What to Know for a CDL Driver Test


Driving a semi-truck or operating a bus is more complex than simply operating a personal automobile. For this reason, the states and the federal government require that drivers of commerical moter vehicles (CMVs) become properly licensed. Often this involves taking and passing a test to receive a commercial driver's license (CDL), which requires the applicant to answer questions and perform driving techniques in the CMV.

Basic Test Information

  • The CDL test gauges your knowledge of driving laws and other issues relevant to the type of CMV you plan to drive. There will be a multiple choice portion of this test containing at least 30 questions. In order to pass the test, you will need to answer at least 80 percent of the questions correctly. While this may seem like a steep percentage, you do have a little wiggle room: on a 30 question test you can miss as many as six questions and more if the test is longer.

    Check your state's physical requirements prior to taking the exam. Some states require you to be 21 years old to drive interstate CMVs. And typically you must have a clean driving record.

CDL Written Test Subjects

  • Most of the written portion of the test will cover areas of CMV driving including the following: endorsements, air brakes, cargo vehicles, combination vehicles, hazardous materials and passenger vehicles. For instance, you may be asked what a supply pressure gauge is used for. You need to be familiar with general driving knowledge, such as the best way to see the sides and rear of your CMV. The questions also will focus on basic knowledge of parts and operations. To become familiar with these topics, consider taking a test-preparation course prior to taking your CDL test. Practice questions are available over the Internet (see Resources) and you can check with you state's department of motor vehicle to see if you can access a practice test locally.

CDL Road Test

  • In addition to the written test, you may have to take a road test during which you operate a CMV under supervision and must make basic maneuvers safely and properly. Typically, the test will contain a number of right and left turns that will vary in complexity based on when the turn is required, how much traffic is in the area and whether a traffic signal is involved. Expect at least one railroad crossing and some highway driving. Also, you will have to drive the CMV up and down various grades of hills.

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