CDL Examiner Interview – Jason B.

Orange truck reflected in mirror

The CDL Driving Test and Basic Control Skills Test require 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 Driving Test and Basic Control 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?

Thinking they are in a car.

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

Read the manual from his/her state 100 times over. Don’t take online videos for granted. Do your own homework. Calm your nerves, be confident, show the examiner you know what you’re talking about.

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?

Nothing. Anyone can surprise you. The guy you think is going to fail will catch you off guard and pass with flying colors.

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

Being over confident. The ones that think they know it all are the ones that will be the first to hit something. When backing up, never think you’re good. Always get out and look.

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?

State test have automatic fails, if you do any of them the test is over. Each automatic fail is noted in the CDL state manual for truck drivers to read before test day.

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

Automatic fails are as follows:

Failing to do the air-system checks properly, too many points on the backing, hitting a curb, or just any dangerous action on the road. (If you make the tester’s ass pucker, it’s probably a bad move).

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?

All tests are conducted the same way every time, that way everyone gets the same test. You are not allowed to practice on a state testing facility unless it’s owned by a school where state testers work like me. My students practice on the same course they test on.

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

Yes, its called probing. If the student is missing a key work on a part they are talking about you can say, “Is there anything else?” but you cannot point to items they completely missed.

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

Students are always nervous. I do my best to calm them and help them relax. My job is to help them pass within reason.

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

I don’t. They paid for my time, so I let them continue just to practice. I don’t know if everyone does that.

Have testers ever failed anyone for anything other than the information in pre-trip inspection?

Don’t jump out of the truck. Three points of contact is required when getting out.

What is most challenging for testers in the Skills portion of the test? How can they improve?

Pre-trip. Rookie drivers think just because they watched a couple videos online they know it all. Read your state manual or contact your local school for assistance.

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

When you know someone has tried really hard and it shows. Even though we are testers watching someone succeed is always an awesome experience to be a part of.

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

Study, Study, Study, and when you think you’re ready, study twice as much.

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

They always tell me thank you. I always respond with “You did all the work, don’t thank me.”

What should students expect after the test?

A three-hour long wait at the DOL (Department of Licensing) to get their CDL.  

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

12 years, I think the average is ten.

What made you decide to become a DMV CDL Tester?

I wanted to start a Sschool, and I know with proper training on the CDL testing end, I would have a much rounder understanding of the state testing.

Also:  To clarify, Washington State does not have a Department of Motor Vehicle. We have a DOL. Vehicle registrations in Washington are privately-owned. You only go to the DOL for a drivers license. It has nothing to do with your vehicle. Clear as mud right? I am third party tester which means I’m contracted by the state of Washington to conduct state CDL test. I am not a state employee. 

My company is Drive509 Trucking School:

Drive509 School to Pass Your CDL Road Test
Drive509 Trucking School

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

I think of it this way. When the test is over, would I want that person driving around a minivan full of kids, especially if they were mine? If the answer is “no”, then I don’t pass them. That being said, they would have had to do a dangerous action for me to feel that way.

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

Normally it’s just the air brake check they fail. If they can get past that they’ve studied enough to pass the rest.

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

#1 curbing the trailer

#2 not double clutching

#3 not doing mirror checks


About The Author
Contributors: Jason B. (CDL Examiner for 2 years and driver for over ten), Jessica Cottner (Experienced writer with a background in travel and transportation).