Shared Flashcard Set


commercial driver license
commercial driver handbook
Driving Skills
Not Applicable

Additional Driving Skills Flashcards




There are federal and state rules that affect drivers
operating CMV’s in all states. Among them are:
You cannot have more than one license. If
you violate this rule, a court may fine you up
to $5,000, or put you in jail, and DMV may
cancel your California driver license.
There are federal and state rules that affect drivers
operating CMV’s in all states. Among them are:
You must notify your employer within 30 days
of all traffic violations (except parking). This
is true no matter what type of vehicle you
were driving.
CDL Rules
You must notify your employer within two
business days if your license is suspended,
revoked or canceled, or if you are disqualified
from driving.
CDL Rules
You must give your employer information on all
driving jobs you have held for the past 10 years
when you apply for a commercial driving job.
CDL Rules
No one can drive a commercial motor vehicle
without a CDL. A court may fine you up to
$5,000 or put you in jail for violating this rule.
CDL Rules
Your employer may not let you drive a commercial
motor vehicle if you have more than
one license or if you’re CDL is suspended or
revoked. A court may fine the employer up
to $5,000 or put him/her in jail for violating
this rule.
CDL Rules
If you have a hazardous materials endorsement
you must notify and surrender your hazardous
materials endorsement to the state that issued
your CDL within 24 hours of any conviction
or indictment in any jurisdiction, civilian
or military, or found not guilty by reason of
insanity of a disqualifying crime listed in 49
CFR 1572.103; who is adjudicated as a mental
defective or committed to a mental institution
as specified in 49 CFR 1572.109; or who
renounces his or her U.S. citizenship.
CDL Rules
You must notify your motor vehicle licensing
agency within 30 days if you are convicted in
any other jurisdiction of any traffic violation
(except parking). This is true no matter what
type of vehicle you were driving.
A pre-trip inspection should be completed:
Before operating the vehicle.
What should you do when you are driving at night?
Make sure you are driving slow enough so you can stop within the range of your headlights in an emergency.
Which of the following is the correct term for a long commercial vehicle’s tendency to swing wide on turns?
When a coolant container is part of a pressurized system, you can:
Check the coolant level of a hot engine.
When you are parked at the side of the road at night, you must:
Warn others by turning on your 4-way emergency flashers.
While doing the pre-trip inspection on your vehicle’s steering and exhaust system you found the following problems. Which one, if any, should be fixed before you drive the vehicle?
Play in the steering wheel of more than 10 degrees (2 inches on a 20-inch steering wheel).
Containerized loads:
Generally are used when freight is carried part way by rail or ship.
You must exit a highway using an offramp that curves downhill and you are driving a heavy vehicle. You should:
Slow to a safe speed before the curve.
Water can safely be used on which of these fires?
Neither of the above. (Neither Electrical nor Gasoline.)
Three things add up to the total stopping distance for your vehicle. They are:
Perception distance, reaction distance, braking distance.
All states are connected to one computerized
system to share information about CDL drivers.
The states will check on drivers’ collision
records to be sure that drivers do not have more
than one CDL.
You are required by law to be properly
restrained by a safety belt at all times while
operating a commercial motor vehicle. The
safety belt design holds the driver securely
behind the wheel during a collision, which helps
the driver to control the vehicle and reduces
the chance of serious injury or death. If you
do not wear a safety belt, you are four times
more likely to sustain serious injures or death
if you are thrown from the vehicle.
You are about to go down a long, steep, downhill grade in a newer truck. You should:
Use a lower gear than you would use to climb the uphill grade.
Which of these items is checked in a pre-trip inspection?
Both of the above. (Both cargo securement and whether all vehicle lights are working and are clean.)
If you are stopped on a one-way or divided highway, you should place reflective triangles at:
10 feet, 100 feet, and 200 feet toward approaching traffic.
When a heavy fog occurs you should:
Park at a rest area or truck stop until the fog has lifted.
You should plan ahead when you park your vehicle so that:
You are only required to pull forward when you leave.
The term "Gross Combination Weight" refers to:
Total weight of a powered unit, the trailer and the cargo.
A driver should look _______ ahead of the vehicle while driving.
12–15 Seconds
Which of the following statements is true about overhead clearance?
Cargo weight may change the height of your vehicle.
Which of the following statements is true when you are performing a pre-trip inspection on your brakes and suspension system?
Brake shoes should be free of oil, grease, and brake fluid
A broken exhaust system is dangerous because:
Toxic fumes and gasses could enter the cab or sleeper berth.
Vehicle Inspections
Safety. Safety is the most important and obvious
reason to inspect your vehicle. A vehicle defect
found during an inspection could save you problems
later. You could have a breakdown on the road
that will cost time and dollars, or even worse, a
collision. Federal and state laws require inspection
by the driver.
Federal and state inspectors also
inspect commercial vehicles. An unsafe vehicle canhas it repaired. Do not risk your life or the life of
another in an unsafe vehicle.
Pre-trip inspection. Do a pre-trip inspection
before each trip to find problems that could cause
a collision or a breakdown.
A pre-trip inspection
should be done routinely before operating the
vehicle. Review the last vehicle inspection report.
Make sure the vehicle has been released for service
by the maintenance mechanics, if applicable. The
motor carrier must repair any items in the report that
affects safety and certify on the report that repairs
were made or were unnecessary.
Remember, when
you get behind the wheel, you (not the mechanic)
are responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle.
If the defects have been repaired, sign the previous
driver’s report.
En Route Inspection
During a trip you should:
• Watch gauges for signs of trouble.
• Use your senses to check for problems (look,
listen, smell, and feel).
• Check critical items when you stop.
— tires, wheels, and rims
— brakes
— lights and reflectors
— brake and electrical connections to the
trailer coupling devices, cargo securement devices
After-trip inspection and report.
