Driver safety performance is as important as vehicle performance. A driver performance test can help determine safe driver performance.
The Pre-trip Inspection
The road test should start with a pre-trip inspection. A pre-trip inspection is required under §391.31(c)(1).
The driver-applicant should explain what he or she is observing and what specific vehicle or component checks (s)he is conducting. The applicant should explain what defects/faults he or she is looking for during the pre-trip. This portion of the test may take up to 30 to 45 minutes or longer, depending on the type and configuration of the vehicle.
Before the road portion, the applicant should demonstrate the following skills: steering, stopping, shifting and backing (straight and 90 degree angle) and, if the equipment he/she will drive includes a combination unit – coupling and uncoupling of the combo-unit (per §391.31(c)(2)). Allow at least 20 minutes for a “range” portion.
A vehicle control test area of at least 200 feet by 300 feet in size is required, the bigger the better. Driver candidates can be tested with the following maneuvers:
(1) Forward Stop: Pull the vehicle forward through a straight alley and then stop the vehicle so that the front bumper is within 2 feet of the forward stop line.
(2) Straight Line Backing. Back the vehicle through a straight alley and then stop the vehicle so that the front bumper is within 2 feet of the stop line.
(3) Right Turn. Drive the vehicle forward approximately 30–50 feet, and then turn the vehicle right around a cone or other point. Bring the rear of the vehicle within 6–12 inches from the cone without touching it.
(4) Alley Dock. Pull the vehicle forward past the alley, keeping the alley entrance on the left. Back in a 45 degree curve into the alley without touching the sides, and stop the rear of the vehicle within 2 feet of the stop line at the rear of the alley.
The Range is usually scored on a point system, with points given or taken away for hitting cones, crossing lines, or falling short of where the vehicle needs to be.
Why Do a Range Test?
The answer is safety. A range can show if the driver has basic control of the vehicle. A range helps the driver to become familiar with the vehicle, if the vehicle and/or its controls are new to the driver. If a driver does really badly on the range, then for reason of safety, the test needs to end. The driver’s proficiency in the parking lot (range) should be adequate enough to determine that the applicant will drive safely during the on-road portion of the test.
The Road Test *
The road portion should be on a predetermined route of in-traffic driving.
Tip: Have at least two routes available so that the alternate route is available if construction or traffic prevents using the original route.
On the route be sure to include:
Four left-hand and four right-hand turns: turns at traffic lights, stop signs, and uncontrolled intersections. The turns should range from easy to somewhat difficult for a heavy vehicle. Try to include a mixture of types of intersections so that they vary in complexity.
A straight section of urban business streets. The section should be 1 to 2 miles long. It should contain through intersections, and intersections with traffic lights, and have moderate traffic density. Try to get a section where the driver can make lane changes somewhere along the route.
Two through intersections, and two intersections where a stop has to be made. If possible, these intersections should be included in the urban section.
Two railway crossings. Try to get at least one uncontrolled crossing. The crossing should have enough sight distance to determine if the driver makes head search movements when approaching each crossing. The driver’s attempt to look left and right down the track will often be the only way to tell if the driver noticed the crossing. If the test area does not have any railway crossings, you may simulate this exercise.
Two curves, one to the left and one to the right. Try to get curves tight enough to produce noticeable offtracking on a tractor-trailer.
A two-lane rural or semi-rural road. This section should be about 2 miles long. If there is no rural road near the motor pool, an industrial street with few entrances and a higher speed limit is a good substitute. An undeveloped suburban road is also a good substitute. In general, use any road that has characteristics similar to a rural road.
A section of expressway. The section should start with a conventional ramp entrance and end with a conventional ramp exit. The section should be long enough for a heavy vehicle to make two lane changes during the section. A section of highway can be used if there is no expressway available.
A downgrade. The grade should be steep enough and long enough to require gearing down and braking. A steep short hill is the next best choice if a long grade cannot be found. If the area does not have any steep grades, simulate this exercise.
An upgrade. The grade should be steep enough and long enough to require gear changing to maintain speed. A steep short hill is the next best choice if a long grade cannot be found. Use the same grade for both the downgrade and the upgrade if it is hard to find steep grades in the area.
A downgrade for stopping. This is a grade where a vehicle can safely stop (or pull off) and park for a minute or so. The grade only needs to be steep enough to cause a vehicle to roll if the driver does not park properly. If the area does not have any steep grades, simulate this exercise.
An upgrade for stopping. This is another grade where a vehicle can safely stop and park for a minute or so. If necessary, use the same grade as for the downgrade stop.
One underpass or low clearance, and one bridge. The underpass should have a posted clearance height. The bridge should have a posted weight limit. If there are no underpasses or bridges with posted limits, use ones that do not have posted limits. If necessary, substitute a bridge for an underpass, or an underpass for a bridge. If there are no low clearances or bridges, look for places that have signs a heavy vehicle driver should see. Examples of such signs are: “No Commercial Vehicles after 11:00 PM,” or “Bridge with 10 Ton Weight Limit in 5 Miles.” b.
When designing a route, try to get all of the specified maneuvers into the route. If there is no ideal example for a maneuver, find the closest substitute.
There is no minimum length for a route and no minimum amount of time that a route must take. A route is acceptable whenever it has all the specified maneuvers.
At the End of The Road Test
Be prepared to give the driver positive feedback followed by any areas that need to be improved. If the driver is hired, make note of any weak spots for later refresher training. A signed copy (by both examiner and applicant) of the road test and certificate of completion must be kept in the Qualification File. A Certificate of Road Test Completion should also be given to the applicant.
Thank you for reading this.
*Source: AR 600–55, which was modeled from current U.S. transportation practices.
More: The DOT Road Test (Part 1)
The DOT Road Test (Part 2)