Maybe you didn’t anticipate taking your CDL exam this early? You at least thought you would get through commercial driver’s license training BEFORE you had to take the exam, right?

But yes, before you take your CDL exam, you have to take your CDL Permit Exam, so that you can learn how to get a CDL. If that doesn’t seem to make sense to you, keep in mind that when you get your normal operator’s license, you also are required to get a learner’s permit.

This doesn’t mean you are taking two exams. The CDL Permit Exam is quite a bit different, and is more like the normal test you took for your operator’s license. There is no driving portion of the CDL Permit Exam, which would naturally be silly considering at this point you could not legally drive a commercial vehicle anyway.

Instead, the CDL Permit Exam covers driving questions pointed toward commercial driving topics. It is designed to be simpler and easier than the CDL exam itself, which is a comprehensive look at CDL driving.

However, that doesn’t mean you should leap into the CDL Permit Exam without preparing for it. You certainly need to be ready to pass the Exam when you take it, and treating it as a gimme could be a big mistake for you.

With that in mind, here are a few tips and suggestions for studying for the CDL Permit Exam to help ensure you don’t find your trucking career derailed by the introductory exam:

Study the Commercial Driver’s License Manual: This is the best and most direct way you can study for the exam; questions come straight from this manual. You can get this online in most cases, or contact your state’s Department of Transportation to obtain a copy. Among the topics you will be tested on are:

  • Inspecting the vehicle
  • Driver communication
  • Gear shifting and other basic vehicle controls
  • Proper speed and spacing on the road
  • Anticipating road hazards and other dangers
  • Avoiding distracted driving
  • Avoiding driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • Handling railroad crossings
  • Night driving
  • Dealing with weather conditions while driving
  • Having an emergency situation
  • Braking, skid control, and recovery
  • Following the proper procedures when there is an accident
  • Staying alert behind the wheel and driver fitness


These are all important basic aspects of commercial driving, and as an “applicant” for a CDL (which is to say, you have expressed your desire to become a driver and want to pursue obtaining a CDL), you will need to know them. Be sure you read over the CDL manual several times, with a particular emphasis on this area.

Next, you should consider taking a practice CDL Permit Test. That will give you a better understanding of what types of questions you will be asked, so that you are not blindsided by the way the CDL test questions and answers are structured.

You can find sample CDL Permit tests online, although it is difficult to sometimes determine whether those tests are completely accurate. You should also contact the DoT in your state to determine if there are sanctioned practice exams available.

Getting started down the road to taking your CDL test is a big part of your truck driver training regimen. Make sure you get off on the right foot and get started properly. Don’t allow yourself to fall behind at the very start!