How to Get A CDL in North Carolina (A Complete 2024 Guide)

How to Get A CDL in North Carolina

So you’re thinking about diving into a trucking career?

Maybe you want to become a school bus or city bus driver in North Carolina…

If so, then you’ve come to the right place. 

Here, we’re going to give you a complete step-by-step guide on how to get a CDL in North Carolina. 

On top of that, we’ll also talk about CDL classes and endorsements, as well as answer some FAQs. 

This is your one-stop guide to all things CDLs in North Carolina. 

So let’s begin!

CDL Classes in North Carolina

Let’s begin with the different CDL classes in North Carolina. Depending on what you’re planning on driving, you’ll need one of these:

  • Class A CDL
  • Class B CDL
  • Class C CDL

What makes them different from each other? The sections below expound on this further.

Class A CDL 

If you want the freedom to operate all commercial vehicle types, your best bet is to apply for a Class A CDL. 

However, it’s specifically for commercial vehicles with a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) exceeding 26,000 pounds. And since Class A commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are combination vehicles, the towed unit should weigh more than 10,000 pounds. 

Some examples of Class A CMVs include:

  • Tractor-trailers
  • Flatbeds
  • Truck trailers
  • Livestock carriers 

Class B CDL 

Sure, a Class A CDL can operate Class B CMVs, too (provided you get the right endorsements). However, if you don’t plan on driving very heavy trucks, then you can go for a Class B CDL. 

Class B CDLs can operate straight CMVs with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of over 26,000 pounds. If it tows a unit, it should not weigh more than 10,000 pounds. 

Some examples of Class B CMVs include:

  • School buses
  • City buses
  • Dump trucks
  • Box vans

Class C CDL 

A Class C CDL is unique in that it can operate CMVs with only these purposes:

  • The CMV is used to haul hazardous goods from one location to another (these must be in quantities that require placarding)
  • The CMV is used to transport at least 15 passengers (excluding the driver)

Also, these CMVs should weigh fewer than 26,000 pounds and tow units fewer than 10,000 pounds. 

CDL Endorsements in North Carolina

Endorsements on your CDL mean you got special training to drive a certain CMV or transport a certain load. 

In North Carolina, you must get these endorsements if you want to operate or haul these CMVs/loads:

EndorsementDescriptionWritten Test?Skills Test?
TTo operate combination vehicles with double or triple trailers.YesNo
NTo operate CMVs that transport materials (liquid or gas) using a tank or tanks. These must have an individual-rated capacity exceeding 119 gallons and an aggregate-rated capacity of at least 1,000 gallons. The tanks must be permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or its chassis.YesNo
HTo transport hazardous material in enough quantities to require placardingYesNo
XTo operate CMVs that combine the N and H endorsementsYesNo
PTo operate any vehicle designed to transport at least 15 passengers (excluding the driver)YesYes
STo operate a school bus that sits and transports 16 or more passengers, including the driver.YesYes

CDL Requirements in North Carolina

So now that you’ve determined what CDL class and endorsement you need, it’s time to start working on your CDL.

But first…

You must check whether or not you’re qualified to apply for one.

We’ve created a checklist to help you determine this. Go through the items and see which ones you can check off.

  • You meet the age requirement:
    • 18 years old if you only drive within North Carolina
    • 21 years old if you cross state lines or transport hazardous materials
  • You have a valid North Carolina-issued driver’s license
  • You have complete driving privileges (you cannot apply with a suspended or revoked license)
  • You meet the FMCSA’s health standards.
  • You are a U.S. citizen (or you must have proof of legal status)
  • You have insurance from a provider operating in North Carolina

So, how many boxes did you check off?

Don’t worry if you left some unmarked. These tell you where you should focus your efforts. 

Once you have a check on every box, you can begin…

The Steps to Getting a CDL in North Carolina

The end-to-end process of getting your CDL in North Carolina can seem overwhelming. It’s confusing if you’re unfamiliar with what to do.

We’re here to make it simple for you by dividing the process into 2 distinct phases: 

  • Phase One: Getting your CDL permit
  • Phase Two: Getting your official CDL 

Let’s go through each phase in detail.

How to Get Your North Carolina CDL Permit 

Here are the steps to getting your North Carolina CDL permit:

  1. Plan which CDL class and endorsement you need. 
  1. Enroll in an FMCSA-approved Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) program if you are:
    1. Getting a first-time Class A or Class B CDL
    2. Getting a first-time S, P, or H endorsement
    3. Upgrading an existing Class B CDL to a Class A CDL

NOTE: You don’t have to complete the program before getting your CDL permit. However, if you’re getting an H endorsement, you must at least have finished the theory portion regarding hazardous materials.

