Section 11: Pre-Trip Test

This section will assist drivers taking the pre-trip test

The pre-trip inspection is a knowledge test to see if the customer understands which features and equipment on the test vehicle should be inspected before operating the vehicle. The entire pre-trip must be conducted in the English language. This is pursuant to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations §§391.11 (b)(2) and 383.133 (c)(5). You will be warned twice for speaking in a foreign language during the pre-trip inspection and will not be given credit for items checked and explained in a foreign language. If you are told a third time the test will be counted as a failure.

A pre-trip inspection should be done the same way each time so you will learn all the steps and be less likely to forget something during the test.

Before your pre-trip test, the examiner will check the brake lights, emergency flashers, turn signals, and horn. If any of these items do not work, the skills and driving portions of the test will be postponed. Pre-trips are conducted to ensure that a vehicle is safe to operate. During the pre-trip test, you will be expected to explain or show your knowledge of the pre-trip process.

You must point to every item you would check, identify it, and explain in detail what you are checking the item for. You will NOT have to crawl under the vehicle.

You may use the guides shown here when taking your pre-trip test. You cannot write any instructions or notes on how to perform the pre-trip inspection on the guide. If you do not pass the pre-trip inspection test, the other tests will be postponed.

Remember: You are allowed a total of three attempts to pass the pre-trip, skills, or driving tests.


All Vehicles

Study the following vehicle parts for the type of vehicle you will be using during the CDL pre-trip inspection. You should be able to identify each part and tell the examiner what you are looking for or inspecting.

Vehicle Overview

As you approach the vehicle, notice its general condition. Look for damage or if the vehicle is leaning to one side. Look under the vehicle for fresh oil, coolant, grease, or fuel leaks. Check area around the vehicle for hazards to vehicle movement such as people, other vehicles, objects, low hanging wires, or limbs, etc.

Check that the parking brakes are set and/or wheels chocked. You may have to raise the hood, tilt the cab (secure loose objects so they don't fall and break something), or open the engine compartment door. Check the following:

Engine Compartment (Engine Off)

Leaks/Hoses (fuel, coolant, oil, power steering fluid, hydraulic fluid, battery fluid, etc.)

  • Look for puddles on the ground.
  • Look for dripping fluids on underside of engine and transmission.
  • Inspect hoses for condition and leaks.

Water Pump

  • Identify water pump.
  • Identify water pump is mounted securely and is not leaking.

Alternator

  • Identify alternator.
  • Check that alternator is securely mounted and that all wires are securely fastened.

Air Compressor

  • Identify air compressor.
  • Check that the air compressor is securely mounted and is not leaking.

Oil Level

  • Indicate where dipstick is located.
  • See that oil level is within safe operating range. Level must be above refill mark.

Coolant Level

  • Inspect reservoir sight glass or
  • (If engine is not hot), remove radiator cap and check for visible coolant level.

Power Steering Fluid

  • Indicate where power steering fluid dipstick is located.
  • Check for adequate power steering fluid level. Level must be above refill mark.

Windshield Washer Fluid Level

  • Check fluid level and cap secure.

Automatic Transmission Fluid Level (may require engine to be running)

Engine Compartment Belts

  • Check and identify the following belts for snugness, cracks, frays, or excessive wear:
    • power steering belt
    • water pump belt
    • alternator belt
    • air compressor belt
    • belt deflection is not more than ¾ of an inch
Cab Check/Engine Start

Get in and start the engine.

Note: Ensure engine compartment hood is closed and latched. Cab-over-primary and safety locks engaged.

Safe Start

  • Make sure the parking brake is set.
  • Depress clutch.
  • Place gearshift lever in neutral (or park, for automatic transmissions).
  • Start engine, then release clutch slowly.
  • Accelerator checked for looseness, sticking, or damage.
  • Listen for unusual engine noises.

Oil Pressure Gauge

  • Start vehicle.
  • Make sure oil pressure gauge is working.
  • Check that pressure gauge shows increasing or normal oil pressure or that the warning light goes off.
  • If equipped, oil temperature gauge should begin a gradual rise to the normal operating range.

Coolant Temperature Gauge

  • Start vehicle.
  • Make sure the temperature gauge is working.
  • Temperature should begin to climb to the normal operating range or temperature light should be off.

Ammeter/Voltmeter

  • Start vehicle.
  • Check that gauges show alternator and/or generator is charging or that warning light is off. Oil Temperature Gauge
  • Check that gauge begins gradual rise to normal operating range.