Inspect the
vehicle at the end of the trip, day, or tour of duty
for each vehicle you operated. Drivers must
complete a written vehicle inspection report each
day. It must include a listing of any problems you
find. The inspection report helps the motor carrier
inspections–What to Look for
To obtain a CDL, you will be required to pass a
pre-trip vehicle inspection test. You will be tested
to see if you know whether your vehicle is safe to
drive. You will be asked to do a pre-trip inspection
of your vehicle and explain to the examiner
what you would inspect and why. The following
seven-step inspection method should be useful.
Seven-Step Inspection Method
You should do a pre-trip inspection the same way
each time so you will learn all the steps and be
less likely to forget something.
• Approaching the vehicle, notice the general
condition. Look for damage or if the vehicle
leans to one side. Look under the vehicle for
fresh oil, coolant, grease, or fuel leaks. Check
the area around the vehicle for hazards to
vehicle movement (people, other vehicles,
objects, low hanging wires, limbs, etc.).
Step 1: Vehicle Overview
Review the last vehicle inspection report. Drivers
may have to make a vehicle inspection report in
writing each day. The motor carrier must repair
any items in the report that affect safety and
certify on the report that repairs were made or
were unnecessary. You must sign the report only
if defects were noted and certified to be repaired
or not needed to be repaired.
A tractor with a_______ trailer requires the shortest stopping distance:
Fully loaded.
You should not back a tractor under a trailer until the whole air system is:
At normal pressure.
You are coupling a tractor semitrailer of a semitrailer. You have backed up but are not under it. What should you hook up before backing under the semitrailer?
The emergency and service air lines.
When should you use chocks to park a trailer not equipped with spring brakes?
When you are uncoupling a loaded trailer, lower the landing gear until it:
Makes firm contact with the ground and you lift the trailer off the fifth wheel.
Under good driving conditions, you should leave at least one second of space between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead for every ____ feet of your vehicle's length.
You want to inspect the trailer support. You should place the tractor transmission in which gear after you have uncoupled the trailer?
Step 2: Check the Engine
Check that the parking brakes are on and/or
wheels chocked. You may have to raise the hood,
tilt the cab (secure loose things so they don’t fall and
break something), or open the engine compartment
Check the following:
• Engine oil level.
• Coolant level in radiator; condition of hoses.
• Power steering fluid level and hose condition
(if so equipped).
• Windshield washer fluid level.
• Battery fluid level, connections, and tie downs
(battery may be located elsewhere).

• Automatic transmission fluid level (may
require engine to be running).
• Check belts for tightness and excessive wear
(alternator, water pump, air compressor)—
learn how much “give” the belts should have
when adjusted correctly, and check each one.
• Leaks in the engine compartment (fuel, coolant,
oil, power steering fluid, hydraulic fluid,
battery fluid).
• Cracked or worn electrical wiring insulation.
• Lower and secure the hood, cab, or engine
compartment door.
Step 3: Start the Engine and Inspect
Inside the Cab
Get in and Start the Engine
• Make sure the parking brake is on.
• Put the gearshift in neutral (or park, if
• Start the engine; listen for unusual noises.
• If equipped, check the Anti-lock Brake System
(ABS) indicator lights. The ABS Light on the
dash board should come on and then turn off.
If it stays on, the ABS is not working properly.
For trailers only; if the yellow light on the
left rear of the trailer stays on, the ABS is not
working properly.
Step 3: Start the Engine and Inspect
Inside the Cab
Get in and Start the Engine
• Make sure the parking brake is on.
• Put the gearshift in neutral (or park, if
• Start the engine; listen for unusual noises.
• If equipped, check the Anti-lock Brake System
(ABS) indicator lights. The ABS Light on the
dash board should come on and then turn off.
If it stays on, the ABS is not working properly.
For trailers only; if the yellow light on the
left rear of the trailer stays on, the ABS is not
working properly.
Look at the Gauges
• Oil pressure. Should come up to normal within
seconds after the engine is started.
• Air pressure. Pressure should build from 50 to
90 psi within 3 minutes. Build the air pressure
to governor cut-out (usually 120 – 130 psi).
Know your vehicle requirements.
• Ammeter and/or voltmeter. Should be in normal
• Coolant temperature. Should begin a gradual
rise to normal operating range.
• Engine oil temperature. Should begin gradual
rise to normal operating range.
• Warning lights and buzzers. Oil, coolant, charging
circuit warning, and ABS lights should go
out right away.
Check Conditions of Controls
Check all of the following for looseness, sticking,
damage, or improper setting:
• Steering wheel.
• Clutch.
• Accelerator (gas pedal).
• Brake controls:
— Foot brake.
— Trailer brake, if vehicle has one.
— Parking brake.
— Retarder controls, if vehicle has them.
• Transmission controls.
• Interaxle differential lock, if vehicle has one.
• Horn(s).
• Windshield wiper/washer.
• Lights.
— Headlights.
— Dimmer switch.
— Turn signals.
— Four-way flashers.
— Parking, clearance, identification, and
marker switch(es).
Check Mirrors and Windshield
Inspect the mirrors and windshield for cracks, dirt,
illegal stickers, or other obstructions to seeing
clearly. Clean and adjust as necessary.
Check Emergency Equipment
Check for safety equipment:
• Spare electrical fuses (unless vehicle has circuit
• Three red reflective triangles.
• Properly charged and rated fire extinguisher.
• List of emergency phone numbers.
• Accident reporting kit (packet).
Check for optional items such as:
• Chains (where winter conditions require).
• Tire changing equipment.
Check Safety Belt
Check that the safety belt
is securely mounted,
adjusts, latches properly, and is not ripped or frayed.
Step 4: Turn off the Engine and Check
the Lights
Make sure the parking brake is set, turn off the
engine, and take the key with you. Turn on the
headlights (low beams) and four-way emergency
flashers, and get out of the vehicle.