  1. Prepare documents proving the following:
    1. Your age and identity
    2. Your Social Security number
    3. Your residency in North Carolina (you must present two)
    4. Your legal presence in the U.S. (this must be issued by the government and only applies to non-citizens)
    5. Liability insurance coverage 
    6. DOT Medical Certificate (check here if this applies to you)

If you’re unsure what to bring, click here for a complete guide of acceptable documents.

  1. Go to a local DMV office, apply for a CDL permit, and submit your documents. 

NOTE: You do not have to make an appointment before your visit. However, if you need an interpreter for your knowledge exam, you must schedule this by calling (919) 715 7000.

  1. Pay the following fees with cash, money order, personal check, or VISA:
    1. $43.25 for three attempts to take the knowledge tests
    2. $21.50 for the CDL permit 
    3. $4.25 per year for each endorsement (if any) 
  1. Pass all necessary knowledge exams.
  1. Receive your Temporary Driving Certificate. Your CDL permit will arrive by mail within 20 days.

NOTE: Your CDL permit remains valid for 180 days. You can renew it once if you don’t earn your CDL before that time. 

Congratulations! You’ve completed phase one!

With a CDL permit, you can begin accumulating driving experience with a CMV under your class. But just like any permit, you need to be supervised — this time by a licensed commercial driver with the same CDL class as yours. 

How to Get Your North Carolina CDL

Here’s how to go from a CDL permit to an official CDL in North Carolina:

  1. Complete your Entry-Level Driving Training (ELDT) program.
  1. Hold your permit for more than 14 days.
  1. Schedule your CDL road test by calling (919) 715 7000.

NOTE: Not all driver’s license offices in North Carolina conduct a CDL road test. You might not be able to take it in your local area. 

  1. On your appointment, ensure you have the following:
    1. Your valid North Carolina driver’s license
    2. Your active CDL permit
    3. Your DOT Medical Card (if necessary)
    4. A commercial vehicle that meets the following:
      1. Represents the CDL class you chose 
      2. Has manufacturer’s labels showing its GVWR or GCWR
      3. Has valid tags
  1. Pay the licensing fee of $21.50 per year.
  1. Pass all 3 parts of the CDL road test.
  1. Receive your Temporary Driving Certificate. You’ll get your official CDL within 20 days through the mail.

And that’s it! You’re now an official commercial driver in North Carolina.

Once again, congratulations! 

FAQs About CDLs in North Carolina

Okay, let’s answer some frequently asked questions. 

How much does it cost to get a CDL in North Carolina?

Getting a CDL in North Carolina may cost a bit. You need around $3,500 when undergoing the process. 

The biggest expense is going to be your ELDT program. Rates differ from provider to provider, but these average $2,786.

Besides that, you also need to pay for the following:

  • Application fee: $43.25
  • CDL permit: $21.50
  • Endorsement: $4.25 each (per year)
  • Licensing fee:  $21.50 (per year)

How long does it take to get a CDL in North Carolina?

Typically, you can complete the process and receive your CDL in around 6 months. However, this timeline assumes you pass your knowledge exam on the first try, don’t need to renew your CDL permit, and complete the skills test immediately.

Do you have to attend school to get your CDL in North Carolina?

Yes. All CDL applicants must complete Entry-Level Driver Training from an FMCSA-accredited provider if they are:

  • Applying for a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time
  • Upgrading their CDL from Class B to Class A
  • Getting H, S, or P endorsements for the first time

How many questions are on the CDL permit test in North Carolina?

The CDL permit test has 50 multiple-choice questions. The DMV gives you an hour to answer everything.

There’s no better way to prepare for your permit test than by studying the NC Commercial Driver License Manual. You can also take some practice tests to help you get a feel of the testing environment. 

How do I pass my CDL test in North Carolina?

Out of the 50 items, you must get at least 40 correct — that’s an 80% score. 

The road test, however, is another matter. There are three parts — the pre-trip inspection, off-road (basic controls), and on-road. Don’t worry, – you will learn this from your ELDT program. 

What disqualifies you from a CDL in North Carolina?

Several things can lead to a CDL disqualification in North Carolina. These include the following:

  • Having a BAC higher than 0.04%
  • Leaving the scene of an accident involving a CMV
  • Committing a felony or serious traffic violations
  • Violating Out-of-Service Orders
  • Committing Railroad-highway grade violations
  • Failing the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Background Check
  • Losing your driving privileges on your standard license

How much does a CDL driver make in North Carolina?

Truck drivers in North Carolina have an average salary of $47,430 annually. That’s 5.78% lower than the national average of $50,340.

The Wrap Up

And that was how to get a CDL in North Carolina. 

Now that you know everything you need to know, it gets a lot simpler, right?

Sure, you’ll still need to put in the time, effort, and investment. But if you just follow the steps one by one, you’ll soon be on your way to being an official commercial driver in the state. 

So what are you waiting for?

Go and get started today.

Good luck!

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