No matter how much driving experience you have, it won’t prepare you for driving a commercial vehicle.
This is why it’s a must to get a commercial driver’s license.
And the requirements for this are different than a regular license.
But don’t fret – it isn’t as complicated as you might think.
To make it even less complicated, we’re going to give you a complete guide on South Carolina CDL requirements.
We’ll list down all the steps in order – from start to finish.
We’ll also talk a bit about the CDL classes, endorsements, and eligibility requirements.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in!
CDL Classes in South Carolina
First things first — how do you know if you need a commercial driver’s license (CDL)?
And which class should you get?
In South Carolina, commercial driver’s licenses come in three classes:
- Class A CDL
- Class B CDL
- Class C CDL
The CDL class you need depends on the vehicle you’ll drive.
Let’s spell that out in detail.
When Do You Need a Class A CDL?
You need a Class A CDL to operate combination commercial vehicles (CMVs).
These are CMVs with a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of over 26,001 pounds. It should also tow units weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
Semis, big rigs, and flatbeds typically fall under this category.
Getting a Class A CDL is a solid option if you want flexibility. Besides the CMVs that fall under the Class A category, it also allows you to operate those in Class B and Class C.
When Do You Need a Class B CDL?
You must carry a Class B CDL if your CMV has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or heavier but isn’t a combination vehicle.
These are heavy straight vehicles, and they can tow a unit, too. However, the unit must weigh less than 10,000 pounds.
Examples of Class B CMVs are dump trucks, box trucks, and large city buses.
A Class B CDL allows you to drive CMVs under the Class C category.
When Do You Need a Class C CDL?
Class C CDL is for commercial vehicles, whether single or combination, that have a GVWR of fewer than 26,000 pounds. If towing a unit, it should weigh under 10,000 pounds.
But here’s an important factor.
A Class C CDL is only needed if the vehicle fits the weight description AND follows one of these purposes:
- Used to transport 16 or more passengers — this includes the driver.
- Used to transport large quantities of hazardous materials — that require placarding.
So which CDL class do YOU need?
CDL Endorsements in South Carolina
More than CDL classes, you must also be familiar with the various endorsements available.
These confirm that you received additional training, qualifying you to operate specific vehicles or transport a particular load.
When you apply for a CDL, you can choose between six endorsements:
|Endorsement||Purpose||Written Exam||Road Test|
|T||To operate double and triple trailers||Yes||No|
|H||To transport hazardous materials||Yes||No|
|N||To operate tank vehicles||Yes||No|
|X||To operate CMVs meeting H and N requirements||Yes||No|
|P||To operate passenger vehicles (those carrying 16 or more passengers, including the driver)||Yes||Yes|
|S||to operate a school bus||Yes||Yes|
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- You can only have an S, P, or N endorsement on your CDL permit
- You cannot transport passengers using a bus even with a P endorsement if you’re driving with a CDL permit
CDL Requirements in South Carolina
Once you’ve determined which CDL class and endorsement you need, it’s time to begin preparing for your application.
That means ensuring you’re eligible for a commercial driver’s license in South Carolina.
To help you out, we’ve listed the requirements below.
Check off the ones that apply to you.
- You must meet the minimum age requirement:
- 18 to drive intrastate commerce (within South Carolina only)
- 21 to drive across state lines or transport hazardous materials
- You must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident
- You live in South Carolina
- You must pass a medical exam completed by an FMCSA-accredited physician.
- You have an unexpired South Carolina-issued driver’s license.
- Your driving privileges are active (no unfulfilled suspensions or revocations).
If you checked off everything on the list, proceed to the next section.
If you have a couple of blank boxes, focus on those first. Once you can mark them off, you can begin your CDL application.
How to Get A CDL in South Carolina
There are two parts to getting a commercial driver’s license in South Carolina:
- Getting a CDL permit
- Getting a CDL
Let’s see what you have to do to get through each part.
How to Get Your South Carolina CDL Permit
Here are the steps to getting a CDL permit in South Carolina:
- Decide on a CDL class.
- Determine which endorsements you’ll need.
- Ensure you’ve met all the eligibility requirements (you can check the previous section for a detailed list).
- Download a copy of the SCDMV Form 447-CDL (Application for a Commercial Driver’s License or Commercial Learner’s Permit) and fill it out completely. You can find the form here.
- Download and complete a copy of SCDMV Form DL-405A (Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Holders Medical Certification Requirements.
- Accomplish Form DL-402 (Affidavit of Previous Driver’s License).
- Gather documents that prove the following:
- Your identity and birth date
- Your residence in South Carolina
- Your valid DOT Medical Certificate (check Form DL-505A if this applies to you).
- Any supporting documents for name change (if applicable).
Click here to see a complete list of documents you can use.
