your Class 5 licence, you must wear corrective lenses if you need them to drive. You must also report any disease or disability that would interfere with the safe operation of your vehicle to an Alberta Registry Agent Office. 

Vision Requirements

There is a brief vision test that is done a Registry Agent Office. You can complete this vision assessment for free which you can do when you book your road test. You may be referred to an optometrist if there are further questions about your vision meeting the minimum standards. 

The vision requirements for a Class 3 driver’s licence are 20/30 vision with both eyes open together, with or without corrective lenses. You also can’t be colour-blind (completely) because you need to be able to identify traffic lights. 

Step 5: Class 3 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 proof of successfully completing your Class 3 knowledge test
  • You have completed your vision assessment

If the truck you are using for the test has air brakes, ensure you have completed for training course and written the knowledge test. 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 3 test (which you need to complete the road test legally) and schedule a Class 3 licence road test. 

Not every location offers Class 3 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 3 licence road tests. 

You have to supply your own vehicle for the road test. It has to be a single motor vehicle (so no trailer or combination) and have 3 axles. If it has air brakes you must have your Q endorsement already.

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
  • an inspection of the vehicle’s air brake system, if applicable

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. 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 3 training also typically offer to rent students a truck, usually for approximately $100 per hour or the examiner you book with might offer a rental or a referral. 

During your test they will be evaluating you on things like your on-road driving skills, backing skills, air brake usage (if equipped with air brakes) 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 almost done your Class 3 licence process! All you have to do now is the paperwork. So bring that rusty old Class 5 licence to a Registry Agent office because you are about to ditch it for your new Professional Alberta Class 3 Driver’s Licence! 

 

After you complete the road test successfully you will be given a temporary Class 3 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 vision assessment or Class 3 knowledge test. 

Class 3 Licence in Alberta: Cost

So now you know what the process looks like but let’s look at the costs to get your Class 3 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 plus get your air brake endorsement. 

Costs (average)

Class 3 Licence in Alberta

$3,010average
  • Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Course $0 (Including in Class 3 Training)
  • Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Knowledge Test $20
  • Class 3 Training $2,500
  • Class 3 Knowledge Test $20
  • Vision Assessment $0
  • Class 3 Road Test & Permit $150
  • Truck Rental for Road Test $300
  • Licence Reclassification $20

In summary:

  • Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Course: Assuming you take a Class 3 course it will be included in the cost of the training. If cost of the air brake course separately is usually between $175-$250, which varies by school. 
  • Air Brake (Q) Endorsement Written Knowledge Test: $20 approximately. 
  • Class 3 Training (optional): If you have some experience driving it can be as low as $1,250. 
    Extensive training including things like securing cargo, log book training and other industry training can be up to $2,500. To really pad your resume, we recommend getting the extensive training so you can show your prospective employer you are serious about the job. Given the price difference, we think having more knowledge and experience is worth it.  
  • Class 3 License Written Knowledge Test: $20 approximately.
  • Vision Assessment: $0. Completed for free at a Registry Agent office. 
  • Class 3 License Road Test: $150 approximately, varies by examiner and location.
    Truck rental total cost would be approximately $100-150/hour which varies by school, rental company or examiner
  • Licence reclassification (switching from a Class 5 to a Class 3 for instance): $17 approximately. You can extend your licence for up to 5 years, which costs between $21-$84.

So the average cost to get your Class 3 licence in Alberta is $3,010 for an inexperienced driver. Depending on the school you pick and how many hours in the truck, this cost could be closer to $2,000. If you think you know what you are doing so you skip the training and can get access to a truck, then the cost to get your Class 3 licence can be as little as $200 without an air brake endorsement. 

Contacts

Here are some important contacts that will assist you in getting your Class 3 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  
  • Book and take your road test
  • Exchange your licence 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.

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