FAQ: CDL School & Testing

CDL School & Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

What is a commercial learner's permit (CLP)?

A commercial learner's permit is just like a regular learner's permit, but will allow you to operate commercial vehicles.

How do I get a commercial learner's permit (CLP)?

Decide that you want to be a truck driver, study and learn the material, and visit your local Department Of Motor Vehicles, or equivalent, and take the test. Most states allow walk-ins, but call ahead in case.

How should I prepare for the written CLP test?

Basically, study your states manual, and use our "High Road Training Program" to not just memorize the manual, but learn the material.

How long is the commercial learner's permit good for?

You have up to 180 days to take your skills test.

What if I fail the commercial learner's permit test?

Some states will have set waiting periods for you to re-take the test, and the more times you fail it, the longer the next waiting period will be, while some will let you re-try the next business day.

What CDL endorsements should I get?

All of them. Whether you think that you're going to use any or all of them in the job you have or will have, it will make it easier for you to take advantage of future opportunities.

What should I bring to CDL school?

This will vary by school, but usually just the necessities that you will need for 3-4 weeks like clothes, toiletries, etc. The school will give you a list, and we have some good general lists on the TruckingTruth website.

Do I need a DOT physical before getting my learner's permit?

This will depend on what state you're in. Some states require it, some do not.

Do I need my learner's permit before attending CDL school or a company-sponsored program?

It will vary by school or company, but if you can, always try to have it before you go to school or your company. It will give you more time to concentrate on learning how to drive a truck.

What does the CDL driving skills test cover?

The skills test will be 3 parts: a pre-trip vehicle inspection, a road test, and a backing skills test. Some states require re-taking all 3 if you fail 1 part, others will allow you to re-take just the part that you failed.

Is it hard to learn to shift trucks if you've never driven a manual transmission?

No, and it's actually preferable that you are new to it. Shifting trucks and shifting cars are completely different things, and drivers with no manual experience haven't developed shifting habits that could hinder their progress.

What does the pre-trip vehicle inspection include?

You will be required to inspect all of the main components and functions of the vehicle, include belts, hoses, air brakes, lights, etc. It will include components both inside the cab and outside, and you will normally have to point them out, and tell the examiner what you are inspecting for.

What is the CDL road & driving skills test like?

You will be driving on real roads in the vicinity of the testing facility, to demonstrate that you know how to handle real-world driving.

What should I know about the CDL backing test?

Each state may have different criteria for the backing test. You could be required to do any or all of these: straight-line backing, offset backing, alley dock, and parallel parking.

Will I be forced to take the CDL skills test if I'm not ready?

In most cases, your school or company will test you when THEY think you're ready. Their job is to make sure you're ready. If you need more time, normally you can get it, within reason.

What if I fail the skills test?

You would normally be given additional chances to re-test, after more practice. Some states will require a driver to re-take all parts of the test, some require only re-taking the part you failed.

How long does it take to get my CDL?

Once you have your permit, many schools and companies get you ready for the skills test in as little as 3-4 weeks.

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.


Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.


Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.


Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.


Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


Commercial Learner's Permit

Before getting their CDL, commercial drivers will receive their commercial learner's permit (CLP) upon passing the written portion of the CDL exam. They will not have to retake the written exam to get their CDL.

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