How to Pass the CDL Test Vehicle Pre-Trip Inspection

How to Pass the CDL Test Vehicle Pre-Trip Inspection

How Do I Pass the CDL Test Vehicle Pre-Trip Inspection: Tips From the Experts

Learning the vehicle inspection portion of the CDL test is difficult for many students. In most states, there are over 100 items to be checked on the tractor-trailer. Passing the test requires each student to study and memorize the items tested. Drivers need to be able to point out a part, and describe what condition it is in.

Here are some important tips to help you learn how to pass the vehicle inspection:

1. Read the CDL Manual.
The state manual has a comprehensive list of items that will be tested. Take the time to read and understand the items. Ask your instructor questions if you are unclear on a part’s function, condition or location.

2. Make Index Cards and Use Them as “Flash Cards”.
Write a specific vehicle part on the front of the card, and the description on the back. For example, the front might say “headlights.” The back of the card might say “lights are working, not cracked or broken.”

3. Repeat After me!
There is no way around it: to learn over 100 parts, you need to practice and repeat. Every day of your training, see if you can practice a full pre-trip, start to finish.

4. Buddy System.
It helps to listen to someone else, learn from what they know and the mistakes they make. Get a buddy from your class and each of you do a vehicle inspection. Help each other learn. Use a checklist so you can keep track of what was identified or missed.

5. Know the In-Cab Air Brake Check!
This is complicated, and if you do not do it correctly, it is an ATOMATIC FAILURE of the CDL test. This includes the static and applied air brake checks, low air warning system and spring brake check, for example. These take practice and an understanding of the truck’s air brake system. This is an easy procedure to do every time you get in the truck.

6. Study Guides Work.
There are numerous study guides available that can help you learn. These can be obtained from your school, or from the internet. Formats that include a checklist and photos, and are in the order of a front to rear vehicle inspection help.

7. Break it Down to Bitesize.
Do the pre-trip in easy “bites.” This means describing items that are related. For example, always do the front exterior first; then move to the engine compartment; then look at the axles; then the brakes. This way, you are not overwhelmed with 100 items. Instead, you complete the inspection one area at a time, which is much more manageable.

8. Take photographs with your cell phone.
You can take a picture of most items on the truck. Use these to study. If you have a function on your phone to add a description or notes, you can do that too. Study the photos and quiz yourself.

9. Relax! Many students fail the CDL test because they are nervous that a “Tester” is grading them. Take a couple deep breaths before the test. Visualize yourself passing. If you need to stop and just collect your thoughts, that’s OK. Most important, practice so that you are confident. Most nervousness in testing is because the student is not prepared.

10. Use the phrases the Tester wants to hear. For most items, you can use simple language that communicates to the tester that you understand what is to be inspected. Use phrases that are standard in the industry, and that the Tester wants to hear. There are some common abbreviations and hints. For example:

– Anything mounted to the truck – PMS: means “Properly Mounted and Secure”
– Anything that is rubber – ABC: means no “Abrasions, Bulges, or Cuts”
– Any metal parts – CBB: means not “Cracked, Bent, or Broken”
– Any fluids or air hoses – say it is “Not Leaking”

11. You Tube (but be careful!).
There are very good resources on YouTube showing and explaining pre-trip vehicle inspections. Some are good, some are not. Some follow the CDL test format, others are a more practical “Driver’s” pre-trip designed for the real world, not a CDL exam. You Tube is a good resource, just keep in mind that not every YouTuber is correct or knowledgeable.

12. Consistency Helps.
Each time you do the vehicle inspection, follow the same order. Don’t jump around. Have a plan and a system. Follow it. Practice it. That way, you should miss very few items.

13. Point and Touch.
Testers want clear communication. The clearest way to identify an item is to touch it or point carefully, identify the part loudly and clearly, and then describe the condition. Since you have to speak clearly during the test, make sure that is how you practice.

14. Don’t Over-Complicate the Inspection.
Keep in mind that the vehicle inspection is not rocket science or brain surgery. Keep the inspection simple. You don’t need to ramble on and on about each part. Just identify it out loud, touch it when you can, and then give a simple explanation of the condition you are inspecting for. Then move on to the next part.

