How To Get a CDL in North Carolina

If you wish to drive a commercial vehicle in North Carolina then you will need to first get a commercial driver’s license (CDL). While this seems like a daunting process, it will be easier for you to get through it if you know exactly what to do. From meeting all the requirements stated by the North Carolina state laws to taking and passing your tests, acquiring your CDL is going to open different opportunities for you. If you’ve been wanting to get a CDL but do not know how to go about it, this article is meant to get you through the process of acquiring one.

Why Getting a CDL in NC is a Good Idea

Perhaps you are wondering if taking a CDL in North Carolina is a good idea. The answer is that yes, it is a great idea given the many benefits to having a Commercial Driver’s License in NC. That said, below are a few of them;

Good Job Security

One of the top reasons you should get a CDL in NC is because of the good job security it offers thanks to the high demand for truck drivers in the state. Truck drivers have a lot of employment opportunities because of the essential requirement of goods transportation across America. As such, a CDL holder can easily find employment given the current shortage of drivers.

Incredible Pay

If you’re looking for a career with great pay, outstanding benefits, and retirement options, then truck driving is one great alternative. During your first year, you can earn up to $41,000 and the income benefits could keep increasing depending on the company you work with. You could also benefit from the health Insurance packages, paid vacation times, and other comprehensive benefits packages as well as sign-on bonuses from your company.

QUIT Your 9-TO-5 Job

If you don’t like sitting in the office all day long working, that’s totally fine. Truck driving provides numerous options for any individual who doesn’t fancy office work. When you drive, you are not confined to an office all day but rather get to experience landscapes and sights that most people don’t get to in a typical workday. A career as a truck driver may be the best option if the thought of a routine desk job is getting boring.

Gives You Multiple Job Opportunities

With a CDL, you can choose from a wide variety of jobs! You don’t have to stay in your current pointless position if you are not content. CDL drivers have a variety of career options, including local, regional, and over-the-road routes. Additionally, you have the choice to drive alone or in a group.

The Requirements for Getting a CDL in NC

In order to apply for a CDL in North Carolina, you will be required to provide a few documents in order to verify yourself. The following are the documents that you will be required to bring with you:

A Document That Proves Your Residence

When applying for a CDL at your local DMV, you will be required to produce a document that shows both your name and your physical address of residence. Some of the documents you can produce at this stage include a utility bill, your current apartment lease, a North Carolina vehicle registration, a North Carolina library card, or military orders.

Documents to Verify Your Identity and Age

In order to verify your current age and identity, you will be required to carry your ID issued by the United States government or your Social Security Card. Alternative types of documentation you can provide at this stage include a marriage certificate, your birth certificate, your passport, your current driver’s license, or notarized court documents.

You must be 18 years of age or above in order to operate a CMV intrastate. Also in order to operate a hazmat vehicle, a school bus to transport students, or any commercial vehicle across state lines, you will need to be 21 years of age or above.

Extra Documentation

You will also be required to demonstrate that you carry liability insurance for any vehicle you expect to drive in the future. As such, you will be required to carry your insurance card or policy. This should show important information such as the insurance policy number, the start and end dates for the insurance policy, and your name.

You will also need a commercial learner’s permit(CLP) and proof of clean driving history. If you are not a US citizen, you will be required to present a government-issued document to indicate your legal presence in the country.

Your medical card might also be asked for depending on the type of vehicle you intend to drive.

Steps to Getting Your CDL in NC

Check the Commercial Driver’s License Manual and User Guide

With no experience in CDL, it will be important that you acquire a manual and user guide before beginning the process. To acquire your manual you can directly contact NCDOT or visit their website to download it. Since the prerequisites of the state change from time to time, it is important to acquire the relevant documents with the information you need to excel in all the stages. Usually, before receiving your driving license, you must take a knowledge test. Studying the style guide beforehand is a good approach if you want to pass this test and become a great driver.

Get the Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP)

Before you can use your NC CDL, you will be required to obtain a commercial learner’s permit first. This is used for practicing driving the vehicle that you are taking your CDL for. At this stage, you will be accompanied by a supervisor who holds a CDL for the vehicle you intend to drive in the future.

Choose a CDL Class

Usually, there are different types of CDL classes and you’re required to choose one depending on the type of vehicle you will be driving.

  • For a combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight of not less than 26,001 pounds, you can choose a “Commercial Class A” license. This also includes trailers weighing at least 10,000 pounds. Once you attain a Class A CDL and the required endorsements you can drive different types of vehicles such as livestock carriers, tractor-trailers, tank vehicles, truck and tractor combinations, and flatbeds.
  • For a single vehicle with a weight of not less than 26,000 pounds, or if used to tow another vehicle of not more than 10,000 pounds you can obtain a “Commercial Class B” license. Types of vehicles you can drive once you attain a Class B CDL include box trucks, straight trucks, segmented buses, tractor trailers, large passenger buses, and dump trucks with small trailers.
  • For any vehicle that does not meet class “A” or “B” specifications, or if you will be required to carry 16 passengers including yourself(driver), or if you will be required to carry hazardous materials as directed by the federal law then you can acquire a “Commercial Class C” license. Types of vehicles you can drive with a Class C CDL  include; small HazMat vehicles, combination vehicles not covered by classes A or B, and passenger vans.

Verify With NCDOT to Ensure You Have a Clean Driving Record

In order to apply for a commercial driver’s license, you will retain your current driver’s license. So it will not be suspended, disqualified, or revoked but the NCDOT will have to verify that your driving record is clean. If any information provided to certify that your driving record is clean does not add up, you might be asked for more documents for further clarification.

