What is covered on the CDL pre-trip inspection checklist?

Preparing Your CDL Pre Trip Inspection Checklist

Every commercial license applicant must pass a CDL driving test, and, every CDL driving test, regardless of state or CDL class, consists of at least three initial parts: the pre trip inspection, the driving skills exam, and road test.

During the inspection, each CDL driver applicant will be required to identify specific parts and components and explain why he or she is inspecting them to the examiner.

The inspection is extensive; we’ve provided a sample inspection checklist for you below:

Engine Compartment (Engine Off)


Leaks and Hoses:

  • Look for puddles on the ground.
  • Look for dripping fluids on the underside of the engine and transmission.
  • Check hoses for leaks.
Oil Level:

  • Point out where dipstick is located.
  • Make sure oil level is adequate.
Coolant Level:

  • Check the coolant level.
Power Steering Fluid:

  • Indicate where dipstick is located.
  • Check the power steering fluid level.
Engine Compartment Belts:

  • Check the power steering, water pump, alternator, and air compressor belts for snugness, cracks, or fraying.

Cab Check (Engine On)


Clutch/Gearshift:

  • Depress the clutch.
  • Place the gearshift lever in neutral.
  • Start engine and release clutch slowly.
Oil Pressure Gauge:

  • Make sure the gauge is functioning.
  • Check that the pressure gauge shows increasing or normal oil pressure, or that the warning light goes off.
Temperature Gauge:

  • Check that the gauge is working properly.
  • The temperature should gradually climb to a normal operating range, or the temperature light should be off.
Ammeter/Voltmeter:

  • Make sure the gauges show the alternator and/or generator is charging or that the warning light is off.
Air/Vacuum Gauge:

  • Make sure the gauge is functioning properly.
Mirrors and Windshield:

  • Mirrors should be clean and adjusted properly.
  • Windshield should be free of cracks and unnecessary decals.
Emergency Equipment:

  • Check for spare electrical fuses.
  • Check for three emergency triangles.
  • Check fire extinguisher.
Steering Play:

  • Non-power steering: check for excessive play.
  • Power steering: check for excessive play with the engine running.
Wipers/Washers:

  • Check that the wiper arms and blades are secure and free of damage.
  • If equipped, windshield wipers must operate properly.
Lighting Indicators:

  • Make sure the turn signals, four-way emergency flashers and high beam indicator lights work on the dashboard. 
Horn:

  • Check that horn works properly.
Lights/Reflectors:

  • Make sure headlights, directional lights, taillights, clearance, four-way flashers, brake lights, and red and amber reflectors are all clean and functioning.

Brake Check


Parking Brake Check:

  • Apply parking brake and make sure it holds by shifting into lower gear and slowly pulling against it.
Hydraulic Brake Check:

  • With engine running, apply pressure to brake pedal and hold for five seconds, making sure the brake pedal does not move.
  • Make sure the warning buzzer and/or light is off.
  • Check the brake operation by moving slowly forward and hitting the brake, paying attention to any pulling or delay.
Air Brake Check:

  • Test air leakage rate.
  • Test air brake system for leaks.
  • Check that spring brakes come on automatically.
  • Check rate of air pressure buildup.
  • Check service brakes.

External Components


Steering Box/Hoses:

  • Check that the steering box is mounted and secure.
  • Look for steering fluid leaks.
Steering Linkage:

  • Check that the connecting links, arms and rods from the steering box to the wheel are not worn or cracked.
  • Make sure the joints and sockets are not worn or loose.

Suspension


Springs/Air/Torque:

  • Look for broken or cracked leaf springs.
  • Look for broken or bent coil springs.
  • Check air ride suspension for damage and leaks.
Mounts:

  • Check for cracked or broken spring hangers, missing or damaged bushings, and broken or missing axle mounting parts.
Shock Absorbers:

  • Check that shocks are secure and without leaks.

Brakes  


Slack Adjusters:

  • Check for broken or missing parts.
  • When pulled by hand, the brake rod should not move more than an inch.
Brake Chambers:

  • Brake chambers should not be leaking, cracked, or dented.
Brake Hoses:

  • Check for cracked, leaking, or worn hoses.
Drum Brake or Rotor:

  • Check for cracks, dents, or holes.
  • Brake linings or pads (where visible) should not be worn or excessively thin.

Wheels


Rims:

  • Look for damaged or bent rims.
Tires:

  • Check for tread depth.
  • Look for cuts or damage to tread or sidewalls.
  • Make sure stems are not missing, broken or damaged.
  • Check for proper inflation.
Hub Oil Seals/Axle Seals:

  • Make sure grease and axle seals aren't leaking.
Lug Nuts:

  • Make sure all lug nuts are accounted for, free of cracks, and securely fastened.

Side of Vehicle


Door(s) and Mirror(s):

  • Check that doors are not damaged and can be opened properly.
  • Make sure mirror and mirror brackets are secure.
Fuel Tank:

  • Check that tanks are secure, caps are tight, and there are no visible leaks.
Battery/Box:

  • Check that the battery is secure and connections are tight.
  • Make sure the battery is free of corrosion.
  • Check that battery box and cover or door is secure.
Drive Shaft:

  • Check that the drive shaft is not bent or cracked.
  • Make sure the couplings are secure and free of foreign objects.
Exhaust System:

  • Check system for damage and signs of leaks.
  • Check that the system is connected and mounted properly.
Frame:

  • Check for cracks, broken welds, holes, or other damage to the longitudinal frame members, cross members, box, and floor.

Rear of Vehicle


Splash Guard:

  • If equipped, make sure splash guards are not damaged and mounted properly.
Doors/Ties/Lifts:

  • Make sure the doors and hinges are not damaged and all work properly.
  • Ties, straps and binders must all be secure.
  • If equipped with a cargo lift, check for leaking and damaged parts.

Tractor/Coupling


Air/Electric Lines:

  • Listen for air leaks.
  • Make sure air and electrical lines are not tangled, pinched, or dragging against tractor parts.
Catwalk:

  • Check that the catwalk is solid, free of objects, and securely bolted to tractor frame.
Mounting Bolts:

  • Check for loose or missing mounting brackets, clamps, bolts, or nuts.
  • Both the fifth wheel and slide mounting must be solidly attached.
Locking Jaws:

  • Look into fifth wheel gap and check that locking jaws are fully closed around the kingpin.
Platform (Fifth Wheel):

  • Check for brakes or cracks in the platform structure which supports the fifth wheel skid plate.
Kingpin/Apron/Gap:

  • Make sure the kingpin is not bent.
  • Make sure the visible part of the apron is not bent, cracked, or broken.
  • Check that the trailer is laying flat on the fifth wheel skid plate.
Locking Pins (Fifth Wheel):

  • If equipped, look for loose or missing pins in the slide mechanism of the fifth wheel.
  • Make sure locking pins are fully engaged.
  • Check that the fifth wheel is positioned properly so the tractor frame will clear the landing gear and the tractor will not strike the trailer during turns.

Additional Ways to Prepare for the CDL Test

To help prepare for the inspection, study your state's CDL manual. You might think you only need this kind of CDL practice for the written knowledge exam, but the truth is the manual generally contains detailed inspection information and more studying you do, the more prepared you’ll be for each part of the CDL test.
 
You should also do yourself a favor and take at least one CDL practice test. You can find these online and they’ll test you on your pre trip inspection knowledge.

When you think you're ready, call your local DMV and make a CDL test appointment.

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