Step 5: Do a Walkaround Inspection
• Go to the front of the vehicle and check that
the low beams are on and both of the four-way
flashers are working.
• Push the dimmer switch and check that the
high beams work.
• Turn off the headlights and four-way emergency
• Turn on the parking, clearance, side-marker,
and identification lights.
• Turn on the right turn signal and start the
walk-around inspection.
Walkaround and inspect the vehicle(s).
• Clean all the lights, reflectors, and glass as
you go along.
Left Front Side
• Driver’s door glass should be clean.
• Door latches and/or locks should work properly.
Left Front Wheel
• Condition of the wheel and rim—missing, bent,
or broken studs, clamps, lugs, or any signs of
• Condition of the tires—properly inflated, valve
stem and cap okay, and no serious cuts, bulges,
or tread wear.
• Use a wrench to test rust-streaked lug nuts,
indicating looseness.
• Hub oil level okay and no leaks.
Left Front Suspension
• Condition of the spring, spring hangers,
shackles, and u-bolts.
• Condition of the shock absorber.
Left Front Brake
• Condition of the brake drum or disc.
• Condition of the hoses.
• Condition of front axle.
• Condition of steering system.
• No loose, worn, bent, damaged or missing parts.
• Must grab steering mechanism to test for
Tie Rod
Gear Box
Condition of Windshield
• Check for damage and clean if dirty.
• Check the windshield wiper arms for proper
spring tension.
• Check the wiper blades for damage, “stiff”
rubber, and securement.
Lights and Reflectors
• Parking, clearance, and identification lights are
clean, operating, and the proper color (amber
at front).
• Reflectors are clean and the proper color (amber
at front).
• Right front turn signal light is clean, operating,
and the proper color (amber or white on signals
facing forward).
Right Side
• Right front: check all items as done on left front.
• Primary and secondary safety cab locks are
engaged (if a cab-over-engine design).
• Right fuel tank(s):
— Securely mounted, and not damaged or
— Fuel crossover line is secure.
— Tank(s) contain enough fuel.
— Cap(s) on and secure.
Condition of Visible Parts
• Rear of engine is not leaking.
• Transmission is not leaking.
• Exhaust system is secure, not leaking, and not
touching wires, fuel, or air lines.
• Frame and cross members have no bends or
• Air lines and electrical wiring are secured
against snagging, rubbing, and wearing.
• Spare tire carrier or rack is not damaged, if
so equipped.
• Spare tire and/or wheel is securely mounted
in rack.
• Spare tire and wheel is adequate (proper size
and properly inflated).
Cargo Securement (Trucks)
• Cargo is properly blocked, braced, tied,
chained, etc.
• Header board is adequate, secure (if required).
• Side boards and stakes are strong enough,
free of damage and properly set in place, if
so equipped.
• Canvas or tarp (if required) is properly secured
to prevent tearing, billowing, or blocking of
• If oversize, all required signs (flags, lamps,
and reflectors) are safely and properly mounted
and all required permits are in the driver’s
• Curbside cargo compartment doors are in good
condition, securely closed, latched/locked, and
required security seals are in place.
Right Rear
• Condition of the wheels and rims—no missing,
bent, or broken spacers, studs, clamps, or lugs.
• Condition of tires—properly inflated, valve
stems and caps okay, and no serious cuts,
bulges, or tread wear, tires are not rubbing
each other, and nothing is stuck between them.
• Tires same type (e.g., not mixed radial and
bias types).
• Tires are evenly matched (same sizes).
• Wheel bearing/seals are not leaking.
• Condition of the spring(s), spring hangers,
shackles, and u-bolts.
• Axle is secure.
• Powered axle(s) are not leaking lube (gear oil).
• Condition of the torque rod arms and bushings.
• Condition of the shock absorber(s).
• If retractable axle equipped, check the condition
of the lift mechanism. If air powered, check
for leaks.
• Condition of the air ride components.
Shock Absorber
6 Leaf
Steel Spring
Frame Bearing Plates
• Brake adjustment.
• Condition of the brake drum(s) or discs.
• Condition of the hoses—look for any wear
due to rubbing.
Lights and Reflectors
• Side-marker lights are clean, operating, and
the proper color (red at rear, others amber).
• Side-marker reflectors are clean and the proper
color (red at rear, others amber).
Left Side
Check all items as done on right side, plus:
• Battery(ies) (if not mounted in engine
• Battery box(es) are securely mounted to
• Box has secure cover.
• Battery(ies) are secured against movement.
• Battery(ies) are not broken or leaking.
• Fluid in the battery(ies) is at the proper level
(except maintenance-free type).
• Cell caps are present and securely tightened
(except maintenance-free type).
• Vents in the cell caps are free of foreign material
(except maintenance-free type).
Step 6: Check the Signal Lights
Get in and Turn off the Lights
Turn off all the lights.
• Turn on the stop lights (apply the trailer hand
brake or have a helper apply the brake pedal.
• Turn on the left turn signal lights.
Get Out and Check the Lights
• Left front turn signal light is clean, operating
and the proper color (amber or white on signals
facing the front).
• Left rear turn signal light and both stop lights
are clean, operating, and the proper color (red,
yellow, or amber).
Note: Checks of brake, turn signal, and 4-way
flasher functions must be done separately.
Get in the Vehicle
• Turn off lights not needed for driving.
• Check for all required papers, trip manifests,
permits, etc.
• Secure all loose articles in the cab (they might
interfere with operation of the controls or hit
you in a crash).
• Start the engine.
Step 7: Start the Engine and Check
Test for Hydraulic Leaks
If the vehicle has hydraulic brakes, pump the brake
pedal three times. Then apply firm pressure to the
pedal and hold for five seconds. The pedal should
not move. If it does, there may be a leak or other
problem. Get it fixed before driving. If the vehicle
has air brakes, do the checks described in Sections
5 and 6 of this handbook.
