Pass Pre-Trip Inspection Test

Checklist for vehicle inspections

After you pass the written CDL exam, get your permit, and attend training, your next step is to take your CDL Skills Test, which includes the Pre-Trip Inspection Test.

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

This means that when you make an appointment with the DMV or licensed testing facility, you will actually be taking three separate tests!  

The Pre-Trip Inspection Test requires you to walk around the vehicle and identify each individual part. We will be dedicating this chapter entirely to the Pre-Trip Inspection Test, because many truck drivers tell us that it’s the most difficult part of getting a CDL.

Why is it so hard?  Because the Pre-Trip is a whole lot of memorization.

In order to pass the Pre-Trip Inspection, the driver has to 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.

During the test, you also have to explain each part you are checking. Drivers are required to point to each component while explaining any possible defects they are looking for based on a DOT checklist.

Test Preparation:

Drivers perform their Pre-Trip Inspection Tests
The pre-trip inspection is important for safety.

The best way to prepare for the vehicle inspection test is to practice, every chance you get. Do an inspection 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.

When it comes to heavy memorization, one great way to make sure you know something is to teach it yourself.

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.

Check out our complete Vehicle Inspection Checklist!

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 that the vehicle is always safe to be on the road.

But safety isn’t the only reason that the pre-trip inspection is important. Remember that equipment failure on the road takes time. If you need to get repairs, you must wait. This valuable time is time that you are not paid for.

Long-haul truckers are paid by the mile. 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.  

Pre-Trip Inspection Video:

Here’s a helpful video showing the complete Pre-Trip Inspection:



About The Author
Contributor: Ellen Smee (OTR truck driver for 4+ years and technical writer). Expert Review: Luke Nold (Experienced truck driver for 5+ years and published writer for Fleet Magazine).