Commercial Driver Education in South Carolina
Whether you're in the mood for a walk on the beach, a hike through the woods, or a quick fishing break at the lake, the diversity of South Carolina's natural world is sure to satisfy. Wouldn't you like to make your living traveling the beautiful Palmetto State? You can—by becoming a SC commercial driver.
You'll first need to apply for a commercial driver's license (CDL) through the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV). The SCDMV will test you on your knowledge of the new driving and safety skills that you need to master in order to operate a commercial vehicle.
In preparation for your exams, you have the option of enrolling in commercial Driver's Ed classes. You could also have to complete mandatory CDL training depending on the type of commercial vehicle you plan on driving.
Keep reading for more information about state-required commercial driver training and CDL test prep in South Carolina.
IMPORTANT FEDERAL TRAINING REQUIREMENTS UPDATE
Per new federal entry-level driver training requirements effective February 7, 2022, the SC Department of Motor Vehicles now mandates new CDL applicants complete an entry-level driver training course through an authorized provider. You’ll need to complete this training prior to applying for your first commercial driver’s license, upgrading your existing CDL class, or applying for a HAZMAT, school bus, or passenger endorsement.
CDL Education in South Carolina
As stated above, there are different types of commercial driver training. While preparing for the SC Department of Motor Vehicles' testing, you are not state-required to enroll in a formal CDL test prep program.
However, South Carolina school bus drivers are state-required to complete SC commercial driver's education that is specific to transporting students.
SC School Bus Drivers
All school bus drivers in South Carolina must obtain the following:
- SC commercial driver license with school bus (S) and passenger (P) endorsements.
- School bus certificate administered by the Department of Education.
To get your school bus certificate you'll need to finish the following mandatory trainings with a certified instructor in your school district:
- Classroom instruction—20 hours.
- The Department of Education provides a training schedule with available classroom dates.
- Behind-the-wheel training—10 hours.
To maintain your certificate, you'll need to complete at least 10 hours of annual in-service training with your school district.
For more information about school bus driver training in South Carolina, contact the Department of Education at (803) 734-8500.
All SC CDL Applicants
As you read before, South Carolina CDL applicants are not state-required to enroll in preparatory commercial Driver's Ed classes. Despite this, you should still consider taking a course, as it will most likely improve your chances of being able to pass the SCDMV's required commercial driver exams in a single attempt.
All SC commercial driver's license applicants are required to pass the following tests:
- Written general knowledge exam.
- CDL road skills exam.
You'll also need to pass additional CDL tests if the classification and endorsement(s) on your desired commercial driver license require it. To ensure that you're adequately prepared on testing day, make sure that you know exactly which classification and endorsement(s) apply to your prospective South Carolina CDL.
If you'd like more information about commercial vehicle classifications and endorsements, refer to the guides below:
South Carolina CDL Test Prep Options
As mentioned earlier, taking CDL test prep classes is not mandatory for commercial driver applicants in South Carolina. However, taking a preparatory commercial Driver's Ed course can still be extremely beneficial for the following reasons:
- Most SC employers are going to require that you've already completed some sort of formal commercial driver training before considering you for a job position.
- Legitimate CDL test prep courses are designed specifically to ensure that you can pass the Department of Motor Vehicles' exams with ease.
These different types of commercial driver education programs that you'll encounter will help you prepare for the SCDMV's CDL tests in the following ways:
- Enrolling in a classroom course will acquaint you with the difficulty and layout of the SCDMV's written CDL tests.
- Taking behind-the-wheel training will ensure that you're equipped with the necessary skills needed to pass the SCDMV's CDL road skills test.
If you begin to look into your different South Carolina CDL test prep options, make sure to ask the following questions about each of the programs you're considering:
- Is the program's duration and price a realistic fit for your personal schedule and budget?
- Are the classes taught by certified instructors who hold valid SC commercial driver's licenses?
- Is the curriculum inclusive of all the topics and skills that you need to master for your particular CDL's written and road exams?
South Carolina CDL Classroom Courses
Commercial driver classroom courses should be structured around a curriculum that covers the material you'll need to know for the written general knowledge exam, including (but not limited to) topics like:
- Vehicle inspection before, during, and after a trip.
- Simple maneuvers (e.g. accelerating or backing up).
- Maintaining a safe field of vision.
- Controlling the speed of your vehicle during:
- Slippery road surfaces.
- Sharp turns.
- Heavy traffic.
- Managing the space around your vehicle.
- Dealing with hazards like:
- Construction zones.
- Erratic drivers.
- Bad weather.
- Education on the dangers of distracted or impaired driving.
- Emergency situation procedure.
Don't forget, you could be required to take other written tests in addition to the general knowledge exam, depending on your CDL's classification and endorsement(s). The other written test topics include:
- Class A combination vehicles.
- Vehicles equipped with air brakes.
- Transportation of passengers.
- Working with hazardous materials.
- School bus operation.
- Hauling a gas or liquid-filled tanker.
- Pulling double/triple trailers.
When you're ready to take your CDL written test(s), make an appointment at your local, full-service, SC Department of Motor Vehicles office.
SC Behind-the-Wheel CDL Training
After you pass all of the SCDMV's required written testing, you'll receive a commercial learner's permit (CLP). Having a CLP allows you to practice driving your commercial vehicle of choice with a licensed supervisor, in preparation for your commercial driver's license road skills test.
By law, you have to hold your commercial learner's permit for at least 14 days before going to take the Department of Motor Vehicles' behind-the-wheel CDL exam. So, since you'll have the time, why not enroll in a behind-the-wheel training program? Doing so will ensure that you're familiar with all of the necessary skills you'll need to execute for your road test.
To prepare for the SCDMV's general CDL road skills test, a behind-the-wheel training program should teach you skills like:
- Fully inspecting the internal/external parts of your vehicle.
- Backing skills (e.g. parallel parking and reversing in a straight line).
- Safely going through railroad crossings and intersections.
- Entering and exiting moving traffic.
- General safety practices like:
- Staying in your own lane.
- Using turn signals.
- Awareness of the other vehicles around you.
Like the SCDMV's written CDL examinations, you might also have to perform additional behind-the-wheel skills, depending on your desired commercial driver license's classification and endorsement(s). The other skills you might have to learn include:
- Extended pre-trip vehicle inspection for:
- Transit and school buses.
- Vehicles equipped with air brakes.
- Shifting gears with a manual transmission.
- Letting students onto and off of a school bus.
Once you're ready to take your CDL road skills test, use the Department of Motor Vehicles' online scheduler to set up an appointment at an approved South Carolina commercial driver skills testing office.
SC CDL Solo Study Guide
If taking a preparatory commercial Driver's Ed course is going to put too much strain on your finances or schedule, remember that you can always study on your own time. All of the information that you need to know for the Department of Motor Vehicles' CDL tests is in the South Carolina Commercial Driver License Manual. Make sure you read over every section that applies to your desired CDL's classification and endorsement(s).
Another study tool you should take advantage of are practice tests. Taking a practice test will help to gauge your mastery of the material and give you an idea of what format and topics to expect on the SCDMV's written commercial driver exams. Remember, too, that online practice tests go with you wherever you are—so you can study on your own schedule.
As long as you're able to minimize distractions and take advantage of the right resources, you'll be able to get your South Carolina commercial driver's license just fine.