Test Parking Brake(s)
• Fasten your safety belt.
• Set the parking brake (power unit only).
• Release the trailer parking brake (if applicable).
• Place the vehicle in low gear.
• Gently pull forward against the parking brake
to make sure the parking brake holds.
• Repeat the same steps for the trailer with the
trailer parking brake set and the power unit
parking brakes released (if applicable).
• If it doesn’t hold the vehicle, it is faulty, and
needs to be fixed.
Test the Service Brake Stopping Action
• Go about five miles per hour.
• Push the brake pedal firmly.
• “Pulling” to one side or the other can mean
brake trouble.
• Any unusual brake pedal “feel” or delayed
stopping action can mean trouble.
• If you find anything unsafe during the pre-trip
inspection, get it fixed. Federal and state laws
forbid operating an unsafe vehicle.
During a Trip Check the Vehicle
Operation Regularly.
You should check the:
• Instruments.
• Air pressure gauge (if you have air brakes).
• Temperature Gauges.
• Pressure Gauges.
• Ammeter/voltmeter.
• Mirrors.
• Tires.
• Cargo, cargo covers.
• Lights.
If you see, hear, smell, or feel anything that might
mean trouble, check it out.
Safety Inspection
Drivers of trucks and truck tractors transporting
cargo must inspect the securement of the cargo
within the first 50 miles of a trip and every 150
miles or every three hours (whichever comes first).
After-Trip Inspection and Report
You must make a written report
each day on the
condition of the vehicle(s) you drive. Report
anything affecting safety which could lead to a
mechanical breakdown.
The vehicle inspection report tells the vehicle owner
about problems that may need repair. Keep a copy
of your report in the vehicle for one day. That way,
the next driver can learn about any problems you
have found.
Basic Vehicle Control
To drive a vehicle safely, you must be able to
control its speed and direction. Safely operating
a commercial vehicle requires skill in:
• Accelerating
• Steering
• Backing safely
• Shifting gears
• Braking/controlling speed
Fasten your seat belt when on the road. Apply the
parking brake when you leave your vehicle.
Don’t roll back when you start. You may hit
someone behind you. Partly engage the clutch
before you take your right foot off the brake. Set
the parking brake whenever necessary to keep
from rolling backward. Release it only when you
have applied enough engine power to keep from
rolling backward. On a tractor-trailer equipped with
a trailer brake hand valve, the hand valve can be
applied to keep from rolling backward.
Speed up smoothly and gradually so the vehicle
does not jerk. Rough acceleration can cause mechanical
damage as well as damage to the coupling
when pulling a trailer. It is also a common cause
of passenger injuries on buses. When starting a
bus on a level surface with good traction, there is
often no need for the parking brake.
Speed up very gradually when traction is poor, as
in rain or snow.
If you give the vehicle too much
power, the drive wheels may spin and you could
lose control. If the drive wheels begin to spin, take
your foot off the accelerator.
Hold the wheel firmly with both hands. Your hands
should be on opposite sides of the wheel. If you
hit a curb or a pothole, the wheel could pull away
from your hands unless you have a firm hold.
Push the brake pedal down gradually. The amount
of pressure you need to stop the vehicle will depend
on the speed of the vehicle and how quickly you
need to stop. Control the pressure so the vehicle
comes to a smooth, safe stop. If you have a manual
transmission, push the clutch in when the engine
is close to idle.
Backing Safely
Because you cannot see everything behind your
vehicle, backing is always dangerous. Avoid
backing whenever you can. When you park, try
to park so you will be able to pull forward when
you leave. When you have to back, here are a few
simple safety rules:
• Look at your path.
• Back slowly, using your mirrors.
• Back and turn toward the driver’s side whenever
• Use a helper whenever possible.
Backing Safely
Start in the proper position. Put the vehicle in
the best position to allow you to back safely. This
position will depend on the type of backing to be
Look at your path. Look at your line of travel
before you begin. Get out and walk around the
vehicle. Check your clearance to the sides and
overhead in and near the path your vehicle will take.
Use mirrors on both sides. Check the outside
mirrors on both sides frequently. Get out of the
vehicle and check your path if you are unsure.
Back slowly.
Always back as slowly as possible.
Use the lowest reverse gear so that you can easily
correct any steering errors before you get too far
off course. You can also stop quickly if necessary.
Back and turn toward the driver’s side. Back
to the driver’s side so you can see better. Backing
toward the right side is very dangerous because
you cannot see as well.
Remember to always back in the direction that
gives you the best vision.
Backing with a Trailer
When backing a car,
straight truck, or bus, turn the steering wheel
toward the direction you want to go. When backing
a trailer, turn the steering wheel in the opposite
direction. Once the trailer starts to turn, you must
turn the wheel the other way to follow the trailer.
Whenever you back with a trailer, try to position
your vehicle so you can back in a straight line. If
you must back on a curved path, back to the driver’s
side so you can see. Back slowly so you can make
corrections before you get too far off course.
Correct drift immediately. As soon as you see
the trailer getting off the proper path, correct it
by turning the steering wheel in the direction of
the drift.
Pull forward. When backing, make pull-ups to
reposition your vehicle when needed.
Use a helper. Use a helper when you can. He or
she can see blind spots that you can’t. The helper
should stand near the back of the vehicle where you
can see him or her. Before you begin backing, work
out a set of hand signals that you both understand.
Agree on a signal for STOP.
Shifting Gears
Shifting gears correctly
is important. If you can’t
get your vehicle into the correct gear while driving,
you will have less control.
Manual Transmissions
Basic method for shifting up.
