Before you acquire a CDL endorsement, you will go through a rigorous process that involves a pre-inspection test, backing test, and a road test. Sure, you probably know what you will be told do: drive on the highway, parallel park, inspect your brakes and all sorts of instructions. However, what you need to find out is what the examiner secretly checks to evaluate whether to give you a pass or a fail. Like a telepathy mutant, let’s get into the examiner’s mind.
Pre-Trip Inspection Check
There are two basic things that the examiner will check during a pre-inspection test:
- Vehicle knowledge. Of course, you’re not expected to break down all parts of your truck like a mechanic. Instead, the examiner just wants you to demonstrate your knowledge of crucial mechanical components of the test vehicle. That means the examiner will check if you know the names of crucial components of your vehicle. Further, the examiner will want to know if you can do a visual or touch inspection to confirm if the parts are in mint condition.
- Time factor. There is usually a reasonable time-frame that candidates are required to prove their competency to the examiners. In most states, you will be given 45 or 60 minutes for class 1 or A category and around 30 minutes for class 2 or B category. Better yet, politely ask your examiner how minutes you have for the pre-inspection.
Hint: If you forget the name of truck components, just check it and tell the examiner it is “secure, not damaged and not leaking”. In case you notice a part is not in good condition, add “should” to your analysis.
Backing Test Check
The examiner will instruct you to perform different parking maneuvers that include; straight-line backing, offset backing, parallel parking and alley dock parking. While you’re doing the backing test, the examiner will be analyzing the following things:
- During the backing test, you will be told to park your vehicle without hitting the cones or crossing a boundary line. Hence, the examiner will be curious to know how times you cross over the boundary or hit the cones. If you do it more than 3 times on a specific backing maneuver, you will probably fail the test.
- Pull-ups. For each backing maneuver, you’re allowed to stop and observe at a better angle to help you park without crossing the boundary. However, most CDL evaluation sheets allow two pull-ups for every backing maneuver; except straight line backing which you’re supposed to pull up once. Definitely, if you pull up too many times, the examiner will notice.
- Outside Vehicle Observation. Just like the pull-up option, you can go further and exit your vehicle to get a better view. The same rules apply; you can do it twice for each backing up exercise except for straight-line backing which you can exit the vehicle once. Remember to put the vehicle in neutral and activate the parking brake before going for outside observation. Also, don’t go more than three steps away from the vehicle.
- Final Position. Before you start any backing maneuver, the examiner will tell you exactly where you should park the truck or bus. For example, the parallel parking maneuver means you have to fit your truck or bus in the marked spot; if the vehicle appears like it is outside the suggested position, the examiner will be disappointed. Make sure it is precise as possible.
Side Note: The examiner will also check if you pay close attention to the mirrors when doing the backing test. Even if it will be done in a secluded area, don’t forget to signal and look over your shoulders. What else? The examiner will be checking the watch, and if you take an eternity to parallel park, don’t be surprised if you don’t pass.
The Road Test
It goes without saying, the road test is where the examiner will evaluate how you react and counter real traffic and unpredictable situations on public roads. The things to check are:
- Safety Belt. No doubt about it; the examiner will look over to see if you wear a seatbelt before you start the vehicle. Some examiners forget to put on their seat belt intentionally to review if you will remind them to do it.
- Directions Check. Whether you will be taking a turn, switching a lane or approaching an intersection, the examiner will be keen to see if you will check for directions to scan any incoming traffic. If you want to be effective, make sure to move your head when analyzing if the coast is clear.
- Turn Signals. Whenever you’re making a turn, approaching an intersection, changing a lane or pulling to the side of the road, the examiner will be monitoring if you will turn the signals. Don’t forget to turn off the signals when you’re done.
- Mirror Observation. It only takes a few seconds to check the mirrors before you make a turn or switch a lane, but the examiner will notice if you slip up. You don’t want that on your final report, do you? Also, you should check the mirrors occasionally even when driving on a straight road.
- Vehicle Control. In other words, vehicle control is how you accelerate, decelerate, shift the gear and press on the brake or clutch pedals. Will you be accelerating smoothly or braking evenly? Do you keep both hands on the steering wheel except when you’re shifting? Besides that, the examiner will want you to maintain a safe distance behind any vehicle ahead.
- Road Rules, Traffic Lights and Signs. Of course, you will pass through different traffic signs and sometimes the examiner will remain quiet to assess whether you will react accordingly. Did somebody say speed limit? Other times, the examiner will ask you to explain the meaning of certain traffic signs. Furthermore, most examiners will check if you will remember to activate the 4-way emergency flashers whenever you pull over at the roadside.
- Common Sense. Let’s face it; the road test is usually unpredictable since you’re not tested on a private location. Most likely, you will encounter situations that can be solved through common sense without instructions from the examiner. For instance, if pedestrians are crossing the road, you should give them the right of way. Whatever you do, the examiner will be watching your every single move to conclude if you got what it takes.