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CDL Driver's Pre-Trip Inspection Checklist

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

Every commercial license applicant must pass a CDL driving test and every CDL driving test consists of at least three initial parts. This includes the pre-trip inspection, the driving skills exam, and the road test. Although all three are just as important as the last, we want to highlight a checklist for your pre-trip inspection.

Engine Compartment (Turn engine off)

Leaks and Hoses:

  • Look for dripping fluids on the underside of the engine and transmission.

  • Look for puddles on the ground.

  • Check hoses for leaks.

Oil Level:

  • Show where dipstick is located.

  • Make sure oil level is adequate.

Coolant Level:

  • Check the coolant level.

Power Steering Fluid:

  • Indicate where dipstick is located.

  • Check the power steering fluid level.

Engine Compartment Belts:

  • Check the power steering, water pump, alternator, and air compressor belts for snugness, cracks, or fraying.

Cab Check (Turn engine on)

Clutch / Gearshift

  • Depress the clutch.

  • Place the gearshift lever in neutral.

  • Start engine and release clutch slowly.

Oil Pressure Gauge:

  • Make sure the gauge is functioning.

  • Make sure the pressure gauge shows increasing or normal oil pressure or that the warning light goes off.

Temperature Gauge:

  • Check that the gauge is working properly.

  • The temperature should gradually climb to a normal operating range or the temperature light should be off.


  • Check that the gauge shows the alternator and/or generator is charging or that the warning light is off.

Air/Vacuum Gauge:

  • Make sure the gauge is functioning properly.

Mirrors and Windshield:

  • Mirrors should be clean and adjusted to your view.

  • Windshield should be free of cracks and unnecessary decals.

Emergency Equipment:

  • Check fire extinguisher.

  • Check for spare electrical fuses.

  • Check for three emergency triangles.

Steering Play:

  • Power steering: check for excessive play with the engine running.

  • Non-power steering: check for excessive play.


  • Make sure that the wiper arms and blades are secure and free of damage.

  • If equipped, windshield wipers must operate properly.

Lighting Indicators:

  • Check to make sure the turn signals, four-way emergency flashers and high beam indicator lights work on the dashboard.


  • Check to see if headlights, directional lights, taillights, clearance, four-way flashers, brake lights, and red and amber reflectors are all clean and functioning.


  • Make sure the horn works properly.

Brake Check

Parking Brake Check:

  • Apply parking brake and make sure it holds by shifting into lower gear and slowly pulling against it.

Hydraulic Brake Check:

  • Make sure the warning buzzer and/or light is off.

  • With the engine running, apply pressure to the brake pedal and hold for five seconds, making sure the brake and pedal do not move.

  • Check the brake operation by moving slowly forward and hitting the brake, paying attention to any pulling or delay.

Air Brake Check:

  • Test air brake system for leaks.

  • Test leakage rate.

  • Make sure spring brakes come on automatically.

  • Check rate of air pressure buildup.

  • Check service brakes.

External Components

Steering Hoses/Box:

  • Make sure that the steering box is mounted and secure.

  • Look for steering fluid leaks.

Steering Linkage:

  • Check that the connecting links, arms and rods from the steering box to the wheel are not worn down or cracked.

  • Make sure the joints and sockets are not work or loose.



  • Check for cracked or broken spring hangers, missing or damaged bushings, and broken or missing axle mounting parts.

Shock Absorbers:

  • Make sure the shocks are secure and without leaks.


Brake Chambers:

  • These should not be leaking, cracked or dented.

Brake Hoses:

  • Check for cracked, leaking or worn hoses.

Slack Adjusters:

  • Check for broken or missing parts.

  • When pulled by hand, the brake rod should not move more than an inch.

Drum Brake or Rotor:

  • Check for cracks, dents, or holes.

  • Brake linings or pads (where visible) should not be worn or excessively thin.



  • Check for tread depth.

  • Make sure stems are not missing, broken or damaged.

  • Look for cuts or damage to tread or sidewalls.

  • Check for proper inflation.


  • Look for damaged or bent rims.

Axle Seals/Hub Oil Seals:

  • Check that the grease and axles seals aren’t leaking.

Lug Nuts:

  • Make sure all lug nuts are accounted for, free of cracks, and securely fastened.

Side of Vehicle

Doors and Mirrors:

  • Make sure mirror and mirror brackets are secure.

  • Check that doors are not damaged and can be opened properly.

Fuel Tank:

  • Make sure that tanks are secure, caps are tight, and there are no visible leaks.


  • Make sure the battery is free of corrosion.

  • Check that the battery is secure and connections are tights.

  • Check that battery box and cover or door is secure.

Drive Shaft:

  • Check to see if the couplings are secure and free of foreign objects.

  • Make sure that the drive shaft is not bent or cracked.

Exhaust System:

  • Check system for damage and signs of leaks.

  • Check that the system is connected and mounted properly.


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

Rear of Vehicle


  • Ties, straps and binders must all be secure.

  • Make sure the doors and hinges are not damaged and all work properly.

  • If equipped with a cargo lift, check for leaking and damaged parts.

Splash Guard:

  • If equipped, make sure splash guards are not damaged and mounted properly.


Air/Electric Lines:

  • Listen for air leaks.

  • Check that the air and electrical lines are not tangled, pinched, or dragging against tractor parts.


  • Make sure the catwalk is solid, free of objects, and securely bolted to tractor frames.

Mounting Bolts:

  • Check for loose or missing mounting brackets, clamps, bolts, or nuts.

  • Both the fifth wheel and slide mounting must be solidly attached.

Locking Jaws:

  • Look into fifth wheel gap and check that locking jaws are fully closed around the kingpin.

Platform (Fifth Wheel):

  • Check for brakes or cracks in the platform structure which supports the fifth wheel skid plate.


  • Make sure the visible part of the apron is not bent, cracked, or broken.

  • Check to make sure the kingpin is not bent.

  • Make sure that the trailer is laying flat on the fifth wheel skid plate.

Locking Pins (Fifth Wheel):

  • If equipped, look for loose or missing pins in the slide mechanism of the fifth wheel.

  • Make sure locking pins are fully engaged.

  • Check that the fifth wheel is positioned properly so the tractor frame will clear the landing gear and the tractor will not strike the trailer during turns.

Now that you know the basics for the Pre-Trip Inspection for the CDL test, you can also start preparing for it by studying your state’s CDL manual. The more studying you do, the better prepared you’ll be for each part of the CDL exam.

To help you out, you should also take at least one CDL practice test which you can find online. Once you’re ready, call the DMV and make a CDL test appointment! Finally once you pass, contact Nagle today and start your driving career.

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