Air Gauge

  • Check that the air gauge is working properly and that the air compressor builds the air pressure to the governor cut-out at no higher than 130 psi.

Mirrors and Windshield

  • Mirrors should be clean and adjusted properly from the inside.
  • Windshield should be clean with no illegal stickers, no obstructions, or damage to the glass.
  • If equipped, check that the windshield washer operates correctly.

Emergency Equipment

  • Check for spare electrical fuses.
  • Check for three red reflective triangles.
  • Check for a properly charged and rated fire extinguisher.

Check Optional Emergency Equipment

  • Tire chains (where winter conditions require them)
  • Tire changing equipment
  • List of emergency phone numbers
  • Collision reporting kit (packet)

Steering Wheel

  • Check for looseness, sticking, or damage.

Steering Play

  • Non-power steering: Check for excessive play by turning steering wheel back and forth. Play should not exceed 10 percent (about two inches on a 20-inch wheel).
  • Power steering: With the engine running, check for excessive play by turning the steering wheel back and forth. Play should not exceed 10 percent (about two inches on a 20-inch wheel) before front left wheel barely moves.

Wipers/Washers

  • Check that wiper arms and blades are secure, not damaged, and operate smoothly.

Lighting Indicators

  • Test that dash indicators work when corresponding lights are turned on:
    • left and right turn signals
    • 4-way emergency flashers
    • high beam headlight

Horn

  • Check that air horn and/or electric horn work.

Heater/Defroster

  • Test that the heater and defroster work.

Parking Brake Check

  • Fasten your seat belt.
  • Check the parking brake holds the vehicle in place by trying to drive forward with the parking brake engaged. (Trailer brakes released on combination vehicles.)
  • Check the trailer parking brake holds the vehicle by trying to drive forward with the trailer parking brake engaged. (Parking brake released and the trailer parking brake engaged on combination vehicles.)

Service Brake/ABS Brake Test

  • Demonstrate the service brakes are working properly by driving forward at 5 mph and applying the service brake to see if the vehicle pulls to one side or the other.
  • Check the ABS lighting indicator illuminates and then promptly turns off.
  • Check the ABS light on the rear driver's side on the trailer. (Combination vehicles only.)

Hydraulic Brake Check

  • Pump the brake pedal three times, then hold it down for five seconds. The brake pedal should not move during the five seconds.
  • If equipped with a hydraulic brake reserve system, with the key off, depress the brake pedal and listen for the sound of the reserve system electric motor.
  • If equipped with a "Hydro—Boost" brake system, release the parking brake and with the engine off, depress and release the brake pedal several times to deplete all hydraulic pressure. Depress and hold the brake pedal with light pressure (15–25 lbs) then start the engine and run it at idle speed. If the Hydro—Boost is operating, the pedal will yield slightly to foot pressure and then hold. Less pressure is required to hold the pedal at this position.
  • Check that the warning buzzer or light is off.

Air Brake Check (for air brake equipped vehicles only)

Refer to Section 5, "In-Cab Air Brake Check" for DMV pre-trip testing. All items marked with an asterisk (*) are required during the pre-trip test. These items must be demonstrated and the parameters verbalized to receive credit. Failure to perform these air brakes tests correctly will result in an automatic disqualification for the entire pre-trip portion of the test.

Seat Belts

  • Check that the seat belt is securely mounted, and adjusts and latches properly.
  • Check that belt is not ripped or frayed.

External Inspection (Buses, Trucks, Tractors)

Lights/Reflectors
  • Check that all external lights and reflective equipment are clean and functional. Light and reflector checks include:
    • clearance lights (red on rear, amber elsewhere)
    • headlights (high and low beams)
    • sidemarker lights
    • taillights
    • turn signals (left and right)
    • 4-way flashers
    • brake lights
    • red reflectors (on rear) and amber reflectors (elsewhere)
    • license plate light(s)
      Note: Checks of brake, turn signal, and 4-way flasher functions must be done separately.
Steering

Steering Box/Hoses

  • Check that the steering box is securely mounted and not leaking. Look for any missing nuts, bolts, and cotter keys.
  • Check for power steering fluid leaks or damage to power steering hoses.