- Decide which DMV branch you want to visit.
|NOTE: South Carolina doesn’t require you to make appointments, but don’t forget to check operating hours and available services.|
- When you visit, do the following:
- Submit all the documents you prepared beforehand
- Take the vision test
- Pass all the required CDL knowledge exams
- Pay the following fees:
- Application fee – $15
- Testing fee – $2 for each knowledge exam
- CDL permit fee – $2.50
- Receive your South Carolina CDL permit.
And just like that, you’ve finished part one!
You can use your CDL permit to gain driving experience in the CDL class/endorsement you chose.
However, keep the following in mind:
- You cannot operate a CMV alone. A licensed commercial driver (whose CDL class is the same as what you’re getting) must be with you.
- Your permit is only valid for one year. If you don’t go through your CDL skills test before it expires, you can renew it, but that means retaking all knowledge tests.
How to Get Your South Carolina CDL
Now, here is how to get your official South Carolina commercial driver’s license:
- Hold your CDL permit for at least 14 days.
- Undergo the required Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) program. This program must be FMCSA-approved.
|NOTE: The FMCSA made this mandatory for all commercial drivers who are: |
Getting a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time
First-time applicants for an H, P, or S endorsement
Upgrading their Class B CDL to a Class A
- Schedule your CDL skills test by making an appointment through the SCDMV’s website.
|NOTE: Only nine branches administer a CDL skills test: |
Columbia – Shop Road
Greenville – Saluda Dam Road
Myrtle Beach – Commons
Remember, you cannot walk in at any of these branches.
- On the day of your appointment, arrive half an hour before your testing time. Also, bring the following with you:
- Your valid CDL permit
- Your current South Carolina-issued driver’s license
- An appropriate CMV (it must be in the same class as the CDL class in your application) that’s registered, inspected, and insured.
- Proof of identity, date of birth, and South Carolina residence.
- Pass all parts of the CDL skills test. This includes pre-trip inspection and off-road and on-road driving.
- Pay the appropriate fee:
- Application fee – $15
- 8-year CDL fee – $25
- Get your South Carolina CDL.
And just like that — you’re done!
Congratulations are in order because you’re officially a commercial driver!
Frequently Asked Questions About South Carolina CDL Requirements
How Long is CDL Training in South Carolina?
Typically, trucking school runs for 160 hours over 4 to 6 weeks. However, this timeline may change depending on what the school offers.
So always look out for this when choosing a trucking school.
How Much Does it Cost to Get a CDL in South Carolina?
You must pay several fees when working on your CDL, which could amount to anywhere from $60 to $70, depending on how many endorsement knowledge tests you take.
That’s also assuming you pass your knowledge test on your first attempt. You’ll have to repay each time you fail.
Let’s break this down:
- CDL permit application fee – $15
- CDL permit fee – $2.50
- CDL knowledge test fee – $2 per test
- CDL application fee – $15
- CDL fee – $25
However, you must also consider the cost of a trucking school.
There are 19 trucking schools in South Carolina, and although the rates vary, the average tuition is $4,156.
That said, you can consider FREE company-sponsored trucking schools.
What Are the Three Tests for a CDL in South Carolina?
You must pass a vision test, all necessary CDL knowledge exams, and the CDL skills test to get your SC CDL.
Do You Need a CDL for a Truck Under 26000 lbs With Air Brakes in SC?
No. You don’t need a CDL for a truck with a weight rating under 26,000 unless you use it to transport hazardous materials in amounts that require placarding — even if it has air brakes.
How Hard is the South Carolina CDL Permit Test?
The general knowledge CDL permit test has 50 items. You can only get 10 incorrect if you want to pass.
However, remember that you must also take written exams on air brakes (if your vehicle has them) and for any endorsement you need.
What is the Minimum Score for the SC CDL Permit Test?
You must get at least 80% on the CDL knowledge test. If you don’t pass on your first attempt, you cannot retake it on the same day. Plus, you’ll have to repay the fee of $2.
What Disqualifies You from Getting a CDL in South Carolina?
Several things can disqualify you from getting a CDL in South Carolina. These include the following:
- You operated a CMV with a BAC level of 0.04% or higher.
- You committed a felony while operating a commercial vehicle.
- You were involved in an accident while driving a CMV and left the scene.
- You committed grave traffic violations like excessive speeding or reckless driving.
- You lost your driving privileges on your non-commercial license.
- You violated a railroad-highway grade crossing regulation.
- You continued driving a CMV after getting out-of-service orders.
The Wrap Up
That wasn’t so complicated, right?
Sure, it involves more steps and requirements.
However, if you just follow this complete guide, you’ll have all the essential information you need.
And now that you know the South Carolina CDL requirements, you can get started right away!
Go ahead and choose your CDL class and endorsement – from there, work your way to an official CDL.
Best of luck!