To apply for a Commercial Driver License (CDL) in North Carolina, you must be at least 18 years of age, have a valid driver’s license, hold a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) for at least 14 days, and pass a knowledge and a practical test.
The process of getting a CDL in North Carolina can be daunting, but the requirements are fairly straightforward. You’ll need a CDL to operate any vehicle with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of over 26,001 pounds, a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 26,001 pounds, or one intended to carry 16 people or more (including the driver) or that transports hazardous materials.
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What is required for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in North Carolina?
There are many factors that go into getting your North Carolina CDL. But across the board, you’ll need a valid North Carolina driver’s license with a clean record across all states, proof of identity and residency, and a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) to use for the practical exam.
There are different classes of CDLs, different endorsements, and other requirements that will be discussed below.
North Carolina CDL classes
North Carolina has three different classes of CDLs: Class A, Class B, and Class C. The different types of vehicles they qualify for are listed below:
- Class A: Required to drive any vehicle with a GCWR over 26,001 pounds or if the towed vehicle exceeds 10,000 pounds GVWR
- Class B: Required for any vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more, and any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds
- Class C: Required for any vehicle not described in Class A or B that is intended to carry 16 passengers or more OR is intended to carry hazardous materials
As you can see, a Class A license is the most comprehensive license, and Class C is the least. A small bus would likely only require a Class C license, while an 18-wheeler would likely fall into the Class A category. It’s important to note that a CDL is required whether the vehicle is being driven for-profit or as a volunteer service.
North Carolina has a list of six possible endorsements for CDLs. Each of the following requires a special knowledge test, and two need a special skills test.
- T: For combination vehicles with double or triple trailers
- N: For any vehicle designed to transport liquid or gaseous materials in a tank with any single tank larger than 119 gallons or a combined total among the tanks of over 1000 gallons
- H: For any vehicle transporting hazardous material
- X: For any vehicle that meets the requirements for both N and H above (hazardous liquid or gaseous material in tanks)
- P: For any vehicle designed to carry 16 or more passengers including the driver (skills test required)
- S: For any school bus designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver (skills test required)
There are also three endorsements that indicate restrictions on a North Carolina CDL:
- L: Cannot operate air brake equipped CMV
- Z: Cannot operate a full air brake equipped CMV
- E: Cannot operate a manual transmission equipped CMV
The endorsements and restrictions added to your license will partially depend on the CMV you use to take your CDL road test.
Minimum age requirements
For intrastate commercial driving (driving commercial vehicles within North Carolina), you only need to be 18 years of age to receive and utilize a CDL. However, you must be at least 21 years of age to use a CDL if you plan on doing interstate commercial driving, or driving a commercial vehicle between states.
In North Carolina, there are four different driver types for commercial licenses. Two of them require a medical exam (Intrastate Non-Excepted and Interstate Non-Excepted) and two of them do not (Intrastate Excepted and Interstate Excepted). See this
NCDOT formfor clarification of these categories. If a North Carolina Department of Transportation Medical Certification is required, the exam with urinalysis will cost you $77.
If a medical certification is not required, you’ll still need to pass a vision test before you can receive your CDL.
As of February 2022, it is now required that all people attempting to obtain a CDL must first pass Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) conducted by a registered training provider on the federal
Training Provider Registry.
This training is also required for drivers attempting to upgrade from a Class B to a Class A License or anyone trying to get an S, P, or H endorsement added to their CDL.
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How to apply for a CDL in North Carolina
To get a CDL in North Carolina, you’ll need to have a valid North Carolina driver’s license and a
clean driving record.
Before you can receive your CDL, you must pass the appropriate knowledge tests and assessments to obtain a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). CLPs in North Carolina are valid for 180 days with one renewal available for another 180 days. You must possess a CLP for at least 14 days before you can take the practical CDL exam.
Before your exam, you must bring the following documents to the North Carolina DMV:
- One document identifying your age and identity (birth certificate, etc.)
- A Social Security card or one document proving you have a Social Security number
- Two documents proving residency (for U.S. citizens) OR one document issued by the U.S. government stating legal presence (for non-U.S. citizens)
- One document proving liability insurance coverage from a provider licensed in North Carolina
If your license has been suspended, disqualified, or revoked, or if you hold more than one driver’s license, you may be disqualified from taking the CDL exam.
You must pay an application fee of $43.25 (for every three knowledge tests) and an annual fee of $21.50 for any CDL.
Drivers are required to supply their own CMV for the examination. The vehicle must pass a Vehicle inspection test and the driver must pass a Basic control test before they can proceed to the Road test.
The Road test requires you to demonstrate a number of skills. Some are only required for specific licenses or endorsements. You will be tested on the following criteria, as outlined in the final section of the North Carolina Commercial Driver’s License Manual:
- Urban business
- Lane changes
- Expressway or rural/limited access highway
- Railroad crossing
- General driving behaviors
Once you pass the road test, you’ve got yourself a North Carolina CDL!
How long is a CDL valid in North Carolina?
Most North Carolina CDLs are valid for five years with a one-year grace period for expired licenses. However, certain endorsements require that you renew your CDL after just three years. The CDL expires on the driver’s birthday, not the date of issue.
When renewing your CDL, you’ll also need to ensure that your DOT Medical Examination is up to date, if it was initially required.
You cannot renew your CDL online. You must go to a DMV office with your current or expired CDL and proof of your Social Security number.
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