Most heavy vehicles
with manual transmissions require double clutching
to change gears. This is the basic method:
• Release accelerator, push in clutch, and shift
into neutral at the same time.
• Release clutch.
• Let engine and gears slow down to the revolutions
per minute (rpm) required for the next
gear (this takes practice).
• Push in clutch and shift into the higher gear
at the same time.
• Release clutch and press accelerator at the
same time.
Shifting gears using double clutching requires
practice. If you remain in neutral too long, you may
have difficulty putting the vehicle into the next gear.
If so, don’t try to force it. Return to neutral and
release the clutch, and increase the engine speed
to match the road speed, then try again.
There are two ways of knowing when to shift:
• Engine speed or rpm. Study the owner’s manual
for your vehicle and learn the operating rpm
range. Watch your tachometer, and shift up
when your engine reaches the top of the range.
(Some newer vehicles use “progressive”
shifting: the rpm at which you shift becomes
higher as you move up in the gears. Find out
what is right for your vehicle.)
• Road speed or mph. Learn the correct speed
for each gear. Then, by using the speedometer,
you will know when to shift up.
With either method, you may learn to use engine
sounds to know when to shift.
Basic procedures for shifting down
• Release accelerator, push in clutch, and shift
into neutral at the same time.
• Release clutch.
• Press accelerator. Increase engine and gear
speed to the rpm required in the lower gear.
• Push in clutch and shift to lower gear at the
same time.
• Release clutch and press accelerator at the
same time.
Downshifting, like upshifting, requires knowing
when to shift. Use either the tachometer or the
speedometer and downshift at the right rpm or
road speed.
Some special conditions where you
should downshift are:
• Before starting down a hill. Slow down and
shift down to a speed that you can control
without using the brakes hard. Otherwise, the
brakes can overheat and lose their braking
power. Downshift before starting down the
hill. Make sure you are in a low enough gear,
usually lower than the gear required to climb
the same hill. The braking effect of the engine
is greatest when it is near the governed rpms
and the transmission is in the lower gears. Save
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your brakes so you will be able to stop or slow
as required by road and traffic conditions.
• Before entering a curve. Slow down to a safe
speed, and downshift before entering the
curve. This lets you use some power through
the curve to help the vehicle be more stable
while turning. It also lets you speed up as soon
as you are out of the curve.
Multispeed Rear Axles and Auxiliary
are used on many vehicles to provide extra gears. You
usually control them by a selector knob or switch
on the gearshift lever of the main transmission.
There are many different shift patterns. Learn the
right way to shift gears in the vehicle(s) you drive.
Automatic Transmissions
Some vehicles have automatic transmissions which
let you select a low range for greater engine braking
when going down grades. The lower ranges
prevent the transmission from shifting up beyond
the selected gear (unless the governor rpm is
exceeded). It is very important to use this braking
effect when going down grades.
Automated Transmissions
Automated transmissions
combine the convenience
of an automatic transmission with the control of a
manual transmission. An automated transmission
has a clutch and gear selection lever. However,
the only time the clutch is used is to start and stop
the vehicle. Once the vehicle is started, sensors
constantly monitor the vehicle’s speed and rpms.
Gear shifting is automatic. DMV imposes a restriction
when a vehicle equipped with an automated
transmission is used for a driving test (because
the clutch is only used to start or stop the vehicle).
Some vehicles have “retarders.” Retarders
slow a vehicle, reducing the need for using your
brakes. They reduce brake wear and give you
another way to slow down. There are many types of
retarders (exhaust, engine, hydraulic, electric). All
retarders can be turned on or off by the driver. On
some vehicles the retarding power can be adjusted.
When turned “on,” retarders apply braking power
to the drive wheels only whenever you let up on
the accelerator pedal all the way.
Retarders can be noisy; be sure you know where
their use is permitted by law.
Caution. When the drive wheels have poor traction,
the ( ) may cause them to skid. You should
turn the ( ) off whenever the road is wet, icy,
or snowy.
To be a safe driver and to help avoid collisions,
you need to know what is going on all around your
vehicle. Not looking properly is a major cause of
All drivers look ahead; but many do not
look far enough ahead.
Seeing Ahead
Importance of looking far enough ahead.
stopping or changing lanes can take a lot
of distance, knowing what traffic is doing on all
sides of you is very important. You need to look
well ahead to make sure you have room to make
these moves safely. If a traffic light has been green
for a long time, it will probably change before you
get there. Start slowing down and be ready to stop.
How far ahead to look. Most good drivers look
12 to 15 seconds ahead. That means looking ahead
the distance you will travel in 12 to 15 seconds. At
lower speeds, that is about one block. At highway
speeds, it is about a quarter of a mile. If you are
not looking that far ahead, you may have to stop
too quickly or make quick lane changes. Looking
12 to 15 seconds ahead does not mean that you
should not pay attention to things that are closer.
Good drivers shift their attention back and forth,
near and far.
What to look for in traffic. Be especially alert
when nearing freeway on ramps. Look for vehicles
entering the highway, moving into your lane, or
turning. Watch for the brake lights of the vehicles
ahead. By looking far enough ahead, you can
change your speed or change lanes if necessary,
to avoid a problem.
Road conditions.
Look for hills and curves–anything
for which you will have to slow or change
lanes. Pay attention to traffic signals and signs.
Traffic signs may alert you to road conditions
where you may have to change speed.
Seeing Behind and to the Sides
It is important to know what is going on behind
and to the sides. Check your mirrors regularly.
Check more often in special situations.
Every California registered motor vehicle must
have at least two mirrors, including one attached
to the left-hand side, and located to give a clear
view of the roadway to the rear for a distance of at
least 200 feet. Both left- and right-hand rear view
mirrors are required on a motor vehicle which is
constructed or loaded to obscure the driver’s view
to the rear, or which is towing a vehicle or load
which blocks the view (CVC §26709)
Mirror adjustment. Mirror adjustment
be checked prior to the start of any trip and can
only be checked accurately when the trailer(s) are
straight. You should check and adjust each mirror
to show some part of the vehicle. This will give
you a reference point for judging the position of
other images.
