North Carolina CDL License Requirements – What You Need to Know

| Last Updated: December 22, 2021

The law dictates that you must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) before operating a commercial vehicle in North Carolina. Generally, you need the license to transport bulk or hazardous materials, operate large-capacity passenger vehicles, or drive a school bus. 

We’ll share the basic requirements for obtaining the CDL, the fees, endorsements, and CDL classes you should consider in North Carolina. 

How to Get a CDL in NC

You must meet a few basic requirements before you can obtain a CDL from the North Carolina DMV. For starters, you must prove your identity by providing a US ID, birth certificate, or proof of legal permanent residence. You also need a commercial learner’s permit.  

After that, you’ll need to pay for the general knowledge written test and road skill tests, schedule when to sit for them and pass each test. You’ll also need to pass the medical examiner’s fee and vision test.

Once you complete the tests, you’ll have to wait for at least three weeks to have the results and your CDL processed.

NC CDL Requirements

Here are the basics for obtaining a CDL in North Carolina:

1. Proof of Identity and Age

The North Carolina DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) expects you to provide documents that prove your identity and age. That includes your ID or birth certificate, or valid passport.

In general, you have to be at least 18 years to obtain a commercial driver’s license to operate intrastate (within the North Carolina state lines) or at least 21 years to transport hazardous material or operate a commercial vehicle interstate (across the North Carolina state lines). 

As for proof of residence, you’ll need to provide a utility bill or any other document that indicates your address and name.

2. Commercial Learner’s Permit

This special permit lets you operate a commercial vehicle for training purposes.

3. Fees Requirements

A commercial learner’s permit will cost you $20, while a commercial driver’s license application will cost $40. You’ll also incur a fee of $20 a year for the license for five years (the lifespan of the license) and pay $4 for each endorsement you add to your CDL.

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4. Test Requirements

You have to undergo two types of tests:

  • General Knowledge Test – This is a 25-question test that tests your knowledge of truck driving regulations. Out of the 25 questions, you only need to answer 20 of them correctly to achieve a passing score of 80%.
  • Skills Tests – This is a three-part test, characterized by a pre-trip test (evaluates your understanding of the commercial vehicle’s components)), vehicle control test (evaluates your ability to control the vehicle), and a road test (evaluates your ability to operate the vehicle in high-traffic).

5. Physical Tests

For you to obtain your CDL, you have to pass the physical tests too. That includes a vision test where you will distinguish different colors. You also need to prove your ability to perceive a whisper from at least five feet away.

Additionally, you’ll go through a blood pressure test to ensure you don’t surpass 160/100 and a blood sugar test to ensure the levels are not above 200mg. Meanwhile, you are expected not to be an abuser of a narcotic or any other habit-forming drug.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a CDL in North Carolina?

Before obtaining a CDL in North Carolina, you have to pay the commercial learner’s permit if you don’t have one, the CDL application fee, and endorsements.

Please take note that once you obtain your CDL in North Carolina, it remains valid for five years, but the DMV requires you to pay annual fees for the CDL.

Generally, the fees include:

  • $20 for the commercial learner’s permit
  • $40 for the commercial driver’s license application
  • $20/year for five years CDL fee
  • $4 for each endorsement
  • $13 for duplicate CDL (optional)

How Long Does It Take To Get a CDL in North Carolina?

Most people get their CDL after three to seven weeks of taking CDL classes. In some cases, however, it may take up to six months.

But overall, ensuring you have all the requirements and paying the fees can help hasten the process.  

CDL Disqualifications NC

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration defines circumstances that may permanently or temporarily disqualify a driver from operating a commercial motor vehicle.

They include the following convictions:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other controlled substances
  • Fleeing the accident scene after committing an accident (hit and run)
  • Using the vehicle to commit a felony
  • Speeding by 15mph or more above the stated speed limit
  • Driving recklessly 
  • Failing to stop when needed
  • Driving a commercial vehicle without the possession of a CDL or the required endorsement
  • Having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or higher while operating a commercial vehicle

If you already have a CDL but are convicted of any of the above offenses, you could lose your CDL. Additionally, you could incur a fine of up to $2,500 for a first offense and an additional $5,000 for a repeat offense.

Commercial License Types & Classes in North Carolina

Primarily, there are three CDL classes in North Carolina as follows:

Class A CDL

This CDL class applies to combined vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of at least 26,001 pounds or such vehicles towing another with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds. 

Drivers with Class A CDL (plus the necessary endorsement) can operate Class B and C vehicles.

