After passing the written test and obtaining a Commercial Learner’s Permit, aspiring truck drivers must next pass the dual trials of the Road Test and the Pre-Trip Inspection. For many, the most difficult part of obtaining a CDL is the pre- trip inspection.
In order to pass the pre-trip inspection, the driver must memorize each step from the nose of the truck, through the interior of the cab of the truck, then the coupling mechanisms between the truck and trailer and the entire exterior of the vehicle to the taillights.
The pre-trip inspection test also requires that the driver verbalize what they are inspecting. Individuals taking the test must point to each component while explaining any possible defects they are looking for based on a DOT checklist.
The best way to prepare for the pre-trip walkaround test is to practice, every chance you get. Do one before classes start, at lunch, after lunch and before you leave for the day.
Say the words verbatim while practicing. Learn the words like the lines of a play; try starting in different places so you can jump from area to area without being thrown off.
One great way to make sure you know something is to teach it. Once you think you know the pre-trip inspection routine frontwards and backwards, see if one of your fellow CDL students is having trouble learning it. Then take them under your wing and help them learn it.
The better you feel your knowledge is, the more confident and less nervous you will be at testing time.
Why the Pre-Trip is Important
After you have been driving for a short while, you will come to realize that the pre-trip inspection is valuable. The pre-trip is important primarily for safety reasons, but this isn’t the only reason.
Don’t just think of the pre-trip inspection as an onerous DOT requirement. Remember that equipment failure on the road takes time. This valuable time is time that you are not paid for. Finding a defect during the post-trip inspection saddles the driver with up to 10 hours of downtime to have the flaw repaired or replaced without losing any time on the drive clock. It’s better to get it right the first time.
Here’s a helpful video showing the full Pre-Trip Inspection: