After you pass the written CDL exam, get your permit, and attend training, your next step is to take your CDL Skills test.
When you make an appointment with the DMV or licensed testing facility, you will actually be taking three separate tests!
The Skills Test is divided into three sections:
- Pre-Trip Inspection Test (now renamed the Vehicle Inspection Test)
- Road Skills Test
- Basic Control Skills Test
The Pre-Trip Inspection Test requires you to walk around the vehicle and identify all parts for examination. We will be dedicating this chapter entirely to the Pre-Trip Inspection Test, because for many aspiring truckers, this is the most difficult part of obtaining a CDL.
Why is it so hard? Because it’s a whole lot of memorization.
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 explain each part they are inspecting. Test-takers 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 vehicle inspection 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 each part out loud while practicing. Try starting your inspection 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 forward 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
The reason the test was renamed the Vehicle Inspection Test is because you actually inspect your truck before, after, and often during your trip. When driving a 80,000 pound truck, you want to make sure it’s safe to put on the road.
But safety isn’t the only reason, these inspections are important. Remember that equipment failure on the road takes time. This valuable time is time that you are not paid for.
If you’re not running up miles, you’re not making money. If you take the time to do your inspections right, you can make sure to get your repairs done during your downtime and avoid losing any time on the drive clock.
Here’s a helpful video showing the full Pre-Trip Inspection: