The pre-trip inspection test is neither an endorsement test nor a written test … but it is an essential part of the commercial driver’s license testing process.

The pre-trip vehicle inspection test is basically a skills test that is designed to determine if a driver can identify which features and equipment on a test vehicle should be inspected before operating the vehicle.

The test can cover a wide variety of equipment located both inside and outside of a truck. For example, the test could cover hoses and belts, specific parts of the engine, oil level, mirrors and windshield and much more. We’ll discuss in more detail what is covered on the test later in this guide.

Right now, let’s proceed on and take a close look at the test itself and the testing process.


Test Overview

The purpose of the vehicle inspection test is to both determine if a vehicle is safe to operate and to determine if a driver knows how to ensure his or her vehicle is safe to operate.

During the vehicle inspection test, the driver is expected to explain or show their knowledge of the vehicle inspection process. That means the driver will have to walk around the vehicle and point to or touch each item and explain to the examiner what they are checking and why.

If you do not pass this test, any other endorsement tests that you have scheduled will be canceled.

Before you go to the DMV to this and other endorsement exams, you should visit your state’s DMV website and find the following:

Age requirement for taking the test – most states require applicants to be 18 years of age with a valid driver’s license. If the driver is going to be driving from state to state, most states require that they be 21 years of age with a valid driver’s license.

Identification documents that most be produced to prove your identity. Sample documents that acceptable often include a birth certificate and a valid driver’s license.  

Fees that will be due before taking the test. Also, as part of this step, be sure to check what payment methods are accepted at the DMV office you will be visiting.


What’s on the Test?

You will be required to conduct both an internal and external inspection of the test vehicle.

That means on the internal inspection you will have to identify and check such things as: engine hoses, engine belts, oil pressure, coolant level, power steering fluid, mirrors and windshield, safety equipment, temperature gauge, air gauge and more.

On the external inspection you will need to identify and check such things as: steering box, hoses and linkage, air brakes, suspension, wheels, tires, doors, splash guards and more.

During the test, the driver will NOT have to crawl under the hood or under the vehicle. The brake lights, emergency flashers, turn signals, and horn must be checked and if any of these items do not work, the skills and road portions of the test process will immediately be postponed.

One more thing, when taking the inspection test you may be able to use the guides shown in your commercial driver’s license handbook but you cannot have any instructions or notes written on them.

Here are some sample questions that you will need to be able to answer when conducting the pre-trip inspection:

  • How much play is allowed in engine compartment belts?
  • What might puddles on the ground or dripping fluids on the underside of the engine and transmission indicate?
  • How should you go about checking the engine coolant level?
  • When checking the wheels, what might rust around a nut indicate?
  • How do you check the power steering fluid?

How to Prepare for the Test

We recommend a three step approach to preparing for this test.

Step One – study your commercial driver’s license handbook, paying particular attention to the pre-trip inspection section. Read this section multiple times and try to commit everything to memory.

Step Two – Take pre-trip inspection practice tests to asses and further increase your understanding of this topic. We offer pre-trip inspection practice tests right here.

Step Three – Take what you’ve learned and apply it to a real world truck. It’s one thing to see something in print but you should also look at a physical truck so that you know where essential components are and you can identify them.


Test Taking Tips – Improve Your Chances to Pass

Things you can do to improve your chances of passing this test include getting a good night’s rest the night before the exam.

You should also eat well before the test. This will ensure your mind and body have fuel needed to successfully execute the inspection.

Still more things that you can do include taking some deep breaths to relax yourself before beginning the test. You should also be very familiar with where the DMV is located and how to get there. Then you should plan on leaving early so that you will have to compose yourself before the test and you won’t feel rushed and stressed when you begin.

We also recommend scheduling an appointment at the DMV to avoid any long wait that can make you feel tired and stressed and negatively impact your test performance.



The pre-trip inspection test is a very important test because failing to pass this test will prevent you from being able to move an take scheduled endorsement exams.

This is done for a reason – because being able to identify that a truck is safe to operate is something that is critical for drivers to know how to do. Failure to master this skill can put lives at risk on the roadways.

So don’t take this test for granted. Study the handbook, take practice tests and be sure to practice inspections on real trucks to further expand your knowledge. Do these things and you’ll pass this test with flying colors and be able to move on to receiving the endorsements you covet.