The DOT Road Test (Part 1)

Peterbilt and 53' Great Dane

Testing 1-2-3-4

In the age of everyone-gets-a-gold-star (or two, for bothering to show up), does the word test have a place anymore?

It does in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Part 391.31, simply titled ‘Road Test.’

Best in class employers conduct a driver performance test for every Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) driver they hire. But it doesn’t end there.

Top employers not only road test new driver candidates but conduct driver check rides from time to time or whenever drivers are having safety performance issues. Top companies road-test their drivers every year or so for coaching purposes – or as part of their post-accident policy.


The purpose of the road test is to evaluate the driver’s ability to drive safely. Safe operations are determined by a driver’s attitude as much as by his or her mechanical driving skills.

Who should conduct the Road Test?

Any competent driver who is qualified with experience in the type of vehicle being driven may conduct a road test. The examiner needs to be a thoroughly qualified operator. Generally this would be your most senior driver. Sometimes trucking companies use their mechanic to conduct road tests. If so, the mechanic should have some actual driving experience.

The test shall be given by a person who is competent to evaluate and determine whether the person who takes the test has demonstrated that he/she is capable of operating the commercial motor vehicle, and associated equipment, that the motor carrier intends to assign him/her.

§ 391.31 (b)

This section says you cannot test yourself.

Tip 1: For non-CDL type vehicles, owners and managers can be given a road test by an employee-driver.

Tip 2: The same person should administer all road tests in the same way, on the same route.

Tip 3: The road test may be conducted before administering the DOT pre-employment drug screen.After receiving results of the drug test and after a job-offer, the DOT physical can be administered.

If a motor carrier cannot find someone within the organization, they may choose someone from outside of the organization to conduct the road test. Additionally:

  • The examiner needs to be familiar with the road test route and the testing procedures.
  • The examiner needs to practice administering the test to a regular licensed driver qualified on that type vehicle.

What Should the Road Test Cover?

Any well-administered road test should cover the driver’s/applicant’s technical and physical skills associated with driving a commercial vehicle as well as the driver’s/applicant’s attitude while driving.

The regulations specify eight areas to be tested, depending on the type of vehicle, including:

  1. Pre-trip inspection.
  2. Hooking/unhooking a trailer.
  3. Placing the CMV in operation.
  4. Use of the CMV’s controls and emergency equipment.
  5. Operating the CMV in traffic and while passing other motor vehicles.
  6. Turning the CMV.
  7. Braking and slowing the CMV by means other than braking, and
  8. Backing and parking the commercial motor vehicle.

These are the minimum areas on which a driver is to be tested.

Continued in the next blog . . .

Thank you for reading this.

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