North Carolina CDL Requirements

NC CDL Classes

      You must be at least 18 years old to operate a commercial motor vehicle within the state of North Carolina (intrastate) and at least 21 years of age to drive a commercial motor vehicle outside the state of North Carolina (interstate). You must also be at least 21 years old to transport materials that are deemed hazardous and to transport passengers using a commercial motor vehicle. You need a North Carolina CDL in order to operate either commercial or non-commercial motor vehicles that fall into the following categories:

Class A
      Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided that the gross vehicle weight rating of the towed vehicle is in excess of 10,000 pounds.  

Class B
      Any single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 or more pounds, as well as any vehicle towing another vehicle that does not exceed a weight of 10,000 pounds. 

Class C
      Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that does not meet the criteria of either Class A or Class B, but is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or is used in transporting materials classified as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act. Each applicant must also have a passenger or hazardous materials endorsement in order to obtain a Class C commercial driver’s license. 

Applying for a North Carolina Commercial Learner’s Permit

      You must already possess a North Carolina commercial learner’s permit (CLP) before you can take the CDL Skills Test. Before applying for a North Carolina commercial learner’s permit, you must already possess a valid North Carolina Class D driver’s license. You will be issued a North Carolina commercial driver’s license (CDL) when you pass both the written general knowledge test and the CDL Skills Test. 

      In order to obtain a North Carolina commercial learner’s permit, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old for intrastate driving (within the state of North Carolina only).
  • Be at least 21 years of age for interstate driving (outside the state of North Carolina).
  • Be at least 21 years of age to transport materials deemed hazardous.
  • Be at least 21 years of age to transport passengers in a CMV.
  • Possess a valid North Carolina Class D driver’s license.
  • Provide your current out-of-state driver’s license or I.D. card (if you are not currently licensed in the state of North Carolina).
  • Provide your Social Security card.
  • Provide the necessary documents of identification (pages 1-7 & 1-8 of the N.C. CDL Manual).
  • Prove you are of legal U.S. status by providing the required documents (pages 1-7 & 1-8 of the N.C. CDL Manual).
  • Provide proof of your current North Carolina residency that shows your name and address (i.e., a utility bill, vehicle registration, insurance card).
  • Provide your current D.O.T. Medical Examiner’s Certificate and completed Medical Examination Report.  
  • Provide proof of a clean driving record (applicable in some cases).
  • Certify that your privilege to drive any motor vehicle is not currently suspended, revoked, or disqualified anywhere.
  • Certify that you currently hold no more than one driver’s license.
  • Pass the physical exam (must be administered by a FMCSA certified physician).
  • Pass the vision exam (you must have at least 20/40 vision in each eye with or without glasses).
  • Pass the color blindness test (you must be able to recognize green, red, and amber colors).
  • Complete and sign the Commercial Driver’s License Application.
  • Pass the CDL written knowledge test.
  • Pay the $30 application fee.
  • Pay the $15 fee to cover the cost of the commercial learner’s permit.

      If you have any questions about which documents to bring to your nearest North Carolina DMV Office when you apply for your commercial learner’s permit, you can either call your local North Carolina DMV Office, or you can speak to a customer representative by calling the North Carolina Division of Motor vehicles at (919) 715-7000 Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

CDL Written Tests

      All commercial driver’s license applicants must pass the general knowledge written test in order to be eligible to receive a CDL. The CDL general knowledge test consists of 50 questions and should take approximately one and a half hours to complete. In order to receive a passing score, each applicant is required to answer at least 80% of the questions correctly in the time allotted for that test. All written tests require a score of at least 80% to pass.

      Any applicant that exceeds the time limit or incorrectly answers too many questions on the general knowledge test will fail. All applicants are allowed one written test attempt per day. If an applicant still has not passed the written test after three test attempts, that applicant will be required to pay the $30 application fee to cover the cost of three more attempts, and will be required to pay the same fee for every three written test attempts until the applicant passes.

      All test scores are valid for ninety days from the test date on the DMV computer files.

      Once you successfully pass the CDL general knowledge written test, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles will issue you a commercial learner’s permit so that you can practice operating a commercial motor vehicle. You may only operate a CMV under the supervision of a front seat passenger who is at least 21 years old and carries a valid CDL of the same class or greater than the class of vehicle you are operating. 

      The commercial learner’s permit will be valid for up to 180 consecutive days from the date it is issued. If you do not successfully pass the CDL Skills Test and obtain your commercial driver’s license before your commercial learner’s permit expires, then you will be required to take all the necessary written tests again before a new commercial learner’s permit will be issued to you.

