What Does the CDL Skills Test Include?

Earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL) is necessary to become a truck driver. To get this license, you will need to pass an exam that includes a written portion as well as a practical skills test. The CDL skills test includes three different portions that cover different things you’ll need to know as a driver.

These are:

Pre-Trip Inspection

Per Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, truck drivers must examine their vehicles prior to every trip. This is to ensure the vehicle does not have any issues that would endanger the driver or anyone else on the road. The first portion of the CDL skills exam is a full internal and external inspection of your truck.

During the test, you will need to fully explain the inspection process to the examiner as you complete it. As you check each part, you must point to or touch it and name it.

Vehicle Control Skills

After the inspection is complete, you will demonstrate your basic vehicle control skills. The examiner can use a variety of off-road tests to evaluate you during this portion of the exam.

Possible Skills Test Drills

Some exercises that may be part of the CDL basic vehicle control skills test include:

  • Straight Line Backing: Backing your vehicle between two rows of cones in a straight line
  • Offset Back/Right or Offset Back/Left: Backing between rows of cones to the left or to the right behind your vehicle
  • Driver Side or Conventional Parallel Parking: Parallel parking in a space on your right or left
  • Alley Dock: Positioning your vehicle parallel to an outer boundary by sight-side backing it into an alley

These exercises are scored based on:

  • Encroachments: Touching cones with any portion of your vehicle or crossing over any boundary lines is an error.
  • Pull-Ups: Stopping and pulling forward too often can be a penalty, although it is not not penalized initially.)
  • “Looks”: Safely stopping your vehicle and checking its position is called a “look” and there is a maximum of two for all exercises besides straight line backing, which has a maximum of one. If you exit unsafely at any time, it can result in an automatic failure.
  • Final Position: You must maneuver your vehicle into the exact position the examiner asked of you and if not, it may result in a failure.

Driving Test

The final part of the CDL skills test involves actually driving through a test route and handling real-life traffic situations. The examiner may ask for you to describe what you would do in a given situation if it doesn’t happen naturally during the test.

Required Driving Skills

Some of the skills the CDL road test may assess:

  • Brake, gear, and clutch use
  • Turning
  • Turn signal use
  • Intersections
  • Steering
  • Lane changes
  • Limited access highway driving
  • Traffic checks
  • Safe following distance
  • Curves
  • Railroad crossings
  • Bridges and overpasses
  • Stop/start

Earn Your CDL at Phoenix Truck Driving School

We prepare our students for the CDL test with a combination of classroom learning and hands-on experience. You can earn your license and start your career in as little as four weeks.

Contact us to learn more about our truck driver training programs.