Steering Linkage

  • See that connecting links, arms, and rods from the steering box to the wheel are not worn or cracked.
  • Check that joints and sockets are not worn or loose and that there are no missing nuts, bolts, or cotter keys.
Suspension

Springs/Air/Torque

  • Look for missing, shifted, cracked, or broken leaf springs (if 1/4 or more are missing or broken, it will put the vehicle out of service).
  • Look for broken or distorted coil springs.
  • If vehicle is equipped with torsion bars, torque arms, or other types of suspension components, check that they are not damaged and are mounted securely.
  • Air ride suspension should be checked for damage and leaks.
  • Axles secure
  • If retractable axle equipped, check condition of lift mechanism. If air powered, check for leaks.

Mounts

  • Look for cracked or broken spring hangers, missing or damaged bushings, and broken, loose, or missing bolts, U-bolts, or other axle mounting parts.

Shock Absorbers

  • See that shock absorbers are secure and that there are no leaks.

Note: Be prepared to perform the same suspension components inspection on every axle (power unit and trailer, if equipped).

Brakes

Slack Adjustors/Push-Rod

  • Check slack adjuster is securely mounted.
  • Look for broken, loose, or missing parts.
  • When the brakes are applied, the push rod from the brake chamber should not move more than two inches. (It is also acceptable to state that the angle between the push rod and the adjustor arm should be a little over 90° when the brakes are released, and not less than 90° when the brakes are applied.)

Brake Chambers

  • See that brake chambers are not leaking, cracked, dented, and are mounted securely.
  • See that there are no loose or missing clamps.

Brake Hoses/Lines

  • Look for cracked, worn, or leaking hoses, lines, and couplings.

Brake Drums

  • Check for cracks or damage. Also check for loose or missing bolts.
  • Check for contaminants such as grease or oil on drums and linings.

Brake Linings

  • Brake linings, where visible, should not be worn down dangerously thin.
    Note: Be prepared to perform the same brake components inspection on every axle (power unit and trailer, if equipped.)
Wheels

Rims, Rim Locks, or Slide Ring

  • Check for damaged or bent wheels or rims.
  • Wheels cannot have welding repairs.
  • Check that there are no rust trails that would indicate the wheel is loose.

Tires

  • The following items must be inspected on every tire:
    • tread depth: Check for minimum tread depth (4/32 inch on steering axle tires, 2/32 inch on all other tires).
    • tire condition: Check that tread is evenly worn and look for cuts or other damage to tread or sidewalls. Also, make sure that valve caps and stems are not missing, broken, or damaged.
    • tire inflation: Check for proper inflation by using a tire gauge, or inflation by striking tires with a mallet or other similar device.
    • tires same size. Duals not touching and nothing stuck between them.
    • tires same type (not mixed radial and bias). Front tires for buses cannot be recapped, retreaded, or regrooved.
      Note: You will not get credit if you simply kick the tires to check for proper inflation.

Hub Oil Seals/Axle Seals

  • See that hub oil/grease seals and axle seals are not leaking and, if wheel has a sight glass, oil level is adequate.

Lug Nuts

  • Check that all lug nuts are present, free of cracks and distortions, and show no signs of looseness such as rust trails or shiny threads.
  • Make sure all bolt holes are not cracked or distorted.

Spacers/Budds

  • If equipped, check that spacers are not bent, damaged, or rusted through.
  • Spacers should be evenly centered, with the dual wheels and tires evenly separated.
  • No debris between dual tires.
    Note: Be prepared to perform the same wheel inspection on every axle (power unit and trailer, if equipped).
Side of Vehicle

Door(s)/Mirror(s)/Window(s)

  • Check that door(s) are not damaged and that they open and close properly.
  • Hinges should be secure with seals intact.
  • Check that mirror(s) are clean, mirror brackets are not damaged, and mirrors are mounted securely with no loose attachments.
  • Windows are clean and work properly.

Fuel Tank

  • Check that tank(s) are secure, cap(s) are tight, and that there are no leaks from tank(s) and fuel cap(s).

Drive Shaft

  • See that drive shaft is not bent or cracked.
  • Couplings should be secure and free of foreign objects.

Exhaust System

  • Check system for damage and signs of leaks such as rust or carbon soot.
  • System should be connected tightly and mounted securely.
  • Exhaust system should not have excessive noise when engine is running.

Frame

  • Look for cracks, bends, aftermarket welds, or holes to longitudinal frame members and cross members.

Condition of Visible Parts

  • Rear of engine not leaking
  • Transmission not leaking
  • Air lines and electrical wiring secured against sagging, rubbing, or wearing.
  • Spare tire carrier or rack not damaged (if so equipped).
  • Spare tire and/or wheel securely mounted in rack (if so equipped).
  • Spare tire and wheel adequate (proper size, properly inflated, and in good condition).
Rear of Vehicle

Splash Guards

  • If equipped, check that splash guards or mud flaps are not damaged and are mounted securely, not dragging on ground, or rubbing tires.

