So you decided truck driving is the career for you; you’ve passed all the physical requirements; you’ve chosen a school and how to pay for it. Now what?
The next step in your journey to become a truck driver is to pass the written portion of the CDL test. Once you have passed the written CDL test, you earn your Commercial Learner’s Permit, or CLP.
After earning their CLP, drivers are authorized to get behind the wheel and start developing the required skills needed to haul cargo on the open road.
What is the Written CDL Test?
The General Knowledge portion of the written CDL test consists of 50 randomly-selected questions. These test questions can cover any of the following topics:
- Shifting gears
- Basic semi-truck controls
- Road regulations
- Emergency procedures
- Communicating with fellow drivers
- Maintaining specific speeds
- Managing space between vehicles
The information you are tested on is covered in the CDL manual. Because regulations vary from state to state, each state has its own CDL manual. To obtain a copy for your state, click here.
Knowing this information like the back of your hand is crucial to passing the exam. Many of the multiple-choice questions are written specifically to make sure you’re paying close attention. It’s a lot of memorization, so you’ll want to go over the manual several times.
What If I Don’t Pass the CDL Written Test?
To pass the exam, future truckers need to answer at least 80% of the questions correctly on each test they signed up for. If an 80% passing rate is not achieved, drivers may take the test again in three days.
The limit on being able to retake the test is six times in a 12-month period, after which, applicants may not take the test again for a year.
Should I Get My Endorsements?
Just passing the General Knowledge CDL written test won’t let you to drive every type of freight and every type of truck. There are other written exams for HAZMAT, tanker, doubles & triples, and other vehicles. These are the endorsement tests.
We encourage drivers to take all of the endorsement exams in addition to the General Knowledge CDL written test for two reasons: endorsements make it possible to earn more money; and failing the endorsement written does not prevent drivers from earning the CLP.
Truckers that are interested in earning the HAZMAT endorsement also need to undergo a TSA background check before professionally hauling the dangerous cargo.
The General Knowledge CDL test lasts approximately 90 minutes, whereas the endorsement tests usually last about a half hour.
What Should I Bring to the CDL Written Test?
Check with your local DMV because you may be asked for different items, state-by-state.
For ID, you will need to bring your driver’s license, but you may also need to bring a social security card, birth certificate, or passport for alternate forms of identification.
New applicants should expect to spend approximately $70 to cover the non-refundable test fee.
Can I Take the CDL Written Test Before Trucking School?
Some rookie drivers decide to study the CDL manual and get their CLP before they even begin truck driving school. This gives you the ability to concentrate all your attention at school on the skills test and behind-the-wheel training.
It is not necessary to take your CDL written test before trucking school. If you learn easily on your own, this path might appeal to you. If not, your instructors at trucking school should help prepare you for the written portion of the CDL test.
Where Do I Take the CDL Written Test?
Once you’ve studied enough, go visit or call your local DMV to set up an appointment. We recommend making an appointment to take your CDL written tests because you gain priority over walk-in applicants.
After earning your commercial learner’s permit, you must hold their CLP for 14 days before taking the next test. That next step to becoming a truck driver is to pass the CDL road and skills test.