09 June 2022

What Does the CDL Skills Test Include?


Getting a CDL (commercial driver license) is the first step in your trucking career. During the process, you can also test for endorsements to drive a school bus, transport hazardous materials (HAZMAT), or many other commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).

A CDL requires having a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) for 14 days, CDL training by a registered truck driving school, and passing the CDL skills test.

These requirements are set up by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), but states are responsible for giving the tests and issuing CDLs.

What is a pull up in CDL?

You’ll want to avoid a “pull up” during your CDL skills test and it’ll have nothing to do with getting your chin over a bar. In trucking, a pull up is when the truck driver stops and then pulls forward to change direction or clear an obstacle. The goal is to get into position without this extra maneuver.

Can I take my CDL test online?

Some states will allow you to take the written tests online, but you will need to physically go to the DMV (department of motor vehicles) to present your documents and complete the driving tests. Becoming a truck driver is a big responsibility, so your skills and qualifications are reviewed closely prior to the state issuing you a CDL.

What’s included on the CDL skills test?

The CDL test has three sections. Studying the CDL manual and practicing behind the wheel are the best ways to pass all three and become a CDL driver. If you don’t pass one of the tests, you’ll have to retake it and some states put a limit on how long your test results are good for. 

A few actions during your test that can result in an automatic failure are: exiting the vehicle unsafely, driving over a curb, and breaking a law.

Vehicle inspection test

This written test, also called the pre-trip inspection test, is the knowledge test of the three. It includes twenty questions from the CDL manual. A passing test score is 80% or higher. The questions change frequently, but common topics include chaining up, what to do at a scale, and how to secure your cargo.

Basic controls skills test

Here’s a chance to show off your actual driving skills. The basic controls skills test will include timed tests of your abilities in straight line backing, offset backing, and alley docking within physical boundaries usually indicated by cones. Complete each task in the allotted amount of time without crossing any boundaries and you’ll pass the test.

Road test

During the CDL road test, also known as the driving test, you’ll demonstrate your driving skills and knowledge on the road in real life traffic situations. You’ll need to know all the local traffic laws as well as how to navigate a truck and trailer on roads with other drivers.

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