How to use mirrors. Use mirrors correctly by
quickly checking them often and understanding
what you see. When you use your mirrors while
driving on the road, check quickly. Look back and
forth between the mirrors and the road ahead. Do
not focus on the mirrors for too long. Otherwise,
you will travel quite a distance without knowing
what is happening ahead.
Many large vehicles have curved (convex,
“fisheye,” “spot,” “bugeye”) mirrors that show a
wider area than flat mirrors. This is often helpful.
But remember, everything appears smaller in a
convex mirror than it would if you were looking
at it directly. Also, things seem farther away than
they really are. It is important to realize this and
to allow for it.
Regular checks. You need to make regular checks
of your mirrors to be aware of traffic and to check
your vehicle.
Traffic checks. Check the mirrors
for vehicles on
either side and in back of you. In an emergency,
you will need to know whether you can make a
quick lane change or stop. Use your mirrors to
spot overtaking vehicles. Remember, there are
blind spots that your mirrors cannot show you.
Check your mirrors regularly to know where other
vehicles are around you and to see if they move
into your blind spots.
Check your vehicle. Use the mirrors to
keep an
eye on your tires; it is one way to spot a tire fire.
Use the mirrors to check open cargo. Look for
loose straps, ropes, or chains. Watch for a flapping
or ballooning tarp.
mirror checks
Special situations. Special situations require more
than regular mirror checks. These are lane changes,
turns, merges, and tight maneuvers.
Lane changes. Check your mirror to make sure
no vehicle is alongside you or about to pass you.
Check your mirrors:
• Before you change lanes, to make sure there is
enough room and signal at least 100 feet before
turning. On the freeway, it is best to signal at
least five seconds before changing lanes.
• After you have signaled, check to see that the
lane is clear and no one has moved into your
blind spot.
• Right after you start the lane change, to double
check that your path is clear.
• After you complete the lane change, to be sure
you turned off your signal lights.
Turns. When turning, check your mirrors to
sure the rear of your vehicle will not hit anything.
Merges. When merging, use your mirrors to
sure the gap in traffic is large enough for you to
enter safely.
Tight maneuvers. Any time you are driving in
close quarters, check your mirrors
often. Make
sure you have enough clearance for any maneuver
you wish to make.
Other drivers do not know what you are going to
do until you tell them.
Signal Your Intentions
what you intend to do is important for
everyone’s safety.
Here are some general rules
for signaling:
Turns. There are three good rules for using turn
1. Signal early. Signal several seconds before
you turn. It is the best way to keep others from
trying to pass you.
Signal continuously.
You need both hands
on the wheel to turn safely. Do not cancel the
signal until you have completed the turn.
Cancel your signal.
Turn the signal off after
you have turned.
Lane changes.
Use your turn signal before changing
lanes. Change lanes slowly and smoothly. That
way a driver you did not see may have a chance
to avoid your vehicle.
Slowing down.
Warn drivers behind you when you
need to slow down. A few light taps on the brake
pedal–enough to flash the brake lights–should
warn following drivers. Use the 4-way flashers
when you are stopped. Warn other drivers in any
of the following situations:
Trouble ahead. The size of your vehicle may
make it hard for drivers behind you to see
hazards ahead of you. If you see a hazard that
will require slowing down,
warn the drivers
behind you by flashing your brake lights.
Tight turns.
Most passenger vehicle drivers
do not know how slow you must go to make
a tight turn in a large vehicle. Give drivers
behind you warning by braking early and
slowing gradually.
Stopping on the road.
Truck and bus drivers
sometimes stop in the road to unload cargo or
passengers or to stop at a railroad crossing.
Warn other drivers by flashing your brake
lights. Do not stop suddenly.
Driving slowly.
Drivers often do not realize
how fast they are catching up to a slow vehicle
until they are very close. If you must drive
slowly, alert following drivers by turning on
your emergency flashers. (Laws regarding
the use of flashers differ from one state to
another. Check the laws of the states where
you will drive).
Don’t direct traffic.
Some drivers try to help out
others by signaling when it is safe to pass. You
should not do this. You could cause a collision
and be held liable for the costs.
Communicating Your Presence
Other drivers may not notice your vehicle even
when it is in plain sight. Let them know you are
there to help prevent collisions.
When passing.
Whenever you are about to pass
a vehicle, pedestrian, motorcyclist, or bicyclist,
assume they do not see you. They could suddenly
move in front of you. When it is legal, tap the
horn lightly or, at night, quickly flash your lights
from low to high beam and back. Drive carefully
enough to avoid a collision even if they don’t see
or hear you.
When it is hard to see. At dawn or dusk or in rain
or snow,
you need to make your vehicle easier to
see. If you are having trouble seeing other vehicles,
other drivers will have trouble seeing you. Turn
on your lights. Use the headlights, not just the
identification or clearance lights. Use the low
beams; high beams can bother people at dawn or
dusk as well as at night.
When parked at the side of the road. When you
pull off the road and stop, be sure to turn on the
4-way flashers. This is very important at night.
Do not trust the taillights to give warning. Drivers
have crashed into the rear of a parked truck because
they thought it was moving
If you must stop on the road or the shoulder of
a road,
put out your reflective triangles within
ten minutes.
