What to Expect from the CDL Skills Test

In order to earn your commercial driver’s license (CDL), you will need to pass an exam. This includes a written and physical test of your ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The written test is broken down into the general portion, which is necessary for all CDL holders, and optional endorsement exams that demonstrate additional knowledge. Similarly, the CDL skills test is broken down to cover inspections, basic skills, and on-the-road driving. You can read specific New Mexico requirements for each portion in the state’s CDL manual

Here is what you can expect: 

Vehicle Inspection Test

As a professional truck driver, it is important to check your vehicle before every trip. This helps ensure safe operation. The first portion of the CDL skills test requires you to perform a full internal and external inspection of the type of CMV you plan to drive. During the exam, you will need to walk around the CMV and explain each step of the inspection process to the examiner. As you do so, you will be expected to point to/touch and name each part you check. 

Basic Vehicle Control Skills Test

After you have inspected your CMV, the examiner will assess your basic control skills using various off-road tests. 

CDL Skills Test Exercises

Your examiner may choose to test any of the following: 

    • Straight Line Backing: Backing your CMV in a straight line between two rows of cones
    • Offset Back/Right or Offset Back/Left: Backing into a space that is to the left or to the right rear of your vehicle using cones as guidelines
    • Parallel Park (Driver Side or Conventional): Parallel parking in a space that is on your left or right, using cones as boundaries
    • Alley Dock: Sight-side backing your vehicle into an alley and positioning it parallel to the outer boundary without touching a line of cones

Scoring Criteria

Your examiner will score the above exercises based on:

  • Encroachments: Crossing over boundary lines or touching cones with any portion of your CMV counts as an error.
  • Pull-Ups: Stopping and pulling forward to get a better position is not penalized initially, but pulling up too often can count as an error.
  • Outside Vehicle Observations (Looks): For some exercises, the examiner may allow you to safely stop and exit your vehicle to check its position. Exiting unsafely can result in an automatic failure. When done properly, these observations are scored as “looks” and there is a maximum of two for all exercises besides straight line backing, which has a maximum of one “look.”
  • Final Position/Inside Parallel: The final position of your CMV must be exactly what the examiner asked you to do and if not, you may fail the CDL skills test.

On-the-Road Test

The final portion of the skills test requires you to drive your vehicle through a test route. This assesses your ability to handle actual traffic situations. If certain conditions don’t happen naturally on the route, the examiner may ask you to describe what you would do if that situation occurred. 

Required Skills

The road portion of the CDL skills test may assess:

  • Turning and turn signal use
  • Steering
  • Intersections
  • Safe following distance
  • Traffic checks
  • Lane changes
  • Expressway or rural/limited access highway
  • Stop/start
  • Curve
  • Railroad crossing
  • Bridge/overpass and associated signage 
  • Clutch, gear, and brake usage

Prepare for Your CDL Test

As a student at Phoenix Truck Driving School, you will have hands-on experience with inspection, basic road skills, and on-the-road driving. Our highly-skilled instructors will help you learn how to safely operate a CMV. 

Contact us today to learn more about how our programs can help you pass your CDL skills test. 

Driving a Long Combination Vehicle

After you earn your commercial driver’s license (CDL), there are many different types of jobs that you will be qualified for. You can increase your job opportunities by obtaining additional CDL endorsements, which are separate written tests you take to demonstrate knowledge and skills related to specific types of truck driving. One example is the doubles/triples endorsement, which allows you to drive a long combination vehicle or LCV. 

What you should know about double and triple trailers: 

What is a Long Combination Vehicle?

A combination vehicle is a tractor unit with one or more attached trailers. A long combination vehicle is a tractor that has two or three trailers instead of one. Passing the standard CDL exam allows you to drive combination vehicles with one trailer, such as a standard semi-truck. However, driving an LCV requires the doubles/triples endorsement. 

Benefits of LCVs

The main benefit of long combination vehicles is that they can transport more cargo than a normal tractor-trailer. This often translates into higher pay-per-mile for truck drivers. Since these types of vehicles also require an additional endorsement, not as many candidates are qualified. This means that passing the doubles/triples CDL test can help you stand out when applying to trucking companies. 

Safety Concerns for Doubles/Triples

A combination vehicle will usually require more driving skill to safely operate than a single commercial vehicle. This is true even for standard tractor-trailers and the more attachments there are, the more care a driver needs to take. 

Some factors to be aware of when driving an LCV:

“Crack-the-Whip” Effect

When you make a turn too quickly, it results in rearward amplification, also known as the “crack-the-whip” effect. This can cause rollovers. Longer trucks with more trailers can have a higher rate of rearward amplification. In order to drive a long combination vehicle safely, you should steer slowly and gently and be cautious while turning.

Coupling and Uncoupling Trailers

To connect multiple trailers you will need to use a special converter dolly. This is a device that has a fifth wheel mounted on one or two axles. You will need to be sure to understand how to safely couple and uncouple double and triple trailers as doing this incorrectly can be dangerous. 

Inspecting Your Vehicle

Proper inspection is essential for safe driving. It is especially important to complete thorough checks for long combination vehicles. With multiple trailers and more parts than a standard semi-truck, you will need to be sure that you have inspected everything. 

State Regulations for Long Combination Vehicles

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA) established a National Network (NN) of highways for larger trucks. Within the NN, federal rules and regulations apply for the length and weight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). This includes most of the Interstate Highway System, but if you travel through regional areas, you will need to also be aware of state regulations. Some states ban triple trailers or have additional requirements for driving a long combination vehicle. 

Earn Your Doubles/Triples Endorsement

At Phoenix Truck Driving School you will have the opportunity to earn three endorsements: hazmat, tanker, and doubles/triples. With these additional qualifications, you will be a prime candidate for a wider range of trucking jobs after graduation. 

Contact us today to learn more about earning the CDL endorsement necessary to drive a long combination vehicle.