Doors/Ties/Lifts

  • Check that doors and hinges are not damaged and that they open, close, and latch properly from the outside, if equipped.
  • Ties, straps, chains, and binders must also be secure.
  • If equipped with a cargo lift, look for leaking, damaged or missing parts, and explain how it should be checked for correct operation.
  • Lift must be fully retracted and latched securely.
Tractor/Coupling

Air/Electric Lines

  • Listen for air leaks. Check that air hoses and electrical lines are not cut, chafed, spliced, or worn (steel braid should not show through).
  • Make sure air and electrical lines are not tangled, pinched, or dragging against tractor parts.

Catwalk/Tongue Storage Area

  • Check that the catwalk is solid, clear of objects, and securely bolted to tractor frame.
  • Check that the storage area is solid and secured to the tongue.
  • Cargo in the storage area (i.e., chains, binders, etc.) must be secured.

Mounting Bolts

  • Check for loose or missing mounting brackets, clamps, bolts, or nuts. Both the fifth-wheel and the slide mounting must be solidly attached.
  • On other types of coupling systems (e.g., ball hitch, pintle hook, etc.), inspect all coupling components and mounting brackets for missing or broken parts.
  • Check for loose or missing mounting bolts. Look for broken welds on the pintle hook, or other hitch mount, and tongue/drawbar assembly to be sure they are solidly attached in place.

Safety Latch/Locking Jaws/Safety Devices

  • Look into fifth-wheel gap and check that locking jaws are fully closed around the kingpin.
  • Check that the latch is secured and locked in place and that the cotter pin is not missing, is in place, and not damaged.
  • Safety chains must be hooked and crisscrossed, free of kinks and excessive slack, cotter pins to hooks are in place and hooks are secured with the hooks pointing in an outward position.
  • If trailer is equipped with electric brakes, check that the breakaway chains or cables with battery back up are not missing or damaged.
  • On other types of coupling systems (i.e., ball hitch, drawbar/eye, etc.), inspect the locking mechanism for missing or broken parts and make sure it is locked securely. If present, safety cables or chains must be secure and free of kinks and excessive slack.

Platform (Fifth-Wheel) (Pintle Hook)

  • Check for cracks or breaks in the platform structure which supports the fifth-wheel skid plate.
  • Check the pintle hook for cracks, breaks, or excessive wear.

Release Arm (Fifth-Wheel)

  • If equipped, make sure the release arm is in the engaged position and the safety latch is in place. Check to see if the hitch release lever is in place and secure.

Kingpin/Apron/Gap/Tongue Drawbar

  • Check that 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 (no gap).
  • Check that the tongue/drawbar is not bent or twisted. Check for broken welds and stress cracks.
  • Check that the tongue/drawbar eye is not worn excessively.

Sliding Fifth-Wheel Locking Pins/Sliding Pintle

  • If equipped, look for loose or missing pins in the slide mechanism of the sliding fifth-wheel. If air powered, check for leaks.
  • Make sure locking pins are fully engaged.
  • Check that the fifth-wheel is positioned properly so the tractor frame will clear the landing gear during turns.
  • If equipped, check that the sliding pintle is secured, that there are no loose or missing nuts or bolts, and that the cotter pin is in place.

Trailer

Front of Trailer

Air/Electrical Connections

  • Check that trailer air connectors are sealed and in good condition.
  • Make sure glad hands are locked in place and free of damage or air leaks.
  • Make sure the trailer electrical plug is firmly seated and locked in place.

Header Board

  • If equipped, check the header board to see that it is secure, free of damage, and strong enough to contain cargo.
  • If equipped, the canvas or tarp carrier must be mounted and fastened securely.
  • On enclosed trailers, check the front area for signs of damage such as cracks, bulges, or holes.
Side of Trailer

Landing Gear

  • Check that the landing gear is fully raised, has no missing parts, crank handle is secure, and the support frame is not damaged.
  • If power operated, check for air or hydraulic leaks.

Doors/Ties/Lifts

  • If equipped, check that doors are not damaged. Check that doors open, close, and latch properly from the outside.
  • Check that ties, straps, chains, and binders are secure.
  • If equipped with a cargo lift, look for leaking, damaged or missing parts, and explain how it should be checked for correct operation.
  • Lift should be fully retracted and latched securely.

