What You Need to Know about the CDL Test

To become a licensed commercial truck driver, you must first pass the commercial driver license test. That test is comprised of two parts, the road test and the written test. You will need to pass both parts of the test in order to be awarded your CDL. While it is only natural to be nervous about taking the test, understanding what to expect can help you to prepare and feel less nervous.

Written Test

The written test is also known as a general knowledge test. You must achieve an 80 percent passing score. Plan to spend up to two hours taking the test. The information that will be presented on your written test will vary depending on the class of commercial driver license you wish to obtain.

Among the topics to be covered on the written test for the CDL includes:

Basic information about obtaining a CDL
• Safe driving, including vehicle inspection, vehicle controls, shifting gears, space control, and speed
• Cargo inspections
• Transporting passengers safely, including loading and unloading, using brake door interlocks, and trip inspections
• Use of air brakes
• Operating tank vehicles
• Transporting hazardous materials

Written Test

Road Test

First, it is important to be aware that there are a few things that are considered automatic failures when taking the road test for your CDL. For instance, if you run a red light, it is fairly assured that you will fail your road test. Although that is obvious, there are also a few other things that might not be so obvious that could prevent you from passing the test. Among those things include failing to use your turn signal, hitting a curb, failing to check your mirrors properly before making a lane change, and even rolling backward when moving from a stop.

Such issues are considered automatic failures on the CDL road test due to the severity of the consequences that could arise from those mistakes. Regardless of whether you are new behind the wheel or you are a veteran driver, you cannot allow these types of mistakes to occur. Any potential safety violations will be considered an automatic failure on the CDL road test.

There are some mistakes you can make while taking the road test that are considered acceptable. For example, if you miss a shift. This is often one area that new drivers are most concerned about when preparing to take the road test. Keep in mind that even experienced drivers sometimes miss a shift. Since this is not typically a serious safety risk, you likely will not fail the road test if you miss a shift or it takes you a moment to find the gear. The important thing is to make sure that you can demonstrate your proficiency at shifting.

You can also turn too wide during the test, and you will likely still pass the test. Although you could cause significant damage by running over a curb, if you swing too wide, the only likely consequence is creating a larger safety margin. Keep in mind that there is a limit to this, however. If you do this more than once while taking the test, the driving instructor may believe you need more practice and opt to fail you so you can get that practice time in.

It is also important to pay attention to your own demeanor while taking the road test. Driving a commercial truck is extremely high pressure. You will often be in bad weather, heavy traffic, and surrounded by motorists with no regard for the size of your rig. Getting flustered while behind the wheel, becoming distracted, or failing to pay attention can have serious and potentially fatal consequences. You must show that you can maintain your composure, even when you are under pressure. Regardless of how nervous you may feel, you must be confident. At the minimum, you must at least act as though you are confident.


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