First things first, this beginner’s study guide for the CDL exam focuses on the knowledge portion of the exam. This is important to note because the CDL exam actually has two sections, the other being a skills test where you take a semi on the road. The first exam you will take will be a written exam. In addition, if you are going to trucking school, you will be required to pass the written exam before you start your actual behind the wheel training. Once you pass the written exam, you will have what is called a commercial learner’s permit or CLP for truck drivers. Now, to prepare for this section of the CDL exam here is a basic outline of everything you’ll need to know.
List of Topics for Studying for the CDL in Any State
The first thing you want to do when preparing for the commercial driver’s license exam in any state is to study the topics on the written test. But what if you are not attending a truck driving school? How are you going to learn about each of these topics? You can start by looking at all the standards recommended for student training by the PTDI.
The PTDI standards are available for anyone to review online. So what you can do if you are unable to attend a PTDI certified trucking school in your state is to review the standards, at the very least. A comprehensive and well-balanced truck driver training program will cover the following 21 standards:
- Be able to record and follow your hours of service according to the DOT requirements
- Be able to communicate effectively as a truck driver
- Understand how to operate the control systems in your truck and trailer
- Know how to perform a pre- and post-trip vehicle inspection
- Know how to conduct a visual search throughout your range of vision
- Know how to check the systems and components of your truck
- Be able to maintain the correct speed when operating a commercial truck
- Understand the concept of vehicle space relations in following and passing other vehicles
- Be able to exercise basic control over a truck
- Be able to shift gears in a truck with a manual transmission
- Understand how to back up and dock a tractor-trailer safely
- Be able to couple a trailer
- Know how to uncouple a trailer
- Be prepared to diagnose equipment malfunctions
- Know how to identify driving hazards and be able to use defensive driving techniques effectively to avoid accidents as a truck driver
- Be able to deal with extreme driving conditions, such as severe weather or heavy traffic after a multi-car accident
- Be able to plan out your route as a truck driver including the ability to make changes mid-trip to your route, i.e., due to construction or an accident
- Know how to handle your cargo when working with any freight type
- Know what to do in case you are involved in a trucking accident
- Be able to deal with environmental issues, such as a leaking tanker of toxic sludge
- Be prepared for life over the road, focusing on managing your personal resources and substance abuse issues
If you cover all of these areas in depth as a truck driving student, then you will be prepared for the general knowledge exam of the CDL test.
About the Professional Truck Driver Institute
The PTDI or Professional Truck Driver Institute is an organization that certifies truck driving schools and training programs in the trucking industry. Not all trucking schools are PTDI certified and schools don’t have to get certified to offer training. However, there is a huge incentive for choosing a PTDI certified training program.
The organization is also the top of the line when it comes to training standards in the trucking industry. The ideal scenario would be to find a trucking school near you that is PTDI certified. All PTDI certified trucking schools will offer the most comprehensive and industry-backed training you can find. This training has been rigorously reviewed according to the PTDI training standards.
As a result, you can be certain that the trucking school is going to provide you with everything you need in terms of preparing for the CDL exam. In addition, you learn everything you need to be prepared for your career as a professional truck driver after you graduate from truck driver training.
PTDI Training Materials
If you want to purchase truck driver training manuals that you can trust, check out the Professional Truck Driver Institute. The PTDI offers a ton of truck driver training materials to help you train for the CDL exam and your trucking career, at large.
These are published through Cengage, which is a huge publisher of automotive and trucking test guides. Here through the PTDI, you can purchase manuals that are industry approved for the shop and classroom. These PTDI training materials for truck drivers include:
- Tractor Trailer Truck Driver Training
- Straight Truck Driver Handbook and Workbook
- Hazmat Awareness Training Manual for the hazmat endorsement exam
- Longer Combination Vehicle (LCV) Regulations Training for the doubles/triples endorsement exam
- PTDI’s EZ Guide to the Entry-Level Driver Regulation
Each of these training materials is available in digital and/or hardcopy print. You can order these materials online through the PDTI for $25 to $50 each, making them some of the more affordable options sold by Cengage for training for tests.
To find out more about finding student truck driving resources including jobs for new hires, check out Careers in Gear.