You will have a grace period of thirty days after the expiration date of your commercial learner’s permit to pass the CDL Skills Test before you must retake the written tests. You are only allowed to obtain a total of two commercial learner’s permits in a two-year period. 

      Over 60% of first time CDL applicants fail the written test! Be sure to download and study the North Carolina Commercial Driver’s Manual as it contains the information you need to pass the CDL tests, including some sample test questions. 

      Our Free CDL Practice Tests will help prepare you for the actual CDL knowledge tests administered by the DMV.

      Click here to see the map and clickable list of North Carolina DMV Offices that offer the CDL written tests.

Applying for a North Carolina Commercial Driver’s License

      In order to obtain a commercial driver’s license in the state of North Carolina, you must:

  • Possess a valid North Carolina commercial learner’s permit (CLP).
  • Possess a valid North Carolina Class D driver’s license.
  • Possess a current D.O.T. card (cannot be more than 2 years old).
  • Provide proof of vehicle insurance and vehicle registration (must be verified before you can take the test).
  • Provide a test vehicle of the same class as the CDL you are testing for (must display a valid inspection sticker). 
  • Provide a passenger that is 21 years of age or older with a valid North Carolina CDL to ride with you in your test vehicle to the test location.
  • Schedule an appointment for the CDL Skills Test.
  • Pass the CDL Skills Test. 
  • Surrender your out-of-state CDL (if applicable).
  • Pay the $120 fee to cover the cost of the 8 year commercial driver’s license (ages 18 – 53).
  • Pay the $75 fee to cover the cost of the 5 year commercial driver’s license (age 54 and older).
  • Pay the $24 fee for each endorsement you obtain for an 8 year CDL (ages 18 – 53).
  • Pay the $15 fee for each endorsement you obtain for a 5 year CDL (age 54 and older).

The CDL Road Test

      Once you obtain your commercial learner’s permit, you will be allowed to schedule your CDL Skills Test appointment at a North Carolina DMV Office or a state certified Third Party CDL Tester that administers the Skills Test. The CDL Skills Test is a three part test that consists of a Pre-trip Inspection, a Basic Vehicle Controls Test, and an On-Road Driving Test and should take approximately two hours to complete.

      The North Carolina DMV will not supply a vehicle for you to test in. You must bring your own test vehicle. You will be required to take the test in the same class and type of motor vehicle you plan to drive once you obtain your CDL. If you take the CDL Skills Test in a commercial motor vehicle that is not equipped with air brakes, then you will have an air brakes restriction attached to your commercial driver’s license. 

  • Pre-trip Inspection: Before you can take the CDL driving tests, you will first be tested on your knowledge of the class of vehicle you plan on driving once you obtain your CDL. The Pre-trip inspection also determines if your commercial vehicle is safe enough to drive on public roads.
  • Basic Controls Test: Before you can take the Road Skills Test, you will first need to prove that you have the skills to operate a commercial motor vehicle on public roads. This test consists of various off-road maneuvers such as backing up your vehicle, moving your vehicle forward, and making turns within a defined area. 
  • Road Skills Test: Once you pass the first two tests, you will be required to drive your commercial vehicle on public roads in various traffic situations. You will be required to operate the same class of commercial vehicle you plan to drive once you obtain your CDL.

      The Basic Controls Test may include the following maneuvers:

  • 90 degree alley docking
  • Straight line backing
  • Parallel parking (driver side)
  • Parallel parking (conventional)
  • Offset back/right
  • Offset back/left

      The Road Skills Test will be administered on a route predetermined by the safety specialist. The test route will most likely include the following:

  • Starting
  • Stopping
  • Braking
  • Turning
  • Observing traffic signs 
  • Observing traffic signals
  • Observing other traffic
  • Using vehicle controls
  • Maintaining proper lane positions
  • Downgrades
  • Downgrade stopping
  • Upgrades
  • Upgrade stopping
  • Railroad crossings
  • Bridge clearance
  • Underpass clearance
  • General observance of traffic laws
  • General safe driving practices for trucks or buses    

     On the day of your CDL Skills Test appointment you must:

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Bring your validated commercial learner’s permit.
  3. Bring your valid D.O.T. medical card.
  4. Bring a passenger (age 21 or older) that is qualified to drive a CMV with the same class of CDL or greater than the test vehicle.
  5. Bring a test vehicle that is the same class of license that you are testing for and that has passed inspection.

