North Carolina - NC CDL License Handbook, Test Prep, and Requirements

North Carolina - NC CDL Overview

A Commercial Driver's License (CDL) is a driver's license required by North Carolina to operate any sort of vehicle which

  • is designed to move sixteen or more passengers, together with the driver. This includes (but is not restricted to) tow trucks, tractor trailers, and buses.
  • transports portions of hazardous materials that require warning placards under Department of Transportation regulations
  • has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 lb or more for commercial use

The CDL is ruled by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986. The CDL rules are designed to insure highway safety by requiring that truck drivers and drivers of tractor trailers and buses meet minimum standards.  The Act also permits the removing of drivers which are deemed unsafe or unqualified. States such as North Carolina are given the authority to issue Commercial Driver’s Licenses, however the minimal federal government requirements must be met.

Prepare for your NC CDL tests with our free North Carolina CDL practice tests

North Carolina CDL License Groups - NC CDL Classes

Commercial Driver’s Licenses are issued by North Carolina based on the CDL License classes specified below.
Group A (Combination Vehicle) CDL License

Any vehicle or combination of vehicles that has a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.  In the event you have a Group A CDL license, you are allowed to drive any vehicle or combination of vehicles of any size.

Group B (Heavy Straight Vehicle) CDL License

Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle less than 10,000 pounds GVWR. With a Group B CDL license, you're allowed to drive any single vehicle regardless of weight. In addition, you're allowed to tow a trailer if the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is lower than 10,000 pounds. If the trailer you might be towing has a GVWR of greater than 10,000 pounds, and the mixed vehicle weight rating is greater than 26,000 pounds, you will need a Class A CDL.

Group C (Small Vehicle) CDL License 

A Class C CDL license is intended to cover any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that doesn’t meet the Group A or Group B definitions, but that either is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (together with the driver), or is intended to move Hazardous Materials (HazMat).

With a Group C CDL license, you may drive any vehicle designed to move sixteen or extra passengers, together with the driver, if the GVWR is less than 26,001 pounds and you have a passenger endorsement. As well as, a Class C CDL also allows you to operate any vehicle used to move hazardous supplies if the GVWR is lower than 26,001 pounds and you have the proper endorsement.

North Carolina CDL Exam Overview

Tests for the NC CDL License include both skills tests and knowledge exams.

The CDL Knowledge Examinations consist of a general exam, one or more endorsement exams, and an air brakes test.  The exams that you will take rely upon the license classification that you're obtaining (Class A, B, or C) and the kind of vehicle that you will be driving (e.g., Tanker, Double/Triple, Passenger Bus).

Please consult with our free North Carolina CDL practice exams to help you prepare for your NC CDL examinations.

General Examination Overview

Drivers of each CDL class need to pass a General Knowledge exam which contains questions concerning driving safety, vehicle inspection, street indicators, traffic legal guidelines and other information you want to discover to drive a commercial vehicle in North Carolina.

Endorsement Test Overview

Along with the general knowledge examination, you must also take and pass numerous endorsement exams depending on the type of vehicle that you'll be operating.  The endorsement exams are described below.

  • Tankers endorsement - to drive a commercial tank vehicle (over 26,000 pounds) designed to move any liquid or gaseous materials within a tank that is permanently or temporarily hooked up to the vehicle or chassis. Portable tanks having a rated capability under 1,000 gallons are not required to have this endorsement.
  • Double and triple trailer endorsement - to pull double and triple trailers.
  • Passenger endorsement - to drive any vehicle, except a school bus, designed to hold sixteen or more persons, together with the driver.
  • School bus endorsement - required to drive school buses designed to carry sixteen or extra individuals, together with the driver that is transport students to or from school and authorized school activities. Additionally, a driver must obtain a passenger endorsement before acquiring a school bus endorsement.
  • Hazardous materials endorsement - to drive any vehicle carrying hazardous materials.  Hazmat materials are identified by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and require a Hazmat placard.

Air Brakes Examination

When you plan on driving any commercial vehicle that has air brakes, it's necessary to take and pass the air brakes exam to remove the air brakes restriction from your CDL.  The air brakes exam is totally different than the endorsement exams because the air brakes exam works as a restriction instead of an endorsement.  If you don't pass the air brakes test, your CDL will bear a mark of restriction which means that you are not licensed to drive a commercial vehicle with air brakes.


North Carolina CDL License Requirements and NC CDL General Qualifications

According to federal regulations, a CDL operator is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle in North Carolina if they:

  • Are not less than 21 years old.
  • Can read and speak English sufficient to talk with the general public, to grasp highway traffic signals and indicators, to respond to official inquiries, and to make reports and records.
  • Are physically certified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Have a currently valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license issued by only one state.
  • Have administered their employer a list of violations or the certificates as required
  • Are not disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle
  • Have successfully passed a driver’s road examination and associated knowledge tests and have been issued a commercial driver’s license by the state of North Carolina

More detailed North Carolina CDL Requirements can be found within the NC handbook link found in the part below.

North Carolina CDL Handbook and Resources

<Link> North Carolina CDL Handbook - provides NC CDL requirements and application information

North Carolina CDL Agency - North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles

Driver License Services
3114 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-3114

This information applies to the entire state of North Carolina as well as the cities of: Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Durham.