Frame

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

Tandem Release Arm/Locking Pins

  • If equipped, make sure the locking pins are locked in place and release arm is secured.
Remainder of Trailer

Remainder of Trailer

  • Please refer to earlier pages of this handbook for detailed inspection procedures regarding the following components:
    • wheels
    • suspension system
    • brakes
    • doors/ties/lift
    • splash guards

Coach/Transit Bus

Passenger Items

Passenger Entry/Lift

  • Check that entry doors operate smoothly and close securely from the inside.
  • Check that hand rails are secure and, if equipped, that the step light(s) is working.
  • Check that the entry steps are clear, with the treads not loose or worn excessively.
  • If equipped with a handicap lift, look for any leaking, damaged, or missing part and explain how it should be checked for correct operation.
  • Lift should be fully retracted and latched securely.
  • Make sure the lift control interlock(s) functions properly.

Emergency Exits

  • Make sure that all emergency exits are undamaged, operate smoothly, and close securely from the inside.
  • Check that any emergency exit warning devices are working.

Passenger Seating

  • Look for broken seat frames and check that seat frames are firmly attached to the floor.
  • Check that seat cushions are attached securely to the seat frames.
Entry/Exit

Doors/Mirrors

  • Check that entry/exit doors are not damaged and operate smoothly from the outside. Hinges should be secure with seals intact.
  • Make sure that the passenger exit mirrors and all external mirrors and mirror brackets are not damaged and are mounted securely with no loose fittings.
External Inspection–Coach/Transit Bus

Level/Air Leaks

  • See that the vehicle is sitting level (front to rear), and if air-equipped, check for audible air leaks from the suspension system.

Fuel Tank(s)

  • See that fuel tank(s) is secure with no leaks from tank(s) or lines.

Compartments

  • Check that baggage and all other exterior compartment doors are not damaged, operate properly, and latch securely.
Remainder of Coach/Transit Bus

Battery/Box

  • Wherever located, see that battery(ies) is secure, connections are tight, and cell caps are present.
  • Battery connections should not show signs of excessive corrosion.
  • Check that battery box and cover or door is not damaged and is secure.

Remainder of Vehicle

  • Please refer to earlier pages of this handbook for detailed inspection procedures regarding the following components:
    • wheels

School Buses Only

Emergency Equipment
  • In addition to checking for spare electrical fuses, if equipped, three red reflective triangles, and a properly charged and rated fire extinguisher, school bus drivers must also inspect the following emergency equipment:
    • three red-burning flares (fusees) or three bidirectional emergency reflective triangles (FMVSS 125)
    • a first aid kit consisting of 10–24 items, depending on the number of passengers
Lighting Indicators
  • In addition to checking the lighting indicators listed in Section 11 of this handbook, school bus drivers must also check the following lighting indicators (internal panel lights):
    • alternately flashing amber lights indicator, if equipped
    • alternately flashing red lights indicator
    • strobe light indicator, if equipped
Lights/Reflectors
  • In addition to checking the lights and reflective devices, school bus drivers must also check the following (external) lights and reflectors:
    • strobe light, if equipped
    • stop arm light, if equipped
    • alternately flashing amber lights, if equipped
    • alternately flashing red lights
Stop Arm
  • If equipped, check the stop arm to see that it is mounted securely to the frame of the vehicle. Also, check for loose fittings and damage.
Passenger Entry/Lift
  • Check that the entry door is not damaged, operates smoothly, and closes securely from the inside.
  • Hand rails are secure and the step light is working, if equipped.
  • The entry steps must be clear with the treads not loose or worn excessively.
  • If equipped with a handicap lift, look for leaking, damaged, or missing parts and explain how lift should be checked for correct operation. Lift must be fully retracted and latched securely. Make sure the lift door warning device is activated when the door is open.
Emergency Exit
  • Make sure that all emergency exits are not damaged, operate smoothly, and close securely from the inside.
  • Make sure that any exterior or interior locking devices, if equipped, are not "locked" and that the door is free to open.
  • Check that any emergency exit warning devices are working.
Seating
  • Look for broken seat frames and check that seat frames are firmly attached to the floor.
  • Check that seat cushions are attached securely to the seat frames.

Remember: The pre-trip test must be passed before you can proceed to the skills test.



a diagram of a typical truck or combination vehicle inspection guide



a diagram of a typical passenger transport vehicle inspection guide.



Section 10: School Buses | Table of Contents | Section 12: Basic Vehicle Control Skills Test