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What To Expect When You Take The CDL Road Test

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

If you are considering going to school to get your CDL, then you have probably wondered what to expect when you take the CDL road test exam. Will I be required to back the truck at different angles? What mistakes could cause me to automatically fail? What things do I need to remember to do or avoid doing?

When it comes time to take your CDL exam, there will be two parts to it: the written and the road test. The road test is the physical part of the test. The road test consists of four parts:

  1. You will be asked to give a verbal walk-through of the daily inspection of the truck.
  2.  You will be tested on your ability to straight-line back the truck.
  3.  You will be tested on 90° and 45° angle backing.
  4.  You will drive on the road with the examiner.


There are a few things that will be automatic failures if you do them. If you are in an accident, you will not pass the test. If speed or fail to come to a complete stop at a light or stop sign you will automatically fail.

Be careful not to follow too closely and be careful of turns. Your tires can not touch the curb when turning. Lots of people fail because they don’t watch the back end of the trailer. When you are concentrating on so many other things, don’t forget to watch that area. It can be trouble.

Being in gear at all times is a must and you only have a few seconds between shifting to get it back in.
Watch the height restrictions on overpasses and be sure to stop at all railroad crossings.

Keep your hands on the wheel unless absolutely necessary. Taking your hands off the wheel for reasons other than turning the steering wheel or shifting gears deducts points and could result in an automatic failure.

Be aware of what is going on around you. Don’t let the test make you nervous enough that you forget to be alert. This is one important point that the evaluator will be watching for.


The pre-trip truck inspection is one of the biggest causes of test failures. It starts with the tests for the air brakes. This involves quite a few steps and if you miss any of them, you fail. You will walk around the vehicle and check for any issues with steering, suspension, wheels and tires. Check fluid-levels, air and electrical lines, and examine the frame.

It will be necessary to learn this part of the procedure by heart. Practice it over and over to memorize it. If you attend a truck driving school, this will not be a problem. You can expect to be taught the pre-trip inspection procedure in detail until you can do it in your sleep.

You will talk to the evaluator about securing loads, putting on the chains, the air-brake systems, using log-books, load distribution, how to handle weigh stations, and those kinds of things.


 In this part of the test, you will show that you can back your semi in a loading dock situation. Cones will be set up that are 12’ apart and you will have to back up for about 100’ or so. You will then have to stop the back of the trailer in a 2' long area. Remember to check mirrors and turn on flashers before you start backing.


Part three of the CDL road test involves what we call the "serpentine." This is the weaving of the tractor trailer between cones. It is not only important to be able to weave between the cones but you must not hit any of the cones either.

Getting as close to the cones as possible without touching them is the goal. Hitting the cones is an automatic fail. If you get within a foot, no points will be deducted. Two feet is a 4 points deduction, three feet is 8 points, and anything further than that is an automatic fail.

There is also a 90° angle alley docking. In doing so, you will have to be careful not to back up too far, which is another automatic failure when taking the CDL road test.

The third type of backing you will be required to complete is the 45° angle backing. You will need to be able to back at a perfect 45° angle. You will be allowed one pull-up, but if you get too crooked on the 45°  backing, go too far back, or hit a cone, you will fail. 


All of the previous parts of the test are done in a lot or yard. The road driving part of the test will be done on roads with an evaluator to test your actual city and highway driving skills.

The evaluator will be checking for things like if you remember to check your mirrors, if you run over the curb (automatic fail), shifting, braking and crossing railroads. You will likely park on a hill, have to park within a foot of the curb, and then re-enter traffic.


The CDL road test exam is hard. There are a lot of things to remember and extreme safety is what the evaluators are looking for. If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, take heart. Everything required to pass it will be taught to you at Smith & Solomon CDL training school. The instructors will ensure that when you will finish your training, you will be confident in being able to pass the road test portion of the CDL exam and on your way to becoming a professional truck driver.

Smith & Solomon offers a variety of CDL programs to suit your career goals in the trucking industry.  As leaders in the industry for over 30 years, our goal remains to put the safest drivers on the road and provide them with job placement assistance to get their career off to the right start.

If you or someone you know would like additional information on obtaining a CDL or about the trucking industry, please call 1-800-622-0355. 

That was the best career choice I could have ever made going to Smith&Solomon to get my CDL....
So now because of it I'm driving trucks for one of the Fortune 500 companies out, Republic Services - Maurice D. Ferguson 

The best career choice I could have ever made