How Many Times Can You Fail Your CDL Test?

Even if you feel prepared to get your commercial driver’s license, you probably still want to know the answer to the question, “How many times can you fail your CDL test?” Regulations vary state to state, and while there’s not a maximum for the number of times you can take the written and driving tests, in most states you have to wait before taking the test again.

There are three parts to most commercial drivers’ license exams: a pre-trip inspection, a basic skills test, and a road test. All three are crucial to getting your commercial driver’s license. You’ll generally take the written portion before you’re allowed to test your skills on the road. While each state develops its own exams, each basic knowledge test covers 20 general areas, and you need to get 80 percent of the questions correct to pass.

The standard skills test includes 50 questions, and it’s a closed-book exam. All of the questions are multiple-choice, and it covers a variety of safe-driving topics. These include:

  • Driving safety
  • Alcohol and drug laws and the dangers of driving intoxicated
  • Cargo transportation
  • Pre-trip inspection protocol
  • Driver communications
  • Accident procedures, and other general trucking knowledge.

You must register to take the test at a state CDL testing center, but you can use online materials to prepare for the test beforehand. The general knowledge test is 60 minutes long, and immediately after you’ll move on to the next portion of the test: the skills test.

The skills test requires you to perform a list of necessary skills under the supervision of a representative. The CDL skills test is made up of three parts:

  • Pre-Trip Inspection
  • Backing Exercises / Basic Vehicle Control
  • Road Test

While every company’s testing regimen varies slightly, the pre-trip inspection phase normally includes a coupling system, light check, and in-cab inspection. Then, you will likely have to check the engine compartment, driver’s door fuel area, or the trailer. When checking the engine compartment, be sure to check for leaks! And when performing the other inspections, the main thing is to make sure the truck is safe and road-ready.

The backing exercises test your maneuvering skills and commercial motor vehicle operation ability. During this stage, one of the main things examiners are looking for is your ability to successfully back a semi-truck into a parking spot. This is notoriously one of the most difficult parts of truck driving, for rookies and experienced drivers alike. However, with the skills you gain during Truck Driver Institute’s CDL training program, there’s no need to worry! While each state handles the backing test slightly differently, most tests will include some combination of straight-line backing, parallel parking, offset backing (left or right), and alley docking. Examiners will likely dock you points depending on the number of times you get out and look, also known as GOALing.

During the road test, examiners are testing your ability to handle your commercial motor vehicle on the open road and in all traffic situations. This portion of the test will occur on the road, and you will have to navigate a variety of streets and traffic scenarios. Here’s a list of things that you will need to know how to do before your test:

  • Turn
  • Use turn signals and communicate with other drivers
  • Change lanes
  • Handle intersections
  • Stop and start smoothly
  • Drive on the highway
  • Navigate urban roadways
  • Halt at railroad crossings
  • Steer
  • Handle curves
  • Navigate bridges and overpasses
  • Identify and properly respond to hazards

In order to pass the CDL road test, remember that it’s not a race! The examiner is looking for measured and safe maneuvers, not fast ones. Remember to use your mirrors throughout the test, and never cut anyone off. Additionally, make ample use of your blinkers and turn signals, don’t hit the curb, and, ultimately, remain calm! Retaining your composure in the driver’s seat is crucial, helping you project a calm and confidence that extends onto the road.

The skills test requires you to perform a list of necessary skills under the supervision of a representative.

While many people feel anxious about taking exams, the CDL test is straightforward and courses like Truck Driver Institute’s three-week training program will help you get on the road in no time.

If you fail your CDL test on the first try, don’t worry. You are able to take the test again after a waiting period that is usually only a few days. If you don’t pass on your second attempt, the waiting period is generally a little longer. You may also have to pay an additional fee to take the test again after three tries.

Tips to Help You Not Fail Your CDL Test

  1. Avoid putting off your studying. While the CDL written tests aren’t exceptionally rigourous, you can still be caught off guard by some of the questions if you haven’t been paying attention or didn’t study enough. Going into the exam feeling prepared will ensure you don’t fail your CDL test.
  2. During the CDL road test, remember that the basics of driving any vehicle are also important for driving a tractor-trailer. Some actions that automatically look bad include not wearing your seatbelt, stopping on railroad tracks, going over the speed limit, and not coming to a full stop at a stop sign.
  3. Poor backing skills can also lead to a deduction of points. As this will be one of the more complicated skills to learn in a large vehicle, give yourself some extra practice time backing up during training.




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What Else You Might Need to Know to Pass Your CDL Test

There are three different classes of CDLs that you can test for, depending on what kind of vehicle you want to drive: Class A, Class B, and Class C. TDI offers Class A and Class B CDL training.

If you’re getting ready to pass your CDL test, there are also specific endorsements that require an additional exam. If you’re looking to get into a particular part of the trucking industry, you may need to take one of more of these:

  • Passenger Transport Endorsement – Required if you plan on driving 16 or more passengers. There is also a specific endorsement for school bus drivers.
  • Doubles/Triples Endorsement – Necessary if you’re going to be hauling double or triple trailers.
  • Tank Vehicle Endorsement – Required if you plan to haul liquids in bulk in a tanker.
  • Hazardous Materials Endorsement – An endorsement for drivers carrying hazardous materials or waste. There is also a two-in-one tanker and hazmat endorsement.

You will also need to take an additional exam to drive commercial vehicles with airbrakes or combination vehicles.


To avoid having to retake your CDL test, make sure to renew it before its expiration date. Depending on your state, CDLs typically lasts between 5 and 8 years. You can renew online, by mail, or in person, generally up to six months before the expiration date. If your license expires, you will not be able to work, and driving without a license can come with severe penalties.

If you have waited too long to renew your CDL, you may need to completely retest, including the written and driving tests and paying application fees.


So, how many times can you fail your CDL test and how likely is it to happen? Truck Driver Institute’s three-week-long course is designed to teach you everything you need to know before taking your CDL test. You’ll get the best classroom instruction, behind-the-wheel experience, and mechanical knowledge, all of which you’ll need to succeed on test day.

If you are interested in learning more about earning your CDL, visit our FAQ page or contact us today.

Jon and Tammy Walker

Truck Driver Institute was the best choice for us. TDI allowed us to explore all carriers opportunities. The instructors were top notch, caring supportive and patient. We would recommend TDI to anyone interested in a career in the trucking industry.

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