How do I apply for a NC CDL driver permit? North Carolina

If you already have a CDL from another state or know how to drive the type of commercial vehicle already, then you can apply for a new CDL, take a written and skills test, and be on your way.

If you’re new to being a CDL driver, you must get a CDL permit first and practice driving before you take the skills test.

Commercial Drivers License Permit

Make an appointment at a NC DMV to apply for a commercial license permit and take a written test.  You may also schedule a skills test at this time, if you’re ready.

Bring in:

  • Two forms Proof of Identity and age; for example, your birth certificate and passport.
  • Proof of North Carolina residency. All acceptable documents are listed in the Commercial Driver’s Handbook.
  • Social Security card (original).
  • Proof of insurance.

Go in and complete your paperwork with the NC DMV examiner.

You may also be asked:

  • To take a drug test.
  • To provide a clean driving record.
  • To get medical clearance from a doctor.


  • $30 for a new CDL.
  • $3 per endorsement, per year.
  • $15 for the annual renewal fee.

Choose Your CDL Class and Endorsements

Before applying for your learners permit or take any tests, you'll need to figure out which CDL class, and possibly endorsements, you need.

CDL classes are as follows:

  • Class A: Any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GWVR) of 26,001 or more pounds, if the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is more than 10,000 pounds.
  • Class B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or a vehicle towing a vehicle not more than 10,000 pounds GVWR.
  • Class C: Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but transports 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or carries hazardous materials.

NOTE: You need a commercial license for either volunteer or paid positions. If, however, you merely have a large family and have a 16-passenger van, you don’t need a CDL.

CDL endorsements are as follows:

  • H: Hazardous materials (HAZMAT). To get a hazmat endorsement, you’ll need to get a background check from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Apply for this through the TSA after you pass your written test.
  • T: Double trailers
  • P: Passenger vehicles
  • N: Tank vehicles
  • X: Hazardous materials AND tanks.
  • L: Only vehicles not equipped with air brakes.
  • S: School buses only.

NOTE: Military personnel will administer their own versions of the CDL. Farm vehicles also generally do not require a CDL. For questions, contact your DMV office.

Take the Written CDL Test

After your paperwork is approved, the next step to getting your drivers permit is taking the written exam. You will probably need to take more than one test. Allow at least an hour and a half to finish your testing. You get one try per day, and only three tries before you have to pay the application fee again.

The tests are:

  • General Knowledge Test: For everyone.
  • Passenger Transport Test: Transporting passengers (not a school bus).
  • School Bus Test: School bus drivers.
  • Air Brakes Test: Vehicles with air brakes.
  • Combination Vehicles Test: Combination vehicles.
  • Hazardous Materials Test: HAZMAT or waste.
  • Tanker Test: Vehicles with tanks.
  • Doubles Test: Double trailers.

Carefully go over the Commercial Handbook. This has all the information you’ll be tested on. A CDL practice test is also a good idea.

Luckily, drivers ed companies now offer web-based CDL practice tests, set up like the real test. These tests cost around $10 to $15 and are a good investment, because if you pass, you’ll know you’re likely to pass the real test. If you fail the practice, just study more and take another practice test.

Get Your CDL Permit

After you pass the written part(s) of the learners permit test, the NC DMV issues you a CDL permit. This allows you to finish your driver’s training at a school, on the job, and always with another person with a proper CDL.

Keep in mind that:

  • Permits expire in six months.
  • You can only have two permits per two years.
  • If you had a CDL from another state or you already know how to drive the vehicle, you can go ahead and take the skills test.
You will either have to learn how to drive on the job, or enroll in a commercial driving school. If you have a friend or relative who has the same type of CDL and vehicle, you can also learn how to drive from that person.

Take the CDL Skills Test

The drivers permit test is over, you've gotten some behind-the-wheel CDL practice, and now it's time to show what you can do. During the skills test, you’ll have to demonstrate both safety and driving skills.

Make an appointment at a DMV office that does CDL skills testing. These are listed on the NC DMV website.

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