      Failure to do any of the above may result in an immediate cancellation of your CDL Skills Test appointment! The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles advises applicants to schedule their Skills Test appointment a few weeks in advance. If you decide to cancel your Skills Test appointment, you must cancel the appointment no less than 24 hours before your scheduled test date and time.

      The North Carolina DMV has the right to cancel any CDL Skills Test appointment due to bad weather, under sourced staffing, or any other unforseen circumstances. Be sure to call the North Carolina DMV Office on the day of your Skills Test to see if your appointment has been cancelled due to bad weather.

      Once you pass the CDL Skills Test, you will be issued a temporary driving certificate that will be valid for twenty days, in which time you should receive your photo CDL in the mail.

      Be sure to download and study the North Carolina Commercial Driver’s Manual, as it contains pertinent information that will help you pass the CDL Skills Test. 

     Click here to see the map and clickable list of North Carolina CDL Skills Test locations.

Commercial Driver Self-Certification

      In the state of North Carolina, all commercial driver’s license holders must self-certify as to what type of driving they will be doing (intrastate or interstate), and whether they meet or exceed the medical and physical standards put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to legally and safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. All CDL applicants must self-certify once they obtain their commercial driver’s license.

      All commercial drivers who intend to operate a commercial motor vehicle for the following purposes only, do not require a commercial driver’s license and are considered “exempt” and therefor are waived from self-certification, although they may be required to hold a non-commercial Class B or Class C license:

  • Persons operating Special Purpose Commercial vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 lbs. or less. 
  • Fire and emergency vehicles used to preserve life and property or to carry out governmental operations.
  • Vehicles operated by non-civilian operators of military equipment.
  • Recreational vehicles that are being used for personal recreational use only.
  • Any farm vehicle used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies within 150 air-miles of the owner’s farm and not used in the operation of a common or contract motor carrier.

      If you intend to operate a commercial motor vehicle for any other purpose than those listed above, then you are considered “non-exempt” and are required to hold a valid CDL and must self-certify. You may also need to provide a current DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate.

      If you operate a commercial motor vehicle in either intrastate or interstate commerce solely for the following purposes, then you do not need to provide a DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate:

  • Transporting school children and/or school staff members between home and school.
  • Operating any vehicle as an employee of either Federal, State, or Local government.
  • Operating fire and rescue vehicles for emergency purposes and other related events.
  • Transporting sick, injured, or deceased persons.
  • Primarily transporting propane heating fuel when responding to an emergency condition requiring an immediate response.
  • When custom harvesting on a farm or to haul farm machinery and supplies to and from a farm or when transporting crops between a farm and a market or storage facility.
  • When operating a farm vehicle that is not a combo vehicle (power unit and towed unit), and is used to haul agricultural products, farm supplies (cannot be materials deemed hazardous), or farm machinery to and from a farm and within 150 air miles of the farm.
  • Transporting bees as an apiarist during beekeeping season.
  • When transporting migrant workers.
  • As a private motor carrier of passengers for non-business activities.

      If you intend to operate a commercial motor vehicle for any other purpose than those listed above, then you operate in either “non-excepted” intrastate commerce, “non-excepted” interstate commerce, or both, and must provide a current DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate along with a completed and signed copy of the Medical Certification for Commercial Driver License Form

      If you have any questions about self-certifying, you can check out the New Medical Certification Requirements General Information Guide or the New Medical Certification Requirements FAQs. For more information about the DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate, please continue reading below.

Medical Examination Report for Commercial Driver’s License

      All CDL applicants must have the Medical Examiner’s Certificate and the Medical Examination Report completed by one of the following:

  • Licensed U.S. doctor of medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O)
  • Licensed physician assistant (P.A.)
  • Advanced practice registered nurse
  • Chiropractor

      The Medical Examiner’s Certificate must be dated within the previous two years and attached to the Medical Examination Report if you are renewing your commercial driver’s license. If you are a first time CDL applicant submitting your Medical Examiner’s Certificate, then the certificate cannot be dated past 60 days from the date of submission. 

      The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles will only accept your medical forms if they have been completed by a qualified physician who has been certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You can search for a FMCSA certified physician by using the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

      The FMSCA requires you to have at least 20/40 vision in each eye and a field of vision of at least 140 degrees (70 degrees in each eye) in order to be certified to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Under certain conditions, you may be able to be waived from these and other medical requirements.     