Place your warning devices at the
following locations:
• On a two-lane road with traffic in both
directions or on an undivided highway, place
warning devices within ten feet of the front or
rear corners to mark the location of the vehicle
and 100 feet behind and ahead of the vehicle,
on the shoulder or in the lane in which you
stopped. (Figure 2-5)
• On the traffic side of the vehicle, within ten
feet of the front or rear corners, to mark the
location of the vehicle. (Figure 2-5)
• About 100 feet behind and ahead of the
vehicle, on the shoulder or in the lane you are
Back beyond any hill, curve, or other obstruction
that prevents other drivers from seeing the
vehicle within 500 feet. (Figure 2-6)
• If you must stop on or by a one-way or divided
highway, place warning devices 10 feet, 100
feet, and 200 feet toward the approaching
Carry the triangles with the reflective side toward
the oncoming traffic when placing them, for your
own safety. The other drivers will be able to see you.
Use your horn only when needed. Your horn can
let others know you are there and can help avoid
a collision. However, it can also startle others and
could be dangerous if used unnecessarily.
Controlling Speed
Driving too fast is
a major cause of fatal collisions.
You must adjust your speed depending on
several conditions which include: traction, curves,
visibility, traffic, and hills.
Speed and Stopping Distances
There are three things that add up to total stopping
distance: Perception Distance + Reaction Distance
+ Braking Distance = Total Stopping Distance.
Perception distance.
This is the distance
your vehicle moves from the time your eyes
see a hazard until your brain knows it.
Two Lane or Undivided Highway
General Rule:
If line of sight is obstructed due to hill or
move the rear triangle back down the
road, so adequate warning is given.
perception time for an alert driver
is about 3/4
of a second. At 55 mph you travel 60 feet in
3/4 of a second.
Reaction distance.
The distance traveled from
the time your brain tells your foot to move
from the accelerator until your foot is actually
pushing the brake pedal. The average driver
has a reaction time of 3/4 of a second. This
accounts for an additional 60 feet traveled at
55 mph.
Braking distance.
The distance it takes to
stop once the brakes are put on. At 55 mph on
dry pavement with good brakes, it can take a
heavy vehicle about 170 feet to stop. (About
4 and 3/4 seconds.)
Total stopping distance. At 55 mph
it will
take about 6 seconds to stop and your vehicle
will travel about the distance of a football field
(60 + 60 + 170 = 290 feet).
Control and stopping requirements.
The service
brake must hold the vehicle or combination of
vehicles stationary on any grade on which it is
operated under all conditions of loading or unloading
(CVC §26454).
The service brakes of every motor vehicle or
combination of vehicles must be capable of stopping
from an initial speed of 20 mph as follows
Maximum Stopping Distance in feet (MSD):
• Passenger vehicle—25 MSD
• Single motor vehicle with a manufacturer’s
GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds—30 MSD
• Single motor vehicle with a manufacturer’s
GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more, or any
bus—40 MSD
• Combination of vehicles consisting of a
passenger vehicle or any motor vehicle with
a manufacturer’s GVWR of less than 10,000
pounds in combination with any trailer,
semitrailer, or trailer coach—40 MSD
• All other combinations of vehicles—50 MSD
The effect of speed on stopping distance.
faster you drive, the greater the impact or striking
power of your vehicle. When you double your speed
from 20 to 40 mph the impact is 4 times greater.
The stopping distance is also 4 times longer. Triple
the speed from 20 to 60 mph and the impact and
stopping distance is 9 times greater. At 60 mph,
your stopping distance is greater than that of a
football field. Increase the speed to 80 mph and the
impact and stopping distance is 16 times greater
than at 20 mph. High speeds greatly increase the
severity of crashes and stopping distances. By
slowing down, you can reduce stopping distance.
The effect of vehicle weight on stopping distance.
If a vehicle is heavier, brakes have to work harder
(and absorb more heat) to stop. The brakes, tires,
springs, and shock absorbers on heavy vehicles
are designed to work best when the vehicle is fully
loaded. Generally, empty trucks require greater
stopping distances because an empty vehicle has
less traction. It can bounce and lock up its wheels,
giving much poorer braking. (This is not usually
the case with buses.)
Matching Speed to the Road Surface
You cannot steer or brake a vehicle unless you have
traction. Traction is friction between the tires and
the road. These are some of the road conditions
which reduce traction and call for lower speeds
lippery surfaces.
It will take longer to stop and
it will be harder to turn without skidding when the
road is slippery. You must drive slower to be able
to stop in the same distance as on
a dry road. Wet roads can double
the stopping distance. Reduce
speed by about one third (e.g., slow
from 55 mph to about 35 mph) on
a wet road. On packed snow, reduce
speed by half, or more. If the surface is icy, reduce
speed to a crawl and stop driving as soon as you
can safely do so to install chains, if necessary.
Sometimes it is difficult to know if the road is
Shaded areas. Shady parts of the road
remain icy and slippery long after open areas
have melted.
Bridges. When the temperature drops, bridges
will freeze before the road will. Be especially
careful when the temperature is close to 32° F.
Melting ice. Slight melting will make ice wet.
Wet ice is
much more slippery than ice that is
not wet.
Black ice. Black ice is a thin layer that is
so clear
you can see the road underneath it. It makes
the road look wet. Any time the temperature is
below freezing and the road looks wet, watch
out for black ice.
Vehicle icing.
An easy way to check for ice is
to open the window and feel the front of the
mirror, mirror support, or antenna. If there is
ice on the mirror, the road surface is probably
starting to ice up.
Just after rain begins. Right after it starts to
the water mixes with oil left on the road
by vehicles. This makes the road very slippery.
If it continues, it will wash the oil away.
Hydroplaning. In some weather, water or slush
collects on the road.
When this happens, your
vehicle can hydroplane, which means that the
tires lose their contact with the road and have
little or no traction. You may not be able to steer
or brake. You can regain control by releasing the
accelerator and pushing in the clutch. This will slow
your vehicle and let the wheels turn freely. If the
vehicle is hydroplaning, do not use the brakes to
slow down.
If the drive wheels start to skid,
in the clutch to let them turn freely.