Get a DOT Medical Card

To be authorized to drive a commercial vehicle, you will be required to provide a United States Department of Transportation medical card. You can acquire this by taking a physical examination from any healthcare provider or doctor. If you cannot acquire a DOT medical card, then an NCDOT Exemption Review Officer will arrange a meeting with you to establish your eligibility for acquiring a CDL.

Take the Written Knowledge Test

First, you will need to identify a full-service driver’s license NCDOT location near you, where you will take the test. In order to pass you will be required to score at least 80% on the test which might take you 1hr 30mins to complete.

Take the Driving Skills Test

The driving skills test is often administered across different office locations in North Carolina. To identify these locations you can check your commercial driver’s license manual. Before you visit any office to take the test make sure that you make an appointment first. Based on the vehicle you intend to drive you will be tested on the inspection of the vehicle, a complete road-driving test, as well as basic vehicle control skills such as backing up or even making turns.


It is important to note that the DMV payments for different CDLs and endorsements are made every year and that any CDL taken in North Carolina is normally valid for five years.

  • To apply for a commercial learner’s permit will be required to pay $20.
  • To obtain a commercial learner’s permit will be required to pay $20.
  • To obtain a commercial driver’s license you will be required to pay $40.
  • To obtain a Commercial Class A license you will be required to pay $20/year.
  • To obtain a Commercial Class B license you will be required to pay $20/year.
  • To obtain a Commercial Class C license you will be required to pay $20/year.
  • You will be required to pay $4 for each endorsement.
  • You won’t be required to pay $13 for a duplicate commercial driver’s license.

NC CDL Disqualifications

Different criminal convictions and rule violations can cause CDL disqualifications for an operator in North Carolina. In event of any traffic violations or CDL suspensions, a commercial driver is required to report it to the employer and state to avoid infraction. Here are CDL disqualifications a commercial vehicle driver might encounter in North Carolina.

  • Committing a felony using the vehicle.
  • Leaving an accident scene.
  • Changing lanes inappropriately.
  • Driving too close to the vehicle ahead of you.
  • Speeding when towing a trailer. The license can be suspended if the driver exceeds the required speed limit by state law with over 15 mph.
  • If the vehicle is overweight. If you are required to carry oversize loads then you will need to acquire a permit to operate such a vehicle either pre-trip or every year.
  • Driving while under the influence of a controlled substance.
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Irresponsible CMV operation resulting in a fatality. 
  • Operating a CMV with a blood alcohol concentration of .04% or more.
  • Not having the appropriate class of CDL and/or endorsement for the type of goods being transported, the passengers on board, or the vehicle group being operated.
  • Not having an up-to-date logbook or falsifying information on your logbook. This can attract federal penalties or a six-month jail term.
  • Having more than one CDL from another state other than North Carolina. This can attract a jail term and a fine of up to $5000.
  • Reckless driving as required by North Carolina law.
  • Perpetrating a felony of manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance using the vehicle.
  • Operating a CMV without first acquiring a CDL.
  • Operating a CMV without having a CDL in your possession.

Individuals Exempt From NC CDL

As per the FMCSA, military personnel are the only group exempted from getting CDLs. However, the following is a list of who is exempt from getting a CDL as per the state of North Carolina.

Farm Equipment Operators

This includes individuals aged 21 or more, who specifically deal with farm-to-market operations. The vehicles that they are authorized to drive are required to have farm plates. However, if a farm vehicle is managed by a farmer, an employee, or a family member, then a CDL is not necessary for a farm worker to drive that vehicle. This also applies if they wish to operate the vehicle not more than 150 air miles of the farm, if they need to transport equipment, products, and other supplies from or to the farm, or if they wish to operate the vehicle to carry out agricultural or nursery tasks, and if the vehicle they wish to operate is not used for contract motor carrier purposes.

Military Vehicle Operators

While excluding U.S. Reserves technicians, anyone who operates a military vehicle including members of the National Guard, active military, and reserves are exempt from getting CDLs. A Skills Test Waiver for CDL is awarded to service member applicants employed within the past 12 months in a military position. This enables them to operate a CMV equivalent military motor vehicle or in the case where they want to operate a CMV in civilian life. 

Firefighting Equipment Operators

CMV drivers who work in fields meant to save lives, protect property, or carry out urgent government tasks are exempt from regular traffic laws and are required to use visible and audible signals. These are vehicles such as ambulances, fire trucks, SWAT squad cars, trucks used to convey foam or water, etc.

Recreational Vehicle Operators

A CDL may not apply to drivers who are operating recreational vehicles (RVs) for personal, non-commercial usage.

Township or Government Workers

For workers in smaller towns or for general state and local government personnel, special CDL exemptions are state-provided. It is essential to confirm the laws that specifically apply to North Carolina.

How to Find a Job Driving Commercial Vehicles in NC

Below is a quick rundown list of some of the best ways you can find a job and become a commercial truck driver in North Carolina.

  • Browse trucking-only job sites.
  • Don’t just stick to trucking-only job sites, also explore general job opening websites.
  • Inquire about trucking job openings from your connections.
  • Explore trucking forums to see if there are any opportunities advertised.
  • Send applications to numerous companies in the state.
  • Join the state’s trucking association and find out about any job openings.
  • Don’t forget to check the newspaper.

Sum Up

While a lot of individuals are hesitant about getting a CDL, you can take the leap and unlock multiple potential opportunities for yourself. Make sure you are conversant with the North Carolina state requirements of getting a CDL. It is important to follow the CDL manual and user guide carefully to avoid missing out on any essential information you might require throughout the whole process.