Commercial Driver Licenses

Medical Examiner's Certificate

All commercial drivers who are required to maintain a medical examiner’s certificate must comply with this Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Regulation §391.42. You must be examined by a medical professional listed on FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.   Go to FMCSA’s website to find a medical professional who is nationally registered as a Certified Medical Examiner https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/NRPublicUI/home.seam.

Each time you make application for a commercial learner's permit, CDL license, upgrade of CDL license, renewal of CDL license, change of address, or request a duplicate CDL, you will be required to provide proof that you are medically qualified pursuant to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 49 CFR, Part 391.

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CDL Class Licenses

Commercial Driver's Licenses have one of the following classes:

Class A

Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more provided the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds. May also operate a three-wheel vehicle (excluding a two-wheel motorcycle with a side car).
 

Class B

Any single unit vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR. May also operate a three-wheel vehicle (excluding a two-wheel motorcycle with a side car).
 

Class C

Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that are not Class A or B vehicles, but either designed to transport sixteen or more passengers including the driver, or are placarded for H hazardous materials under 49 CFR, part 172, subpart F of the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. May also operate a three-wheel vehicle (excluding a two-wheel motorcycle with a side car).

 

Vehicle Description

Class License Needed to Operate Vehicle

A

B

C

GCWR 26,001 or more - combination vehicle towing a vehicle in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR

X

GVWR 26,001 or more - single vehicle or combination towing vehicle 10,000 pounds or less GVWR

X

GVWR 26,000 or less  - designed to transport 16 or more passengers

X

GVWR 26,000 or less - placarded for hazardous material

 

 

X


Note: Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is defined in SC Code of Law, Section 56-1-2030, item 16 as the weight or the value specified by the manufacturer as the maximum loaded weight of a single or a combination vehicle. The gross vehicle weight rating of a combination vehicle (commonly referred to as the "gross combination weight rating") is the gross vehicle weight rating of the power unit plus the gross vehicle weight rating of a towed unit.


Commercial licenses expire every five years on the driver's birthday and may not be renewed by mail.

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CDL Endorsements

The following endorsements can be applied to a CDL:

 

H

Hazardous Material (Hazmat)

N

Tanker Vehicle

P

Passenger Vehicle (designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver)

S

School Bus

T

Double/Triple Trailers

X

Combination Hazmat and Tanker

 

The following tests are required for each endorsement listed above:

  1. Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) – a knowledge test and TSA Threat Assessment.
  2. Tanker Vehicle - a knowledge test.
  3. Bus Passenger – a knowledge and skills test.
  4. School Bus – a knowledge and skills test.
    To receive an "S" endorsement, you must also have a "P" endorsement and take a skills test in a vehicle that meets the following definition: "School Bus" means a CMV used to transport pre-primary, primary or secondary school students from home to school, from school to home, or to and from school-sponsored events. A school bus does not include a bus used as a common carrier.
  5. Double/Triple Trailers – a knowledge test.
  6. Combination Hazmat and Tanker – must complete the requirements listed for Hazardous Materials (1) and Tanker (2). 

To obtain any endorsement, you must successfully pass all required knowledge and/or skills tests.  The skills test must be taken in the type vehicle for which the endorsement is issued.


Click here to view Threat Assessment Requirements.

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CDL Restrictions

Click here for a list of restriction codes. 

 

For information about Jacob's Law, click here.

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Social Security Verification

DMV uses an online Social Security Verification System to check your name, date of birth, and social security number against your Social Security Administration (SSA) record.

If the information you provide to DMV does not match your SSA Record, you must correct or verify the information with SSA before being issued a commercial vehicle credential.

The new process will affect the following persons seeking credentials:

  • First time applicants for a commercial vehicle Class A, B, C, E or F learner's permit or license.
  • New residents exchanging their out-of-state commercial learner's permit or license or a South Carolina credential.
  • Persons applying for a change in license class (i.e. going from a Class B to a Class A license).
To avoid a licensing delay, please make sure that all documents provided to the DMV match the information contained in your SSA record.

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Getting a Commercial Learner's Permit

To get a learner's permit in the state of South Carolina to operate a commercial motor vehicle you must have a valid South Carolina driver’s license and meet additional requirements. Click here for additional requirements to get a commercial learner’s permit. 

In accordance with FMCSA regulation Part 383.25 (E), original Commercial Learner's Permit holders must wait 14 days from the date the permit is issued before they are eligible to take the skills test. You are not required to take the skills test until you are prepared to successfully pass the pre-trip inspection, off-road and on-road driving for a commercial driver’s license.

 

A commercial learner's permit can only be renewed or reissued once within a two-year period according to SC Code of Law § 56-1-2080 (C) (3).  See requirements below for renewing a CDL, which are the same requirements for renewing a commercial learner's permit.

