What are the Different Types of CDL Tests you Can Take?

Learn the differences between the written, skills, and other Class A CDL tests

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In order to earn your Class A CDL, you will need to pass a CDL written test that covers general knowledge, air brakes, and combination vehicles to receive your permit, and have it for at least 14 days. Afterward, you'll also need to pass a pre-trip inspection, backing skills, and road skills test that require you to prove your skills with the trucks themselves. 

In order to take your CDL exam, you won’t have to worry about scheduling an appointment with your DMV, as the Swift Academy team will take care of it for you. During this time, come prepared with all documentation requested by the agency. During your test, you'll be asked to complete several tests that include: 

  • General Knowledge: The general knowledge portion of your test will cover: inspecting your vehicle, basic controls of your vehicle, shifting gears, controlling speed, transportation cargo safely and more.
  • Air Brakes: The Air Brakes CDL test will usually be required to check the air pressure, test for leaks, test for alarms and check the buttons. In addition, you'll have to set the parking brake and show you understand how to work the service brakes. 
  • Combination Vehicles: The combination vehicles part of your test will cover: driving combinations, combination vehicle air brakes, antilock brake systems, coupling and uncoupling, and inspecting combinations.



During your CDL skills test, which we'll also schedule for you, you'll actually get behind the wheel of your vehicle and be asked to drive a course and/or on the open road. In addition, you may be asked to stop during your CDL road test to perform several tasks that will allow the proctor to evaluate your skills. You'll be asked to complete several tests that require you to interact with your vehicle, including:  

  • Pre-Trip Inspection: During the pre-trip inspection, you'll be asked to show the proctor that you understand how to ensure your rig is safe and ready for the road. This is a verbal examwhere you'll be asked to address all parts of the truck and identify properly working systems and/or any dangers related to the truck's systems. (Refer to your course material for details.)
  • Backing Skills: During your backing skills test, you will be asked to perform the following: straight-line backing, offset left and right backing, parallel parking (conventional), alley-dock backing, and site-side backing. 
  • Road Skills: During your road skills test, you will be asked to demonstrate general driving behavior. This includes, but is not limited to: turning, handling intersections, lane changes, highways, railroad crossing, lane usage, steering, and using turn signals.

If you're ready to earn your Class A CDL, learn more about endorsements and start your career in trucking, find a Swift Academy in your area. 

1The pre-trip inspection is a verbal exam, unless the student is hearing impaired, in which case the student will physically perform the exam.

Get to Know Our Instructors

We're proud to have great instructors at our network of academies and schools at Swift! Meet José, one of the instructors in Phoenix! He's been an instructor for 3 years. He said that one of his favorite parts of his position is that he helps people to realize their dreams of truck driving and change their lives. Being an instructor requires continual learning and preparation. He said, "We need to prepare ourselves on a daily basis. The regulations change, so we need to keep studying."