      Once you have completed and signed the Medical Examiner’s Certificate, the Medical Examination Report, the Medical Certification for Commercial Driver License Form, and any applicable medical waivers, you can submit your documents by doing any of the following:

  • Fax your completed and signed documents to (919) 861-3915.
  • Scan and email your completed and signed documents in PDF form (as an email attachment) to CDLmedical@ncdot.gov.
  • Submit your completed and signed documents to any North Carolina DMV Office.
  • Mail your completed and signed documents to:

                              NC Division of Motor Vehicles 
                              CDL Medical Certification Unit 
                              3126 Mail Service Center 
                              Raleigh, NC 27699                       

      Remember, your Medical Examiner’s Certificate must have been filled out and signed by a qualified FMCSA physician no more than 60 days from the date you submit your documents. Be sure to double check and, if needed, correct any errors before you submit your documents. All CDL applicants are advised to keep copies of these documents for their own records. Failure to comply with state and federal self-certification regulations will result in a cancellation of your commercial driving privileges.

      If you have any questions regarding self-certification, you can contact the CDL Medical Certification Unit by phone at (919) 861-3599, or you can contact them by email at CDLmedical@ncdot.gov.

Hazmat Endorsement

      Any person that is applying for a Hazardous Materials CDL endorsement is required to undergo a federal background check and federal fingerprint check according to guidelines set by the Transportation Security Administration. All applicants must also provide the required documents to verify their identification and legal U.S. status. For more information, check out the Transportation Security Administration’s F.A.Q. page.

      You can apply for the security threat assessment on the TSA Hazardous Material Endorsement Enrollment Website. You must begin applying at least 30 days before the expiration of your CDL. You can start the application process on the HTAP Online Application Website. To apply by phone call (855) 347-8371. Use the TSA Enrollment Center Locator to find the nearest TSA approved fingerprint office.

Military Drivers

      In the state of North Carolina, if you are currently serving in the military or have been honorably discharged within the last 90 days, and you have driven military vehicles that would require a CDL to operate as a civilian with a 2 year safe driving record, then you may qualify for the waiver of the CDL Skills Test and may be exempt from taking the commercial driver skills test. You will still be required to take the written tests. Certain restrictions apply. Download, print, and complete the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver to start the process. 

      If you have any questions about the Application for Military Skills Test Waiver, you can either call your local North Carolina DMV Office, or you can speak to a customer representative by calling the North Carolina Division of Motor vehicles at (919) 715-7000 Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

North Carolina CDL Endorsements

      H      Placarded Hazmat      Required to transport hazardous materials under DOT regulations. 

      N      Tank Vehicles      Required to transport liquids in bulk containers of 1,000 gallons or more.

      X      Tanker/Hazardous Materials Combination   Required to transport hazardous materials in tank vehicles   

      T      Double/Triple Trailers      Indicates CDL holder is certified to operate multiple trailer haulers. 

      P     Passengers      Indicates the CDL holder is certified to operate passenger vehicles.

      S     School Bus      Indicates the CDL holder is authorized to operate a school bus. 

CDL Restrictions

      L      Air Brakes Restriction

      8      No Tractor Trailers for Class A Drivers

      4      Intrastate Only

Methods of Payment       

      All North Carolina DMV Offices accept the following methods of payment:

  • Cash
  • Personal Checks
  • Money Orders

      Credit cards and debit cards are not accepted by the North Carolina DMV.

Important North Carolina Commercial Driver’s License Resources 

North Carolina Commercial Driver’s Manual
North Carolina D.O.T. International Registration Plan Manual
North Carolina CDL Practice Tests
Application for Military Skills Test Waiver
New Medical Certification Requirements General Information Guide
New Medical Certification Requirements FAQs
Medical Certification for Commercial Driver License Form
Medical Examination Report Form 649-F
Medical Examiner’s Certificate
National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners

 

      Check out our list of truck driving schools in North Carolina that will provide you with the necessary skills to obtain your commercial driver’s license and start your career in the exciting field of commercial truck driving! You may also want to check out our nationwide list of truck driving schools.

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Map 1 of North Carolina CDL Written Test Locations 

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**DMV location also administers the CDL Skills Test.

Some CDL testing locations require you to set up an appointment. CDL testing hours may vary. Please call the testing location for more information.

 

Map 2 of North Carolina CDL Written Test Locations

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**DMV location also administers the CDL Skills Test.

Some CDL testing locations require you to set up an appointment. CDL testing hours may vary. Please call the testing location for more information.

 

Map of North Carolina CDL Skills Test Locations

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**North Carolina state certified Third Party CDL Tester.

Some CDL testing locations require you to set up an appointment. CDL testing hours may vary. Please call the testing location for more information.

 

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North Carolina CDL Requirements
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