Truck Driving CDL Testing and Exam

The official truck driving test, also known as the CDL test or CDL exam, is a national requirement for anyone who wants to get their CDL license. If you are enrolled in a professional truck driver training program, a good portion of your training will be devoted to preparing for the exam. While formal training isn't required to take this exam, many people do prefer to complete a training program so that they can get in-depth training behind the wheel and also gain valuable skills they need to be successful in their careers.

Preparing for the CDL Exam

One of the best ways to prepare for the CDL exam is to complete a test preparation course online or offline. These courses include a set of test questions that are very similar in scope to those you will find on the actual exam. This exam covers several very specific topics to test your knowledge about road safety, truck inspections, and hazardous materials. The test is comprised of both a written exam and an on-road driving test so you will need some behind-the-wheel experience in order to pass the exam the first time.

Some of the key areas to focus on when studying for this exam include:

  • Air brakes
  • Combination vehicles
  • Doubles and triples
  • Hazardous materials
  • Pre-trip inspection protocol
  • School and coach transit buses
  • Tank vehicles
  • Cargo transportation
  • Transporting passengers

Some of the questions on this exam are more general in scope and involve basic procedures and protocol when getting into and out of the vehicle. For example, you'll have multiple choice questions that ask you what parts of the truck you need to check for damage or improper settings before you begin driving, what you should do after inspecting the cab, and the number of red reflective lights you should be carrying at any given time. You need to pay attention to each and every step of safety measures and protocol so that you fully understand what role each part of the truck plays, and how to make sure each part is working properly before you begin driving.

CDL Testing Requirements

Anyone interested in getting a CDL license must meet both national and state CDL testing requirements. Testing requirements do vary slightly from state to state, so you will need to find out what the limitations and restrictions are for truck drivers in your specific area. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the organization that develops and issues the standards for testing and licensing of all CDL holders. The FMCSA mandates that all states issuing CDLs must make sure that the driver passes a knowledge and skills test administered by the State and related to the type of vehicle the driver will be operating. For example, drivers who will be operating passenger vehicles such as a bus or a van must pass a knowledge and skills test specific to passenger vehicles and also take their on-road test in a passenger vehicle. Passing this test will give them a "P" designation on their CDL license.

All candidates taking the skills test must correctly answer at least 80 percent of the questions. They must also perform all required skills using the vehicle they expect to drive. Some states do exempt drivers from the skills test if the driver has a good driving record and has previously passed an acceptable skills test.