Once you get your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), which requires you to pass the CDL Written Exam (use these free CDL practice tests to help you study), and have received behind the wheel instruction, you can then move on to the CDL Skills Test, which includes the Road Test. The CDL Skills Test is comprised of three parts:

  • Part One: Pre-Trip Inspection
  • Part Two: Backing Exercises
  • Part Three: Road Test

As with any test, preparation is key. Knowing what you can do to be ready for the test can help make the experience easier and less stressful. To be successful, you will need to study and know what is coming during the test. 

What Does It Take to Pass the CDL Road/Skills Test?

As is the case with most tests, no matter the subject, the CDL Road / Skills Test can be stressful if you are not prepared. There’s no need to have test anxiety. Being properly prepared will take the stress out because you can be confident in your skills. With proper training and effort, you will be familiar with the tasks, maneuvers, and skills you will be asked to demonstrate. The test is designed to ensure you can safely operate a commercial motor vehicle. It is important to remain cool, calm, and collected throughout the test. Your examiner will be watching (and evaluating) your ability to perform the tasks dictated to you. 

Your examiner will evaluate your ability to maneuver the truck safely and perform according to the instructions provided. You will need to listen carefully and follow directions exactly as they are relayed to you by the person administering the test. The examiner will ensure you can conduct these maneuvers without endangering anyone, ensuring you do not demonstrate behaviors that could put you and others at risk.

To pass the CDL road skills test, your driving behaviors need to reflect every proper technique you were taught in training. Failure to do everything you were properly trained to do can add up to multiple minor mistakes that can cause you to fail the test. If you make a minor mistake, leave it behind you and focus on doing everything correct from that point forward.

There are also critical errors during the test, also known as "automatic fails.” These include, but are not limited to, failure to use a seatbelt, any moving violation or disobeyed sign or signal (e.g. speeding, failure to make a full stop, running a stop sign or red light), not yielding to pedestrians or right-of-way road users, creating an accident, incident or dangerous act, putting your tractor or trailer over a sidewalk or curb, or impeding traffic in any way (for example, blocking a lane).

Know What's Covered During the Road Test – CDL Skills Test Checklist

This CDL Road / Skills Test checklist contains a general list of items covered during testing. Since the test is designed to measure your ability to operate the commercial motor vehicle in all traffic situations, you will be required to demonstrate ordinary skills in any circumstances. You should be well-versed in the following:

  • Lane Changes
  • Turns
  • Communication (i.e. using turn signals)
  • Intersections
  • Stops and Starts
  • Highway Driving and Urban Roadway Navigation
  • Railroad Crossing
  • Steering
  • Curves
  • Bridges and Overpasses
  • Hazard Awareness (traffic checks, for example)
  • Hazard Response

Throughout the driving test, your examiner will evaluate your general driving behaviors. Check your state's DMV website for more detailed information about the skills you will be asked to demonstrate during your CDL Road Test. 

Follow Best Practices When Preparing for the Road Test

The more time you spend preparing for the test, and the more steps you take in preparation, the easier it should be when the time comes. There are many things you can do to get ready - follow this checklist with tips to prepare:

  • Vary your studying methods and take a varied approach to learning the material.
  • Study the CDL manual daily.
  • Get a study-buddy or find a partner who is willing to quiz you with homemade flashcards. 
  • Know your weaknesses and focus on improving upon them.
  • Have your driving techniques evaluated by an instructor who can tell you what your strengths are, and what you could work on more to be better prepared for the test. Take feedback with an open mind, as it will help you improve for the day of your test. Learn from the experience. 
  • Practice, practice, practice. Studying the book can only be so useful for a test that takes place behind the wheel. Practicing your skills is critical. 
  • Backing up. Be ready to perform straight line backing, off-set right backing, off-set left backing, alley dock backing and parallel backing. 
  • Drive in challenging circumstances. Have the skills and be prepared to drive in any situation (for example, busy intersections, bridges and railroad crossings, lane changes, narrow roadways, tight turns).
  • Perform your pre-trip vehicle inspection. You will be asked to name your vehicle components and talk about their functions. Know how to inspect your vehicle, what to look for and know why you need to check those components. 

Testing Tips

Once you have scheduled the test and the day has arrived, show up well-rested, confident, focused and prepared to show the examiner everything you’ve learned during your training.

Practice Self-Care

Study hard in the days leading up to your test and be prepared to relax the night before. Eat a good dinner and get plenty of sleep. On the day of your test, eat a nutritious breakfast.

Manage Your Anxiety, Remain Calm

Passing the test means managing your test anxiety and maintaining a calm demeanor under challenging circumstances. There are many exercises that can help you control your emotions throughout this process. Remember, you have prepared for this moment; you’ve got this.

Practice breathing. Deep breathing during the test can help control your anxiety and keep you grounded throughout the test.  

Maintain a positive attitude. Do you often think of words like "can't" and "won't" when you are performing a difficult task? These words can drag you down. Maintaining a positive attitude throughout your driving test will make the experience feel more manageable. Repeat words in your head like, "I can do this” and “I will do this.”

Remember your training and do as you’ve been taught. If you make a minor mistake, do not let it defeat you. Leave it behind you and focus on executing everything perfectly as you continue the CDL road skills test.

Summary

Passing your CDL Skill Test requires a lot of studying, getting proper instruction and practicing to put that instruction into a physical skillset. When you are practicing, focus on perfect practice. There are many resources you can use to be successful and remember to trust your training.

Roehl Transport has been training new drivers to become professional truck drivers and pass their CDL road skills test for over 30 years (since 1991).

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