 

The endorsements on a Commercial Learner’s Permit are limited to:

N = Tank Vehicle

P = (Bus) Passengers)

S = School Bus

 

The restrictions that are unique to a Commercial Learner’s Permit are:

P = No passengers in a CMV bus

X = No cargo in a CMV tank vehicle

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Getting Your Initial Commercial Driver License

To obtain a Commercial Driver's License for the first time in the state of South Carolina, the following are required:

  1. You must be at least 18 years of age to drive within the State of South Carolina and 21 years of age for interstate driving.
  2. Pass all required knowledge tests for license or permit in the classification you intend to operate. There is a $2.00 fee for each knowledge test taken.
  3. Pass the road test, which includes the pre-trip inspection, off-road and on-road driving.
  4. Click here for additional requirements to get your initial CDL.

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Upgrading a CDL

A Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) must be issued when upgrading if the upgrade requires a skills test.  You must hold the CLP for at least 14 days before you are eligible to take the skills test.  You must be accompanied by the holder of a valid CDL who has the proper CDL group and endorsement(s) necessary to operate the Commercial Motor Vehicle.  The CDL holder must at all times be physically present in the front seat of the vehicle next to you or, in the case of a passenger vehicle, directly behind or in the first row behind the driver and you must be  under his observation and direct supervision. This is in accordance with FMCSA Regulation Part 383.25.

 

Click here for additional requirements to upgrade your CDL.

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Transferring Your CDL License From Another State

After establishing residency in SC, you must apply to transfer your CDL license within 30 days.

 

You will be required to surrender your out-of-state license before a SC commercial driver's license can be issued.

 

To transfer a CDL from another state to SC, the following are required:

  1. You must be 21 years of age for interstate driving.

  2. Surrender the actual commercial driver's license you have in your possession at the time you apply.

  3. Click here for additional requirements to transfer your out-of-state CDL for a South Carolina CDL.

Note that Section 23-3-460 of the SC Code of Laws states that a person who has been convicted anywhere of an offense listed in 23-3-430 must register with the county sheriff within 10 days of establishing residency in SC. A copy of the Sex Offender Registry Law is available upon request.

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Renewing Your CDL

Each time you renew your SC Commercial Driver's License you must provide proof that you are medically qualified for the CDL.  To renew your CDL the following are required:

  1. If there has been more than five points assessed against your driver's license within the two years prior to renewal, the general knowledge test will be required.  There is a $2.00 test fee for each test taken.
  2. Click here for additional requirements to renew your CDL.

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CDL Drug and Alcohol Testing

As of January 1, 2009, employers are required to report to SCDMV the names of all commercial driver employees or applicants who:

  • refuse to provide a specimen for a drug or alcohol test,
  • test positive for drugs or alcohol, or
  • submit an altered, diluted or substituted specimen.

The employer must report the employee using SCDMV Form CDL-18 within three business days. For more information, click here.

 

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CDL Knowledge Test

Type of Test

Who is required to take this test?

General Knowledge

all commercial driver license applicants

Combination Vehicles

If you want to drive Class A combination vehicles

Air Brakes

If your vehicle has air brakes. Drivers not taking this test will be restricted to driving vehicles without air brakes ("K" restriction).

Passenger Transport

If you operate vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver.

Hazardous Materials

If you want to haul hazardous materials or waste requiring placarding.

School Bus

If you want to transport pre-primary, primary, or secondary school students from home to school, from school to home, or to and from school-sponsored events.

Tanker

If you want to haul liquids or gaseous materials within a tank or tanks having an individual rated capacity of more than 119 gallons and an aggregate rated capacity of 1,000 gallons or more that is either permanently or temporarily attached to the vehicle or the chassis.

Doubles/Triples

If you want to pull double or triple trailers

 

The type of CDL written knowledge tests you need to pass depends on the type of commercial motor vehicle you drive and the cargo you haul. Click here for some examples.

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CDL Skills Test

If you pass the required knowledge tests, you can then take the CDL skills test. Click here for a list of all the items a CDL applicant needs to bring with him to take a CDL skills test. Only the applicant and DMV Examiner are allowed in or around the vehicle during the skills test. There are three parts to the CDL skills test which must be taken in this order: (1) the pre-trip inspection test, (2) the basic control skills test, and (3) the on-road test. You must take these tests in a representative vehicle for which you wish to be licensed.



Parts of a CDL test

Purpose of this test

What you will be expected to perform

Section of the CDL Manual where this information is located

Pre-trip Inspection

To see if the applicant has the knowledge to determine whether the vehicle is safe to drive.

You will be required to do a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle and to explain to the examiner what you are inspecting and why. The examiner will mark on a scoring form each item that you correctly inspect and explain.

Section 11

Basic Control Skills Test

To evaluate the driver's basic skills in controlling the vehicle and judging its position in relation to other objects.

You will be asked to perform three maneuvers: Straight Line Backing, Offset Back/Left, Parallel Park (conventional).

Section 12

Road Test

To evaluate your ability to drive safely in most traffic situations.

You will drive a predetermined test route following the instructions given by the examiner. The test route will include left and right turns, intersections, railroad crossing, curves, up and down grades, interstate, city and rural roads. The examiner will score specific areas of the test route. The examiner will not ask you to do anything dangerous or illegal.

Section 13



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Truck Driver Training Schools

Click here for a list of Truck Driver Training Schools.


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Where to Take CDL Skills Tests

Knowledge, skills and vision tests are required when you apply for an original commercial driver license (CDL) or upgrade to a different class of license. You may take the CDL knowledge test and vision test at any DMV office that provides full driver license services.  The South Carolina Driver’s Handbook, CDL Manual, or other testing aids cannot be used while taking the knowledge test. Tests will be treated as a failure if a hand book or other types of testing aids are used during the test. If you are caught using a cell phone, using a camera device or found talking to others during the test, you will also fail the test.

 

DMV has recently changed the CDL Skills Test Offices. For more information, please view CDL Skills Test Sites.  You must make an appointment to take a CDL skills test using the CDL Test Scheduler located on our website. 

 

Valid Inspection Sticker

Unless exempt from FMCSA regulations 396.17, the DMV examiner must verify that every commercial motor vehicle used in interstate commerce in excess of 10,000 lbs.has a valid inspection sticker.  If a commercial vehicle does not have a valid inspection sticker, it does not meet qualifications and the examiner will not allow you to take the test.  

   

Retaking the Entire Skills Test

Commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders are not eligible to take the CDL skills test until the 15th day after the initial issuance of their first CLP.  Applicants who take the CDL examination will be required to pass all portions of the skills test on the same day. A failure of any portion of the test will require the applicant to retake the test in its entirety.

  1. If the applicant fails any portion of the skills test (pre-trip, basic skills, or on-road test), the $25.00 fee is required for subsequent skills tests. 
  2. If an applicant cannot complete any portion of the pre-trip or basic skills tests after its been started for reasons beyond their control, such as inclement weather, the vehicle fails, or the examiner gets sick, the $25.00 fee will not be charged when the applicant returns.

Return Times if You Fail the Road Skills Test

  1. An applicant with no previous driving experience who fails a skills test must wait two (2) weeks to re-test regardless of age.
  2. An applicant who has had previous driving experience (held a former driver's license) who fails a skills test, must wait one (1) week to retest regardless of age. Holding a learner's permit does not count as former driving experience.
  3. If the applicant has failed the skills test on the third (3rd) or subsequent attempt he/she must wait sixty (60) days before being re-tested.

Type of Credential Held by Customer

Skills Test

Wait Time

Before Returning for Next Test

Beginner’s Permit only –

 

no other previous driving experience

 

Fails 1st  or 2nd attempt

Must wait two (2) weeks

 

NOTE:  If customer also holds a driver’s license in a different class than the beginner’s permit they would only have to wait one week to re-test (see below).

Driver’s License

(class D, E, F, A, B, C, M, or Out-of-state)

Fails 1st or 2nd attempt

Must wait one (1) week

Beginner’s/Learner's Permit

or Driver’s License

(class D, E, F, A, B, C, M, or Out-of-state)

Fails 3rd attempt or subsequent attempts

Must wait sixty (60) days


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Commercial Licensing Procedures

Applicants applying for a commercial driver credential of any type must provide information regarding any previous out-of-state drivers’ licenses. These transactions include the following:

  • Obtaining a commercial learner's permit,
  • Transferring an out-of-state commercial license to SC,
  • Moving from a commercial learner's permit to a first-time commercial license,
  • Renewing a commercial license or learner's permit, and
  • Upgrading or downgrading a commercial license class or endorsement.

The procedure is part of the federal Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act (MCSIA), which is designed to reduce the number of truck accidents by strengthening enforcement and improving the commercial driver’s license program. SCDMV will contact the out-of-state jurisdictions to obtain information regarding all motor vehicle traffic violations committed by the driver during the past 10 years. Any unresolved or disqualifying offenses may result in the suspension or revocation of the SC commercial driver’s license.

When you apply for a commercial driver’s license, SCDMV will run automatic checks against the Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS) and the Commercial Driver License Information System (CDLIS) databases to check your prior driving history in other states. The checks are performed when a customer applies for an original credential, renews a credential, is reexamined or moves from a learner's permit to a license. They are designed to insure drivers have only one valid license at a time.

The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act also includes five offenses in the list of disqualifying violations:

  • driving a commercial vehicle with a revoked, suspended or canceled commercial driver’s license,
  • causing a fatality through the negligent or criminal operation of a commercial motor vehicle,
  • driving a commercial motor vehicle without obtaining a commercial driver’s license,
  • driving a commercial motor vehicle without a commercial driver’s license in possession, and
  • driving without a required endorsement.

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