Class B CDL

This CDL applies to single vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more. Drivers with Class B CDL (plus appropriate endorsement) can also drive Class C vehicles.

Class C CDL

This CDL applies to vehicles that do not belong to Class A or Class B but carry 16 or more passengers (with the driver included).  The CDL class also applies to vehicles that transport hazardous materials but don’t belong to Class A or B.

NC CDL Endorsements

North Carolina CDL endorsements could be any of the ones below:

  • P Endorsement (for passenger vehicles)
  • N endorsement (for transporting gases or liquids in tankers holding 1,000 gallons or more)
  • H endorsement (for moving hazardous materials that require placarding)
  • X Endorsement (for hauling hazardous material in a tanker)
  • S Endorsement (for operating a school bus)
  • T Endorsement (for operating multi-trailers)
  • What Makes North Carolina a Great Place to Start a Truck Driving Career?

    North Carolina is among the best states to kick-start your truck driving career because of the following reasons:

    High Pay

    Truck driving is a lucrative job in North Carolina. According to ZipRecruiter, the top earners pocket $63,953 annually, approximately $22.15/hour. 

    Cities like Raleigh and Jacksonville lead the line among the best-payers, however, those with endorsements in addition to the CDL earn the most income.

    Some of the companies that pay well are XPO Logistics, Magway, and Carolina Freightways, and they are always looking for certified commercial truck drivers to help them meet their supply needs.

    Growing Economy

    North Carolina ranks 13th nationwide with a GDP of $592 billion, and when it comes to opportunity creation, North Carolina ranks 28th. That shows the immense opportunities that are there for truck drivers and other workers. 

    Commercial truck drivers have more employment avenues, with sectors like healthcare, education, and infrastructure taking the lead.

    Low Cost of Living

    Studies show that the cost of living in North Carolina is much lower than the national average. According to these studies, utilities, transport, and housing are cheaper in North Carolina than the average national index.

    The only area where the national average index is lower than the cost in North Carolina is health. So, overall, it’s much cheaper to live in North Carolina than in most states.

    Job Outlook and Salary for Truck Driving in North Carolina

    According to ZipRecruiter, North Carolina has the same prospects as the national average for truck driving. In that case, the state ranks 50/50.

    According to the report, the state’s average annual earnings for a truck driver is $62,253, approximately $22/hour. However, the lowest annual earning per the report is $25,340, while the highest annual earning is $79,500.

    Raleigh and Jacksonville are two of the best paying cities, where truck drivers make $29-$30.32/hour. And when comparing drivers, team truck drivers and CDL team drivers earn the highest ($28.10 or more).

    Overall, job experience, endorsements, and certifications hugely determine how much a CDL driver makes in North Carolina.

    What is the Demand For Truck Drivers in North Carolina?

    According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a shortage of truck drivers in the United States, against increasing demand.

    The report indicates that the country will employ 7,000 truck drivers by 2026, and with North Carolina’s economy growing fast, the state is among those that will hire the most truck drivers.

    How Much Do CDL Drivers Make in North Carolina?

    According to ZipRecruiter, truck drivers make $25,340-$79,500 in North Carolina, depending on experience level, location, and vehicle type. Team truck drivers and CDL team drivers earn the best pay.


    Above are the basics for drivers to obtain a CDL in North Carolina. Be sure to follow the proper steps to acquire this necessary license to operate commercial vehicles legally in North Carolina but, more importantly, safely and successfully.

    People Also Ask

    While the above guide has the basics of obtaining a CDL in North Carolina, there’ll always be a few areas needing clarification. Below are a few questions that most drivers ask about the subject.

    How Much Does CDL School Cost in North Carolina?

    North Carolina CDL school fees range from $2,500-$5,000, depending on location and the school. The average cost, however, is $4,500. Overall, the completion time may be between 2-6 weeks.

    Can You Get a CDL With a DUI In North Carolina?

    You cannot get a CDL with a serious DUI in North Carolina. What’s more, you could have your CDL suspended for a year at least if charged with DUI.

    Once your suspension period expires, you will need to retake the CDL tests and pay a restoration fee of $100.

    Where Can You Find The NC CDL Practice Test?

    You can get CDL practice tests online by downloading the CDL Practice Test 2022 (Google Play or App Store).

    You can also check for sample questions on CDL websites online. Several options are tailored to the North Carolina market.

    After spending years on the road, I had a lot of time to think about the hardships that came with the trucking industry. I realized there was an opportunity to lend a hand a create a resource for truckers by truckers. With the help of my tech-savvy son, I built Trucker Geek as a way to show people that becoming a driver doesn’t need to be a stressful headache.