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How To Study For the CDL Pre-Trip Inspection

This is a basic guide on how to study for a CDL pre-trip inspection test



As a professional truck driver, there are crucial tasks to complete to be safe and stay compliant. One of the most important tasks is a CDL pre-trip inspection. Not only does this keep you and everyone else on the road safer, but it is required to remain compliant with FMCSA rules and regulations.

How To Study For the CDL Pre-Trip Inspection

The nation has deemed truck drivers essential, and the industry needs new drivers more than ever. Roadmaster can help you start a new high paying career in about a month. And as a professional truck driver, there are crucial tasks to complete to be safe and stay compliant. These are the very things you’ll find when studying and testing.

One of the most important tasks is a CDL pre-trip inspection. Not only does this keep you and everyone else on the road safer, but it is required to remain compliant with FMCSA rules and regulations. It also keeps you in-the-know about how your truck is performing and if there are any issues that need to be addressed.

Here is a guide on how to study for a CDL pre-trip inspection.

What Is a CDL Pre-Trip Inspection?

The definition of a pre-trip inspection is self-explanatory – it is a complete assessment of the trailer, truck, and cargo before each trip. The DOT has a pre-trip inspection list and the guidelines dictate to follow their list. Rules dictate to document everything using a DVIR or driver vehicle inspection report according to federal law FMCSR Section 396.11.

A professional truck driver must have any problems found with the truck and trailer addressed before leaving. This includes things like damage or other issues affecting the trip. The inspection process should be thorough and doesn’t take long – around 15 minutes or so. During this time, the driver must report as on duty,  not driving.

This is one important aspect to learn in becoming a driver, so studying it is crucial.

Why Is It Important?

Your Safety and the Safety of Others

Any kind of issue with your truck can cause safety concerns. From damaged brakes to an unsecured load – these are the very things you are looking for with the inspection. It keeps you on your toes and ensures you know that every trip is the safest possible. This also has the added benefit of keeping you on the road more. You’ll avoid violations that ground you till it’s fixed. And you can better avoid an accident because of a fixable issue.

By learning this information and studying it, you’ll have the knowledge you need to prepare for the exam.

It’s the Law

It is your responsibility as a professional truck driver to ensure your truck is safe and road-ready. This means not only is it safe to operate, but it is free of issues that cause accidents. This has other benefits too. By catching any problems yourself, you are less likely to get a violation.

It Saves Extra Costs

With any situation, catching a problem before it’s a bigger problem is ideal. Instead of finding out you have a major repair, you might be able to find it while it’s still easily fixable. Plus, you have time to take it to a shop rather than a roadside service that costs more and is less convenient. And let’s not forget about how expensive towing is.

Steps in Studying for a CDL Pre-Trip Inspection

Now that you know how important a CDL pre-trip inspection is to your livelihood, here are the steps in conducting one. We showcase these steps to help you study for what the exam requires.

Under the Hood

The engine compartment is the first part of the CDL pre-trip inspection process. This is before you start the truck and the inspections include:

  • Make sure kingpins, ball joints, and shocks look good and have lubrication
  • Check fluid levels including windshield washer fluid, coolant, and oil
  • Look at steering axle tires for uneven wear
  • Look for fluid drips or leaks in and around the engine
  • Secure the dipstick and tighten any loose caps
  • Look for wear or damage to belts and hoses
  • Check the blade and fan belt for cracks, nicks, or any other damage
  • Check wiring for damage like frays or misplacement
  • Air conditioner compressor mounting secure
  • Ensure engine air ductwork has secure clamps and no cuts
  • No exhaust leaks or oil in the turbocharger
  • Check fuel water separator, radiator brace, water pump, pitman arm, oil filler cap
  • Inspect engine coolant reservoir, steering shaft, and brake master cylinder

If you find anything wrong, notate it in the DVIR. Notate important information and use photographs. The truck cannot leave until you appropriately fix these issues.

Take a Walk Around

Do an external inspection next. This is where you walk around your truck checking for problems. These include:

  • Check all tires for proper pressure, damage, and wear and tear
  • Check valve cap, outer oil seal, lug nuts, and hub oil
  • Look for proper positioning in brake pads and that they are in good shape
  • Inspect brake drum, lining, inner oil seal, slack adjuster, brake line, and chamber
  • Inspect airlines and the electrical cord for proper connection
  • Inspect the landing gear to ensure the legs are up and secured
  • Ensure the 5th wheel is securely coupled to the trailer
  • Look for mirror damage such as nicks and cracks
  • Ensure doors close properly with secure hinges

Start Your Engine

Before leaving your location, you must ensure the engine is mechanically sound. These key components of the last inspection are:

  • With the clutch depressed and the truck in neutral, start the engine
  • As you ease off the clutch, idle the truck at 650rpm
  • Check your gauges to ensure everything is as it should be
  • Turn on your flashers and lights and step out to make sure they are all working
  • Look under the hood for leaks and secure belts
  • Make sure all lights are working properly

After this inspection, notate any anomalies in the DVIR. This includes things like repairs or part replacements.

The Last Steps

The last step involves moving your truck. Make sure there is nothing in the way or anything that causes a safety hazard.

  • Drive forward a few feet and use the trailer brake, making sure the trailer is coupled and the brake works right
  • Pull forward a few feet more, using the foot brake to stop

Look for anything not up to par and report it. This is one of the most repetitive tasks you’ll do and the most common. And therefore, it is on the test. You also need to know when to do these steps:

  • Each start of the day
  • After 10 hour breaks
  • Every 24 hours
  • When you pick up a new trailer

Ready To Learn More?

These are steps to learn that are on the test. Study these components of the CDL pre-trip inspection so it prepares you to ace the exam.

Once you have your Class A CDL license you are ready to apply for entry-level truck driver jobs. If you attend a truck driving school like Roadmaster, a career services associate will help you apply for your first job. And they’ll assist you in getting your new career started.

During the first few days of school, Placement Associates work with you to choose which company best fits your needs. They will review your job applications and help you submit them to potential employers. The placement staff will follow up with potential employers and notify you of employment offer letters.

Tuition reimbursement could cover up to 100 percent of the cost of school! We offer in-house financing to those who qualify to help cover the cost of tuition. Trucking carriers that recruit from Roadmaster offer up to 100 percent tuition reimbursement.

If you are ready to get your career started as a professional truck driver, contact Roadmaster by filling out the application form or calling us at 1-800-831-1300.