CDL Training

Pre-Trip Inspection Study Guide


The Class A pre-trip inspection is an essential element of getting your CDL. This handy study guide will give you a head start on training. Follow our tips to make sure you ace your CDL exam with flying colors!

This Pre-Trip Inspection Study Guide includes:

1.         What is a Pre-Trip Inspection?

2.         What to expect at the Pre-Trip Inspection Test?

3.         List of truck parts to be inspected

4.         Tips to Pass a Pre-Trip Inspection Test

What is a Pre-Trip Inspection?

A pre-trip inspection is a comprehensive checkup of your truck to ensure that everything is in working order before you get on the road. Utilizing a pre-trip inspection checklist helps ensure the safety of your vehicle and resolve any concerns or possible issues before you hit the road.A standard Class A CDL pre-trip inspection involves checking fluid levels, leaks, tires, fifth wheel, brakes, clutch, shock absorbers, and other components. After you’ve checked your truck, document your findings on a DVIR (Driver Vehicle Inspection Report). Any issues found must be addressed before departing. A thorough vehicle pre-trip is required by law and takes approximately 15 minutes.

The Pre-Trip Vehicle Inspection Test

You need to complete a pre-trip inspection test to pass your CDL exam. The pre-trip is often viewed as one of the most challenging aspects of getting a CDL. However, like anything, practice makes perfect. You will have up to 50 minutes to complete a pre-trip vehicle inspection for the state examiner. During the exam, you should identify each part and tell the examiner what you are looking for or inspecting. Below is an outline of each section of the pre-trip. Within each area, there are multiple parts you must identify. Once in school, you will receive a detailed pre-trip inspection checklist. You’ll have adequate time during training to get familiar with the process. Below is an outline of the different parts of a pre-trip

Parts Included in a Pre-Trip

Your pre-trip begins as you approach the vehicle. You’ll begin inspecting the front of the vehicle from top to bottom. Next, you’ll check the engine, opening the hood from the passenger’s side. Your inspection will continue from front to back of the tractor and trailer, inspecting all parts listed below. 

1.         Approach (front of the tractor)

2.         Engine

3.         Steering System

4.         Steer Axle Suspension

5.         Steer Axle Brakes

6.         Steer Axle Wheels & Tires

7.         Side of Tractor

8.         Drive Axle Suspension

9.         Drive Axle Brakes

10.       Drive Axle Wheels & Tires

11.       Coupling

12.       Trailer Side

13.       Tandem Axle Suspension

14.       Tandem Axle Brakes

15.       Tandem Axle Wheels & Tires

16.       Trailer Rear

Tips on How to Pass the Pre-Trip Inspection Test

Now that you know what a pre-trip inspection is, it’s time to start practicing. Below are several tips to help you remember.

Four-Step Process

Apply this four-step process for each part inspected. 

1. Name the Part

2. Securement 

3. Condition 

4. Special/specific items for that part (If applicable) 


1. Alternator

2. Securely mounted, no missing hardware

3. Not bent, broken, or damaged

4. No exposed wires, belt-driven

Pre-Trip Inspection Phrasing

During a CDL Pre-Trip Inspection test, it is not only what you say but how you say it. Use precise language to identify each part. We’ve outlined the phrasing we recommend and teach to our students.

Metal Items:

Securely mounted

Not missing any hardware

Not cracked, bent, or broken

No illegal welds or drill holes

Properly greased, no foreign debris

No signs of leaks

Glass and Lights:

Securely mounted

Not missing any hardware

Not cracked or broken

Clean and clear of dirt of illegal stickers

Proper color (Lights)

Hoses/Air Lines:

Securely mounted on both ends

No abrasions, budges, or cuts

No missing hardware

No signs or leads


Securely mounted on both ends

No missing hardware

Not cut, worn, torn, or frayed, and no exposed wires

No corrosion


Securely mounted

Not cut, cracked, worn, frayed, or dry rotten

(Belts) not more than ¾ inch of play when pushed

Use Acronyms

Acronyms use the first letter of a group of words to form a different word that is easy to remember. This technique is useful when remembering words or items in a specific order. One helpful acronym our students use to remember parts of the in-cab inspection is Honestly We Safely Get Licensed Professional Men Women Hired Every day. 

Honestly= Horns 

We= Windshield/Windshield Wipers 

Safely= Steering Play 

Get= Gauges 

Licensed= Lights 

Professional= Pedals 

Men= Mirrors 

Women= Windows 

Hired= Heater/Defroster 

Everyday= Emergency Equipment 

Tips for Remembering a Pre-Trip Inspection

There are several apps and videos available to help you practice a pre-trip. However, nothing beats walking around a truck and trailer. You will have plenty of time to practice with equipment during training. The comprehensive checklist provided during CDL training will be your guide. Many students find it helpful to video themselves doing a pre-trip to watch it and identify areas for improvement.

Utilize these tips and plenty of practice to master the pre-trip. Our experienced instructors will be there to help you every step of the way.

Have more questions about CDL Training?

Get all of your questions about being a truck driver and getting your CDL on our blog. If you are ready to get your CDL, please fill out the form below and a career specialist will reach out with more information about CDL trainingtuition and job placement.


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