CDL Examiner Interview – Hal K.

Stick shift for truck drivers

The required Skills Test, including the CDL Road Test and the CDL Basic Control Test, requires you to get behind the wheel of the truck to prove your ability. There’s no replacement for practice in the real world, but at, we’ve provided the next best thing.

Read our interviews with real CDL instructors to find out all about what they look for during the CDL Road and Skills Test. We also ask about the pre-trip inspection. Learn the most common mistakes, the best tips, and more.  Our questions start in bold.

 What is the most common mistake that aspiring drivers make on the CDL Road Test?

The most common mistakes have a lot to do with shifting, not being ready for turns and being in proper gear, specifically downshifting.

 Prior to arriving at the testing facility what should the prospective driver expect to happen and what mental preparation do you suggest?

The test is pretty straightforward. We do a pre-trip, then backing, then the short road portion, which is about a half hour drive.

What is something that jumps out at you that tells you the driver is prepared for the test before they ever climb in the vehicle?

When you start trying to read people, you often don’t get a good read. Usually a better pre-trip means a better test. People who don’t go to a formal school aren’t very prepared if they don’t have strong self-study skills and don’t know what to expect.

What is the one thing that a prospective driver should NEVER do?

For the most part, have your paperwork ready and complete.

When you have a driver who has made a mistake, do you take into account how fast they recover from it, or do you stop the test?

It depends on what the mistake is.

Which mistakes are those which would make you stop the test? Which mistakes will you grade on a “lesser scale” than others.

An unsafe act such as not having the truck under control at all times makes me stop the test. Minor shifting problems are lesser infractions, as well as traffic checks.

Do you vary the course which you test; or could the student practice the test course and successfully pass the test if they fail the first time.

If they know what the course is, they could drive it on their own, I suppose. The course has to be approved by the state and there are several at each testing center.

When the student starts their “walk around” pre-trip inspection, do you ever give any verbal cues to indicate they have missed something?

No cues.

If a student is extremely nervous, do you account for that in any way?

I try not to make them nervous, but there’s not too much help you can give: the state regulates what you can and cannot do.

How do you tell a student that they lack the knowledge to continue and they need to re-test?

You pretty much just tell them that they’ve not been successful and explain why.

Have testers ever failed anyone for anything other than the information?

For knowledge/skills and being generally unsafe.

What is the most satisfying testing experience you’ve had? Why?

I don’t really look at it that way. I’ve tested people for 13 years, with 600-700 test a year.

If you had to pick one thing to tell prospective drivers prior to coming to CDL Road Test, what would it be?

Get as much practice as they can behind the wheel and be familiar with the pre-trip.

When you complete the test and you tell the student they’ve passed, what is the typical response?

Most of the time they’re relieved and happy. It varies from person to person.

What should students expect after the test?

I tell them they’ve passed or why they weren’t successful, so next time they don’t make the same mistake. We have electronic forms that are filled out now instead of having to take it to the license branch, this way the recently passed testee can’t lose it and have to get it reissued.

How long have you driven a truck prior to becoming a tester? Is that average for other testers?

I drove trucks since 1988 and started testing people in 2001. That’s probably more than what others have, and you have to have three years of experience as a minimum to be a tester.

 What made you decide to become a DMV CDL Tester?

It’s just part of my job.

Have you ever passed someone that you felt they would not make a good truck driver and later that “gut feeling” proved correct?

We don’t usually get feedback on drivers.

 Top 3 things that people fail on the pre-trip.  And why.

Primarily, the airbrake check, not knowing the material, or not being able to find, identify, and tell me why they’re checking the part during the pre-trip.

Top 3 they fail the most (or make the most mistakes) on the road test.  And why.

Not having the truck under control when coming up on corners, downshifting, and not doing traffic checks. These are all the most common problem areas because they add up to a lot of points.


About The Author
Contributor: Hal K. (CDL examiner for 15+ years), Martina Szabo (Writer, traveled OTR, and helped Schneider redesign their training yard).