Applying for a New CDL in South Carolina

You love driving and seeing the huge trucks pass you by on the highway, and now you want to get behind the wheel of one of those behemoths yourself. It's time to apply for a commercial driver's license (CDL).

In order to get one, you'll have to abide by the national regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and follow the licensing procedure in South Carolina that's overseen by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Who Can Get a South Carolina CDL?

To qualify for a South Carolina commercial driver's license, you'll need to:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
    • Applicants under 21 years old will be restricted to driving within South Carolina only—referred to as intrastate driving.
  • Have a valid, non-CDL driver's license from South Carolina.
  • Provide proof of your:
    • Identity.
    • Social Security number.
      • See below for details and acceptable documents.
    • SC auto insurance on your vehicle.

SC Commercial Learner's Permits

Before you can get your commercial driver's license, you'll need to get a commercial learner's permit (CLP).

While, it's not required by the FMCSA or the SC DMV, it is recommended to take a CDL education course first, to help you prepare for the process.

Whenever you feel ready, schedule an appointment with your local Department of Motor Vehicles office and:

You'll also need to take and pass the written exams for the classification of CDL you want, and the knowledge tests for any endorsements you want to add to your commercial driver's license, if applicable.

Once you've successfully completed all of the above, you'll be issued your commercial learner's permit—congratulations! Your permit will be valid for 180 days—if you wish to renew, you may do so once within 2 years.

What If I Fail My CDL Permit Exam?

If you fail, it's okay—the South Carolina DMV will let you retake your tests. You'll have to wait at least until the following day to test again. You are able to take the test up to 3 times before you will be charged additional fees.

South Carolina CLP Restrictions

With your SC commercial learner's permit, you'll only be able to drive on public roads while accompanied by a full-CDL holder.

Your CLP will be valid for 180 days, but you will be allowed to renew it once in the 2 years after it's issued to you.*

Take as long as you need to feel ready for your skills test, but you'll have to wait at least 14 days after receiving your commercial learner's permit to take the skills exam.

*NOTE: Depending on when you choose to renew your CLP, you might have to retake your knowledge exams and pay additional fees. Ask someone at your local DMV office for details.

Obtaining a CDL in South Carolina

After at least 14 days have passed and you feel prepared enough, you can take the next—and final—step in your journey to a CDL: the skills exam.

Schedule a time to take the test with your local South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles office, and present:

  • Your CLP and SC driver's license.
  • A vehicle of the same class you plan on operating, plus its:
    • Current registration card.
    • Manufacturer's Plate affixed to the vehicle, indicating the gross vehicle weight.
    • Current federal inspection sticker. Combination vehicles must have separate stickers for the truck and towed unit.
  • Payment for the $12.50 CDL fee.

South Carolina CDL Skills Exam

The behind-the-wheel skills test itself consists of:

  • A pre-trip inspection.
  • The basic controls test.
  • An on-road driving test.

If you fail any individual section, you'll have to retake the entire skills exam.

Skills exam retest waiting times are as follows:

  • Applicants with NO previous driving experience: 2 weeks.
  • SC driver's license holders: 1 week.
  • Failures on a 3rd attempt: 60 days.

The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles will charge a $25 fee for each retest.

When you've gotten through all that, you'll be the official holder of a commercial driver's license!

Your SC CDL will be valid for 5 years, after which you'll have to renew it.

CDL Fees in South Carolina

The SC DMV charges the following fees for CDLs and related services:

  • Commercial driver license application: $15.
  • Beginner's permit (CLP): $2.50.
  • Knowledge tests: $2 each.
  • Commercial driver's license: $12.50.
  • Skills test retake: $25.

Acceptable Forms of Identification

To obtain a commercial driver's license from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, you'll need to prove several things about yourself.

Proof of Identity

You can use any of the following documents to prove your identity in South Carolina:

  • Birth certificate.
  • Valid U.S. passport.
  • Certificate of Naturalization.
  • Certificate of Citizenship.

If the name in the above documents doesn't match your current one, due to marriage, divorce, or any other reason, you'll also need to bring in the legal documentation proving that your name has been changed.

Proof of Social Security Number

Bring any of the following to the SC DMV to prove your Social Security number (SSN):

  • Social Security card.
  • Current military identification card.
  • Tax forms or payroll stubs that include your SSN.
  • Medicare card.
  • Letter from the Social Security Administration.

CDL Medical Requirements

To be eligible for a CDL in South Carolina, you'll have to prove your physical fitness to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The DMV requires CDL applicants to submit a Medical Certification Requirements (Form DL-405A) declaring the type of driving you intend to do. Depending on your circumstances, you might also have to submit a Medical Examiner's Certificate (Form MCSA-5876).

Check the FAQ page on medical requirements provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for more information on CDL medical requirements.

Military CDL Testing Waivers in SC

The FMCSA and SC DMV have established a program to help current service members or recent veterans obtain a CDL by waiving their skills exam.

Eligible participants must:

  • Be currently enlisted.
  • Have been employed by the military within the past 12 months.
  • Have experience operating military motor vehicles equivalent to commercial motor vehicles.

To qualify, you'll need to:

You'll have to then submit the form and the copy of your papers to the South Carolina DMV within 90 days of the date your commanding officer signed the form.

You can either:

  • E-mail the paperwork to the e-mail address located on the form.
  • Fax the documents to the CDL help desk at (803) 896-2676.
  • Mail the documents to:
    • SCDMV – CDL Help Desk
    • P.O. Box 1498
    • Blythewood, SC 29016

You'll be notified by mail after the DMV processes your application.

NOTE: If you're accepted for the skills exam waiver, you'll still need to pass all written exams and pay all applicable fees.

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