DMV Dept. of Transportation: Class A CDL Pre-Trip Inspection

Tractor Trailer Inspection

The purpose of the Pre-Trip Inspection is to make sure the commercial vehicle is safe to operate, and to see if you have the knowledge and skills to inspect your commercial vehicle.  A pre-trip inspection is a good idea every time you go to work in a commercial vehicle which is why the DMV takes pre-trip inspection very seriously.  This inspection requires the truck driver to have expert knowledge of each system on the Tractor-Trailer.

The DOT / DMV certified inspector will walk around the inside and outside of the commercial vehicle and ask what does this do?  The trucker must explain how gear shifters work or how to test the air brakes before leaving, etc. Both of you will walk around the vehicle and point to or touch each item (system) and explain to the DOT examiner what you are checking and why it is important.

You will not have to crawl under the commercial vehicle, but you will have to bend down and point to king pin and explain how it locks, point to brakes and explain how to test them for safety, point to the transmission and explain the drive train, point to all lights and make sure no cracks, this includes lights around the tailor.  Every commercial truck driver carries a small wooden bat to hit the tires during a walk around this is to test for leaks and damage, so do not be surprised when he points to the log book and asks what is that for and next to it is a small wooden bat. Then he will ask why the bat?  You can count on a question about how the air brake hoses connect.  The air brakes endorsement test is the most often failed CDL TEST, so take the time to learn everything you can about commercial vehicle air brakes and how to check their safety.

At we provide this CDL Handbook so you can be prepared for your CDL Skills Test and Pretrip Inspection Walk around with a DOT Instructor by watching our 'Trucking How To Videos'

By combining 'Trucker How To Videos' with reading our CDL Handbook, you will become prepared to take the CDL Skills Test and Pre-trip Inspection at the DMV / DOT without having to pay expensive fees for CDL Training elsewhere.  Many have tried to copy us over the years every since we started over 12 years ago with

AT we place your CDL truck driving career onto THE FAST TRACK OF SUCCESS!

Passing the walk around during PreTrip Inspection is EASY compared to passing the road skills driving test.  You will take a 53' foot tractor and trailer out for a spin with a DMV / DOT Certified Instructor.  The most common missed question is about clearance.  When approaching a bridge or overpass there will be a sign stating the height of the bridge.  After going under the overpass or bridge the DMV / DOT Certified Instructor will ask "what was the clearance just then?"  And you must know the height of your commercial vehicle  including the trailer height, and how much room you have to spare is considered your 'clearance'.   IF you get it wrong on the job your trailer will smack into the bridge.  There is no room for error for the professional truck driver.

For more tips on how to pass the Road Trip Skills Test during a CDL TEST watch this VIDEO!

This video will teach you how to pass the Road Trip during your Skills Test.

Section 2: Driving Safely

This section contains knowledge and safe commercial truck driving information that all
commercial CDL drivers should know. You must pass a test on this information to get a CDL.
This section does NOT have specific information on endorsement questions found in combination vehicles, doubles & triples, or transporting passenger vehicles. Each CDL  endorsement will have its own section below.
This CDL Handbook does have basic information on hazardous materials (HazMat) that all commercial truck drivers should know.

Important:  If you need a HazMat endorsement, you should study Section 9.

This Section Covers Everything Needed for walk around
PreTrip Inspection at the DMV with a DOT Inspector

  • Vehicle Inspection
  • Vehicle Control
  • Shifting Gears
  • Seeing
  • Communicating
  • Speed & Space Management
  • Night Driving
  • Winter Driving
  • Mountain Driving
  • Emergencies
  • Staying Alert

Section 3: Transporting Cargo Safely

This section tells you about hauling cargo safely. You must understand basic cargo safety rules to get a CDL.

If you load cargo wrong or do not secure it, it can be a danger to others and yourself. Loose cargo that falls off a vehicle can cause traffic problems and others could be hurt or killed. Loose cargo could hurt or kill you during a quick stop or crash. Your vehicle could be damaged by an overload. Steering could be affected by how a vehicle is loaded, making it more difficult to control the vehicle.

Whether or not you load and secure the cargo yourself, you are responsible for:
• Inspecting your cargo.
• Recognizing overloads and poorly balanced weight.
• Knowing your cargo is properly secured.

These are discussed below.
If you intend to carry hazardous material that requires placards on your vehicle, you will also have to have a hazardous materials endorsement. Section 9 of this manual has the information you need to pass the hazardous materials test.

This Section Covers

  • Inspecting Cargo
  • >Cargo Weight and Balance
  • Securing Cargo
  • Liquids in Bulk
  • Other Cargo Needing Care

Section 4: Transporting Passengers

Bus drivers must have a commercial driver license if they drive a vehicle designed to seat more than 15 persons, including the driver.

