All about the CDL General Knowledge Test

by Joshua on November 04, 2013

Each state requires that those seeking to obtain a CDL license must first pass a test of generalized trucking knowledge, it is required you ass the general knowledge test before proceeding to gain additional CDL endorsements. The CDL general knowledge test is a written test designed to assess your competence and level of trucking knowledge and covers the material presented any CDL handbook. The test covers all aspects of general trucking knowledge required to attain your CDL license including, driving safely, transporting cargo safely, and performing pre-trip vehicle inspections, air brakes, and passenger and combination vehicles.

Many applicants benefit greatly from reviewing the material before the test date and taking the practice tests offered by such websites who offers all the materials to study for your CDL license and all of the endorsements.

Studying For and Passing the CDL General Knowledge Test

The material covered on the CDL general knowledge test is practically the same in every state to ensure that each CDL licensed driver is completely aware of the laws and requirements regardless of the license issuing state. Each driver wishing to successfully earn their CDL license must achieve an 80% passing score on the general knowledge test. There are four classes of CDL license and determining which parts of the CDL manual to study depends on which class license you are applying for and which endorsements you wish to complete. The CDL manual has 10 sections in total-

  • Chapter one-“Introduction”-Chapter one covers the most basic information about qualifying and obtaining a CDL License, it explains the license classes, requirements and test information. Chapter one also covers CDL safety rules, disqualification for applicants, exemptions and Compliant Safety Accountability (CSA).
  • Chapter Two-“Driving Safety”-Chapter two of the CDL handbook covers all the important components of driving your truck safely including vehicle inspection, basic control of your vehicle, shifting gears, seeing and communication, controlling space and speed. It extends to the driving hazards and emergencies you may encounter like other drivers, difficult weather, mountains & fires or haphazard materials and how to deal with them safely. It also touches on the anti lock brake system (ABS) and skid control.
  • Chapter Three-“Inspecting Cargo”-Chapter three explains the importance of inspecting, securing and handling of special cargo. Section 3 also covers the important definitions and what you should known about weight and balancing including the legal weight limits.
  • Chapter Four-“Transporting Passengers Safely”-Chapter four includes prohibited practices, vehicle inspection, loading and trip start, on the road guides for various situations, post trip inspection and use of brake door interlocks.
  • Chapter Five-“Air Brakes”-Chapter five explores the parts air brakes systems and how to use it as well as dual air lock, and the steps and care to be taken when inspecting your air brakes system.
  • Chapter Six -“Combination Vehicles”-Chapter six of the manual is all about combination vehicles, how to drive combination vehicles safely, the combination vehicles air brakes systems, antilock break systems, coupling and uncoupling and lastly inspecting and maintaining a combination vehicle.
  • Chapter Seven-“Doubles and Triples”-Chapter seven of the CDL general knowledge test covers the basic information for pulling double and triple trailers, coupling/uncoupling twin trailers, the proper inspection for double and triple trailers. It also incorporates how to check the air brakes for doubles and triples and the long commercial vehicle certification (LCV)
  • Chapter Eight-“Tank Vehicles”-The safe driving rules of tank vehicles, proper inspection elements and important how- to’s of driving tank vehicles are included in this chapter.
  • Chapter Nine-“Hazardous Materials”-The key components detailed in this chapter are regulations, transporting hazardous material, driving and parking with hazardous materials, communication rules and loading and unloading of hazardous materials you are hauling and the proper procedures for each.
  • Chapter Ten-“School Buses”-This sections this chapter covers are danger zones and use of mirrors, loading and unloading, antilock braking, student management and emergency procedures.

Areas to Study According to License Class

A key factor in successfully completing your CDL with all your required endorsements is studying and knowing what sections are specific to your license class, ensuring your learning the knowledge you need. Make sure to cover the listed chapters for your specific class type, but covering materials required for other license classes is useful information to learn as well because many of the information you need overlaps with other license classes.

  • Class A- Chapters to Study

1: Introduction
2: Driving Safely
3: Cargo

Section 5: Air Brakes
Section 6: Combination Vehicles Section

  • Class B- Chapters to Study

1: Introduction
2: Driving Safely
3: Cargo

  • Class C Passenger-Chapters to Study

1: Introduction
2: Driving Safely
3: Cargo
4: Passenger

  • Class C Hazardous Materials-Chapters to Study

1: Introduction
2: Driving Safely
3: Cargo
9: Hazardous Materials

Taking the CDL General Knowledge Test

Each test is taken at your local DMV and you should be prepared to spend 1.5-2 hours on this portion of the test. This is also where you will also follow up with your skills test (which you should schedule ahead of time and set aside 1-2 hrs for).

Reading and studying the manual is a huge part of passing the test but you should explore all avenues possible when looking for study material, not just the state issued manual but practice tests and “cheat sheets” such as the ones found here at they make great elements to incorporate into your study time and can make learning the information you need and passing your CDL just that much easier.

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