Passing the CDL Basic Control Skills Test is easy to do as long as you have practiced driving your commercial vehicle and know what the cone arrangements are going to be. In this article I will tell you everything you need to know about the CDL Basic Control Skills Test and what you need to do in order to pass the test on your first attempt.
I’m going to show you, with diagrams, what the cone layouts will be for each of the 6 driving maneuvers so you know exactly what to expect when you take the test.
What Is The CDL Basic Control Skills Test?
The CDL Basic Control Skills test is one of two driving tests that you will have to complete while pursuing a CDL, the other driving test is the CDL Road Driving test. The Basic Control Skills test has to be passed before you can move on to the Road Driving test. You will have to already have a CLP (commercial learner’s permit) in order to take this test.
The basic skills test is meant to test if you are able to complete 6 basic vehicle maneuvers with your commercial vehicle.
The test can be completed at a DMV that offers CDL certification driving test, not every DMV have the space to offer these driving tests. You will have to make sure you check ahead of time whether or not the DMV you want to go to offers CDL driving tests.
During the test you will have a certified examiner with you in the vehicle with you that will be scoring your performance. The examiner is the person that will determine whether or not you pass this test. Make sure you do exactly what he/she tells you to do with minimal mistakes. Be good to the examiner, in some ways they have your future in their hands!
Basic Control Skills Scoring Sheet
There is a scoring system in place that the examiner will use to help them decide whether or not you pass the basic skills test. This is basically the scoring sheet that will determine if you pass or fail the test. Review the scoring sheet before taking the test so you know exactly how you will be scored. Below is what will be on the scoring sheet.
Encroachments: The examiner will score the amount of times you cross over a boundary line with any portion on the vehicle. Each encroachment will count as an error. If you get more than three encroachments on an individual exercise you will fail the test.
Pull-ups: When the driver stops and to get a better direction this is called a pull-up. You are allowed two pull-ups for each exercise except for the straight line backing. During the straight line backing you are only allowed one pull-up. If you use more pull-ups that is allowed for any one exercise you will fail the test.
Outside Vehicle Observations: You are allowed to safely stop and exit the vehicle to check the vehicles position. When you do this be sure to place the vehicle in neutral and set the parking brake. When exiting the vehicle you must be facing the vehicle and maintaining three points of contact with the vehicle at all times. If you don’t safely secure the vehicle or exit the vehicle correctly it may result in a failing score. For each exercise you will be allowed two of these outside vehicle observations except for the straight line backing which you are allowed only one. Be careful and use these wisely because using too many of them means you will fail the basic skills test.
Final Position: It is important that you listen to your examiner and finish each exercise exactly how he/she tells you to. If you don’t finish each exercise in the position the examiner tells you the vehicle should be in you may fail the test. Listen to what the examiner tells you and be sure that your final position is exactly how he/she wants it to be.
Total Points: The maximum number of points for the basic control skills test is 12 points. If you accumulate more than 12 points using the scoring system explained above you will fail the test and will have to retake it at a later date.
Now that you know about the basic control skills scoring system let’s take a look at each exercise so that you know what you will be preparing for. You will need to pay attention to the cone layout. This can also be found in your states CDL manual, you can download it for free here
CDL Skill Test Cone Layout
You are probably wondering what in the world is gong to be expected of you? What are the parking maneuvers that you will have to complete? What will the cone layout be? Don’t worry, that’s next. The following 6 maneuvers are the ones that you will have to complete in order to pass this test.
Straight Line Backing CDL Driving Test
The straight line backing test will have you backing your vehicle into a straight line between cones. This one is considered the easiest of the 6 maneuvers. Take a look at the diagram below showing how you can expect the cone layout to be.
Offset Backing Right
During this test you have to back into a space that is to the right rear of your vehicle. You will have to drive straight forward and then back your vehicle into that space without the side or rear boundary. Your vehicle will have to be completely in the space. Take some time to study the diagram below so you know what to expect.
Offset Backing Left
This basic skills maneuver is the same that the last one except this time you will have to back your vehicle into a space that is to the left rear instead of right rear. See the cone layout for this basic skill test below
Parallel Park (Driver Side)
In this maneuver you will have to drive past the parking space on your left and then back into it bringing the rear of your vehicle as close as possible to the rear of the space without crossing any side or rear cones. Also, you will have to put the complete vehicle into the space. To see the cone layout for this test check out the diagram below.
Parallel Park (Conventional)
This is a conventional parallel park, you will have to drive past the parking spot on your right and then back into it bringing the rear of the vehicle as close possible to the rear of the space without crossing the side or rear cones. You will also have to make sure your entire vehicle is in the space to pass this test.
To pass the alley dock maneuver you will need to be able to sight-side back your vehicle into an alley, bringing the rear of the vehicle as close as possible to the rear of the alley cones without hitting them. When you complete this basic skills maneuver your entire vehicle has to be in the alley and straight.
CDL Basic Skills Test Videos
There are some really good videos that can help you with this test. By doing a search on Youtube I was able to find a ton of videos showing how to complete each maneuver. Some were better than others so I added the 4 best videos below.
This video shows a great aerial view and in cab view of how to complete the parallel park.
Here you will see how to complete the offset backing to the left and right maneuver.
Here you will see how to complete the alley dock maneuver.
In this video straight line backing is explained and demonstrated.
How To Prepare For The CDL Skills Test: Practice!
Practicing is the best, and only, way to prepare for the CDL basic skills test. Knowing how you will be scored and the cone layout is great but the only way to be ready for the test is to get behind the wheel and drive.
Practice these maneuvers as many times as possible. During your CDL training make sure you get the most out of it as possible. Use your time wisely and spend as much time in your vehicle driving and practicing.
Turn Off Your Phone!
Please, before you even meet the examiner that will be with you during the test make sure your cell phone is completely turned off. I don’t mean vibrate, turn the phone completely off and don’t turn it on again until you have completed the test.
Imagine you are in the middle of a maneuver and your phone rings, this is a huge distraction that could mess up your driving. Also, it will just look unprofessional to have your cell phone ringing or vibrating during the test. It is very likely that the examiner that will be with you spent some time behind the wheel of a truck too, you don’t want to give this person the impression that you will in any way be a hazard on the roads.
What Happens If You Fail The Basic Skills Test?
Don’t worry, if you fail the CDL basic skills test you can retake it but the process of retaking it varies from state to state. Contact your local DMV to find out what happens after you fail the basic skills tests. Sure, it would be ideal to pass the test on your first attempt but don’t become overly frustrated if you don’t pass it. You aren’t the only one that has or will fail it.
Start driving again as soon as possible, make sure you know what you did wrong and how to do it better the next time you take it.
What Happens If You Pass The Basic Skills Test?
If you pass the CDL basic skills test there is one more driving test you have to get past in order to get your commercial driver’s license. It is called the CDL Road Driving test. During this test you will take your vehicle onto public roadways and will have to demonstrate specific driving maneuvers as well as general driving ability and knowledge to a certified examiner that will be with you the whole time.
Congratulations! You are closer to getting your CDL and getting paid for your hard work and studying!