Bus drivers must have a passenger endorsement on their commercial driver license. To get the endorsement you must pass a knowledge test on Sections 2 and 4 of this manual. (If your bus has air brakes, you must also pass a knowledge test on Section 5.) You must also pass the skills tests required for the class of vehicle you drive.

This Section Covers

  • Definition of a Bus
  • Pre-trip Inspection
  • Loading
  • Safe Driving with Buses

Section 5: Air Brakes

This section tells you about air brakes. If you want to drive a truck or bus with air brakes, or pull a trailer with air brakes, you need to read this section. If you want to pull a trailer with air brakes, you also need to read Section 6: Combination Vehicles.

Air brakes use compressed air to make the brakes work. Air brakes are a good and safe way of stopping large and heavy vehicles, but the brakes must be well maintained and used properly.

Air brakes are really three different braking systems: service brake, parking brake, and emergency brake.
• The service brake system applies and releases the brakes when you use the brake pedal during normal driving.
• The parking brake system applies and releases the parking brakes when you use the parking brake control.
• The emergency brake system uses parts of the service and parking brake systems to stop the vehicle in the event of a brake system failure.

The parts of these systems are discussed in greater detail below.

This Section Covers

  • Air Brake System Parts
  • Dual Air Brake Systems
  • Inspecting Air Brakes
  • Using Air Brakes

Section 6: Combination Vehicles

This section provides information needed to pass the tests for combination vehicles (tractor-trailer, doubles, triples, straight truck, and trailer). The information is only to give you the minimum knowledge needed for driving common combination vehicles. You should also study Section 7 if you need to pass the tests for doubles-triples.

This Section Covers

  • Driving Combinations
  • Combination Vehicle Air Brakes
  • Inspecting Combinations

Section 7: Doubles and Triples

This section has information you need to pass the CDL knowledge test for driving safely with double and triple trailers. It tells about how important it is to be very careful when driving with more than one trailer, how to couple and uncouple correctly, and of inspecting doubles and triples carefully (You should also study Sections 2, 5 and 6.)

This Section Covers

  • Pulling Double/Triple Trailers
  • Coupling and Uncoupling
  • Inspecting Doubles and Triples
  • Checking Air Brakes

Section 8: Tank Vehicles

This section has information needed to pass the CDL knowledge test for driving a tank vehicle. (You should also study Sections 2, 5, and 6). A "tank vehicle" is used to carry any liquid or liquid gas in a tank of 1,000 gallons or more.

Before loading, unloading, or driving a tanker, inspect the vehicle. This makes sure that the vehicle is safe to carry the liquid or gas and is safe to drive.

This Section Covers

  • Inspecting Tank Vehicles
  • Driving Tank Vehicles

Section 9: Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials are products that pose a risk to health, safety, and property during transportation. The term often is shortened to HAZMAT, which you may see on road signs, or to HM in government regulations. Hazardous materials include explosives, various types of gas, solids, flammable and combustible liquid, and other materials. Because of the risks involved and the potential consequences these risks impose, the handling of hazardous materials is very heavily regulated by all levels of government.

The Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) are found in parts 171-180 of title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The common reference for these regulations is 49 CFR 171-180.

This section is designed to assist you in understanding your role and responsibilities in hauling hazardous materials. Due to the constantly changing nature of government regulations, it is impossible to guarantee absolute accuracy of the materials in this section. An up-to-date copy of the complete regulations is essential for you to have. Included in these regulations is a complete glossary of terms.

This Section Covers

  • The Intent of the Regulations
  • Driver Responsibilities
  • Communications Rules
  • Loading and Unloading
  • Bulk Tank Loading,
    Unloading, and Marking
  • Driving and Parking Rules
  • Emergencies


School bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license if they drive a vehicle designed to transport (seat) 16 or more persons, including the driver.

School bus drivers must have a school bus endorsement in addition to a passenger endorsement on their commercial driver’s license (CDL). To get the school bus endorsement, you must pass a knowledge test on sections 2, 4 and 10 of this manual. (If your school bus has air brakes, you must also pass a knowledge test on Section 5.) You must also pass the skills test required for the class of school bus you drive or intend to drive.

This section does NOT provide information on all the federal and state requirements needed before you drive a school bus. You should be thoroughly familiar with all specific school bus procedures, laws and regulations in your state and local school district.

This Section Covers

  • Danger Zones and Use of Mirrors
  • Loading and Unloading
  • Emergency Exit and Evacuation
  • Railroad-highway Grade Crossings
  • Student Management
  • Antilock Braking Systems
  • Special Safety Situation
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