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8 CDL Road Test tips to help you pass

A man in a yellow safety vest and jeans stands in a parking lot and talks to a driver who is backing a white tractor-trailer.

You have your Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), worked hard, practiced the maneuvers and can recite a pre-trip inspection in your sleep. You’ve put in the hours behind the wheel and are ready to pass your upcoming Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Road Test, right?

It’s natural to feel anxious before taking a big test, and that’s why we put together this list of CDL Road Test tips so you go into it feeling confident and knowing what to expect.

8 CDL Road Test tips

1. Go into the test knowing what to expect.

One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for a big exam is to get a clear picture of what the exam is going to consist of. The easiest way to do this for the road test is to go to your state’s DMV website and read about what will be required of you.

For example, a Wisconsin CDL Road Test consists of:

  • A vehicle inspection test (also called a pre-trip inspection).
  • A basic control skills test (includes various backing maneuvers).
  • An on-road driving test (includes lane changes, turns, stopping/starting, etc.)

2. Use your resources – before and during the test.

Your CDL Manual is your new best friend in the weeks leading up to your CDL Class A Road Test. Use it to study everything from the steps to a pre-trip inspection to the steps on the various tractor-trailer backs.

Some states even allow drivers to use a memory aid from their CDL Manual during the pre-trip inspection portion of the CDL Road Test. Check your state’s DMV website to confirm, and if you can use it, print it off to bring with you just in case!

3. Find other ways to study, if needed.

If reading and looking at pictures really isn’t your thing, try finding other ways to study for your CDL Road Test. For example, watch videos on how to do a CDL pre-trip inspection and how to back up a tractor-trailer.

Just make sure the content you are consuming comes from reliable sources. If the information doesn’t match up with what’s in your manual, then it probably isn’t right!

4. Include practicing within your studying.

Reading your manual and watching videos is great, but one of the top CDL Road Test tips is to make sure you’re incorporating a lot of practice. Practicing should include:

  • Running through your pre-trip inspection: The vehicle inspection test will require you to point out various vehicle components, as well as explaining why you are checking each of them. During practice, make sure you can not only name all the parts of your truck but explain what their function is.
  • Backing, backing, backing: The backing portion of the CDL Road Test will most likely include straight line backing, offset right or left backing and alley dock backing. Make sure you’re practicing all three ahead of time.
  • Driving around in a semi-truck: The road test portion will require you to drive around on the street. While practicing for it, incorporate turns, busy intersections, lane changes, railroad crossings, bridges and stops/starts.

5. Set yourself up for success.

Although it may seem silly, one of the most important tips to pass a CDL Road Test is to take care of your mind and body. It’s important to:

  • Spend the night before the test with your family or those closest to you. Try not to think about the test or worry about your performance.
  • Avoid going out and get to bed early, even if your test is in the afternoon. Getting plenty of sleep will help you to stay attentive, refreshed and ready to perform.
  • Take it easy on coffee, sugar or nicotine the day of your test. This can increase tension and cause your nerves to be high.

6. Get there early to practice.

Rules vary state to state, but if your state permits you to practice, try doing the maneuver you’re least comfortable with once. Don’t dwell on it or let it get to your head but get in a truck and practice it one more time. You can call your state’s DMV to ask if practicing beforehand is allowed.

If your state does not allow practice time the day of your test, still get there early and begin running through your pre-trip inspection or backing steps in your head.

7. Don't focus on how many mistakes you can make and still pass.

It’s easy to go into your test with the mindset of, “I can make this many mistakes and still pass.” Although it’s reassuring knowing you can make some minor errors, that mindset may cause you to make some sloppy mistakes you otherwise wouldn’t.

If you have adequately practiced, studied and know what to expect going into the test, then there is no reason why you would make any major mistakes that would cause you to fail. Tell yourself, “I’ve got this” because you do got this!

8. Stay calm no matter what happens.

In high pressure situations, we often panic when things don’t go exactly as planned. If you do make an error during the test, keep yourself under control by:

  • Breathing.
  • Thinking back to your training. Remind yourself you have the skills and knowledge you do this.
  • Taking your time. This is not a race. Go slow so you can think through each action before you perform it.
  • Remembering the person who is testing you wants you to succeed.

    Looking for more truck driver tips?

    Become an even better truck driver by reading more of our driver-related blog posts on everything from how to back a tractor trailer to safety tips for driving in fog.

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    Schneider Guy loves the "Big Orange." He's passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He's been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he's excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through "A Slice of Orange."

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