15. Listen to the Tester.
Put yourself in the Tester’s position. They administer the test several times a day to all sorts of people. They see people who cooperate, but also some who are arrogant or combative. Don’t make their job difficult. Listen to their instructions. Be friendly and cooperative. Have a good attitude. Demonstrate that you want to be a safe and professional driver.

Keep in mind that much of the process of learning the vehicle inspection depends on the student driver working to learn and memorize the pre-trip items. A school cannot force a student to memorize, learn or practice. Every student who wants to go into trucking must take responsibility for this process. So start early in your preparation for the vehicle inspection part of the CDL test, and you can easily pass!

What specific items are commonly overlooked during the pre-trip inspection?

Commonly overlooked items during the pre-trip inspection include less obvious parts or those that may seem minor but are critical for safety and compliance. These might include:

  • Reflectors and lights: Ensuring all are clean, functional, and free from damage.
  • Tire tread depth: Tires are often checked for inflation and visible damage, but the specific tread depth can be overlooked.
  • Emergency equipment: Such as fire extinguishers, warning triangles, and spare fuses, which must be present and in good condition.
  • Air lines and electrical connections: Especially in the case of a tractor-trailer combination, ensuring these are properly connected and in good condition is crucial but sometimes missed.

How are the inspection items weighted during the test?

Typically, the CDL pre-trip inspection is designed to assess overall knowledge and ability to ensure a vehicle is safe to operate. While specific weighting can vary, all items are important. However, certain aspects like brake functionality, steering mechanisms, and other safety-critical systems might be scrutinized more closely. It’s essential to show competency across all areas, as failure in a critical safety area could result in a fail even if other areas are performed well.

What are the most common reasons for automatic failure besides the in-cab air brake check?

Automatic failures can result from missing any safety-critical inspection item or improperly performing a task that could lead to immediate danger on the road. These might include:

  • Failure to identify major defects in the braking system (aside from the in-cab air brake check), such as visibly damaged brake lines or leaking air systems.
  • Ignoring severe tire damage or wear, which could lead to a blowout.
  • Overlooking critical fluid leaks, such as from the engine oil, coolant, or hydraulic systems, indicating a risk of vehicle failure or fire.
  • Neglecting to check for proper securement of cargo (for those tests involving cargo securement), which could lead to shifting loads or loss of cargo.

How long does it typically take to complete the CDL vehicle pre-trip inspection during the test?

The duration of the CDL vehicle pre-trip inspection part of the test can vary significantly depending on the state, the specific requirements of the test, and the thoroughness of the examiner. However, candidates are generally advised to anticipate spending between 30 minutes to an hour on this section. The key to efficiently completing the inspection within this timeframe is thorough preparation and practice, ensuring familiarity with each item on the checklist and being able to efficiently demonstrate knowledge and understanding to the examiner.

Are there any mobile apps recommended for CDL pre-trip inspection study or practice?

While the original article does not mention specific mobile apps, there are several available designed to aid CDL students in preparing for the pre-trip inspection part of their exams. Apps like “CDL Prep,” “Truck Driver’s Pre-Trip Checklist,” and others provide interactive checklists, study guides, and practice quizzes. These tools can complement traditional study methods by offering a more engaging and portable way to review. It’s important for users to read reviews and choose apps that are up-to-date with the latest CDL testing standards and regulations to ensure the information is accurate and helpful.

How does one deal with discrepancies between the CDL manual and real-world inspection requirements?

Discrepancies between the CDL manual and real-world inspection requirements can be confusing for candidates. The best approach is to prioritize the CDL manual and official study materials provided by the testing authority in your state, as these will reflect the criteria on which you will be tested. However, for practical knowledge and application, understanding the reasoning behind real-world practices can be invaluable. If discrepancies arise, discuss them with a qualified instructor or mentor who can explain the differences. They can offer insights into why certain practices might vary in the field and how to reconcile these differences while ensuring that you’re prepared for both the test and real-world driving scenarios. Remember, the goal of the CDL test is not only to pass but also to ensure you are a safe and knowledgeable driver.