It does not take a lot of water to cause hydroplaning.
can occur at speeds as low as 30
mph if there is a lot of water. It is more likely to
occur if tire pressure is low or the tread is worn.
Be especially
careful driving through puddles. Puddles are often
deep enough to cause hydroplaning.
Road surfaces where water can collect can create
conditions that cause a vehicle to hydroplane.
Watch for clear reflections, tire splashes, and
raindrops on the road. These are indicators of
standing water.
Speed and Curves
Drivers must adjust their speed for curves in
the road. If you take a curve too fast, two things
can happen. The tires can lose their traction and
continue straight ahead, so you skid off the road.
Or, the tires may keep their traction and the vehicle
will roll over. Tests have shown that trucks with
a high center of gravity can roll over traveling at
the posted speed limit for the curve.
Speed and Curves
Slow to a safe speed before you enter a curve.
Braking in a curve is dangerous because it is easier
to lock the wheels and cause a skid. Slow down
as needed–never exceed the posted speed limit for
the curve. (The speed zone signs posted at curves
are for smaller vehicles.) Drive in a gear that will
let you accelerate slightly in the curve. This will
help you keep control.
Speed and Distance Ahead
You should always be able
to stop within the
distance you can see ahead. At night, low beams
let you see about 250 feet ahead. During the day,
fog, rain, or other conditions may require that you
slow down to be able to stop in the distance you
can see.
Speed and Traffic Flow
When you are driving in heavy traffic, the safest
speed is that of other vehicles. Vehicles going the
same direction at the same speed are not likely to
run into one another. In California, speed limits
are lower for trucks and buses than for cars. It can
vary as much as 15 mph.
Use extra caution when
you change lanes or pass on these roadways. Drive
at the speed of the traffic, if you can do so without
traveling at an illegal or unsafe speed. Keep a safe
following distance.
The main reason drivers exceed the speed limit is
to save time. But anyone trying to drive faster than
the speed of traffic will not be able to save much
time. The risks involved are not worth it.
Go with
the flow of traffic–
it is safer and easier. If you go
faster than the speed of other traffic:
• You will have to keep passing other vehicles.
This increases the chance of a collision.
• It is more tiring. Fatigue increases the chance
of a collision.
Overtaking or following another vehicle. You
may not overtake and pass another vehicle which
is moving at less than 20 mph on a grade (outside
a business or residential district) unless you can
pass that vehicle at least 10 mph faster than it is
travelling and the pass can be completed within
one quarter mile.
You must not follow the vehicles listed below
any closer than 300 feet. The rule does not apply
during overtaking and passing, when there are two
or more lanes for traffic in each direction, or in
a business or residential district (CVC §21704).
• A motor truck or truck tractor having three or
more axles.
• Any motor truck or truck tractor towing any
other vehicle.
• A passenger vehicle or bus towing any other
• A school bus transporting any school pupil.
• A farm labor vehicle when transporting
• A vehicle transporting explosives.
• A trailer bus.
When large vehicles are being driven in caravan
on the open highway, at least 100 feet must be left
between them to allow other vehicles to overtake
and pass them (CVC §21705).
Speed on Downgrades
Your vehicle’s speed will increase on down grades
because of gravity. Your most important objective
is to select and maintain a speed that is not too
fast for the:
• Total weight of the vehicle and cargo.
• Length and steepness of the grade.
• Road conditions and weather.
If a speed limit is posted, or there is a sign indicating
a maximum safe speed, never exceed the posted
speed. Also look for and heed warning signs
indicating the length and steepness of the grade.
You must use the braking effect of the engine as
the principal way of controlling your speed on
downgrades. The braking effect of the engine is
greatest when it is near the governed rpms and the
transmission is in the lower gears. Save your brakes
so you will be able to slow or stop as required by
road and traffic conditions.
Slow the vehicle and shift your transmission to a
low gear before starting down the grade and use
the proper braking techniques.
Roadway Work Zones
Speeding traffic is the number one cause of injury
and death in roadway work zones. Observe the
posted speed limits at all times when approaching
and driving through a work zone. The speed
limit may be reduced in a work zone. Watch your
speedometer, and don’t allow your speed to creep
up as you drive through long sections of road
construction. Decrease your speed for adverse
weather or road conditions. Decrease your speed
even further when a worker is close to the roadway.
Managing Space
A safe driver keeps space all around the vehicle.
When things go wrong, space gives you time to
think and to take action.
To have space available when something goes
wrong, you need to manage space. While this is
true for all drivers, it is very important for large
vehicles. They take up more space and they require
more space for stopping and turning.
Space Ahead
Of all the space around your vehicle, it is the area
ahead of the vehicle–the space you are driving
into–that is the most important.
The need for space ahead.
You need space ahead
in case you must suddenly stop. According to
collision reports, the vehicle that trucks and buses
most often run into is the one in front of them. The
most frequent cause of collisions is following too
closely. Remember, if the vehicle ahead of you is
smaller than yours, it can probably stop faster than
you can. You may crash into it if you are following
too closely.
How much space? How much space should you
keep in front of you?
One good rule says you need
at least one second for each 10 feet of vehicle length
at speeds below 40 mph. At higher speeds, you
must add one second for safety.
you are driving a 40-foot vehicle, .
you should leave
4 seconds between you and the vehicle ahead. In a
60-foot rig, you will need 6 seconds. Over 40 mph,
you would need 5 seconds for a 40-foot vehicle
and 7 seconds for a 60-foot vehicle
To know how much space you have, wait until
the vehicle ahead passes a shadow on the road, a
pavement marking, or some other obvious landmark.
Then count off the seconds like this: “one
thousand-and-one, one thousand-and-two” and so
on, until you reach the same spot. Compare your
count with the rule of one second for every 10 feet
of length. If you are driving a 40-foot truck and
only counted up to 2 seconds, you are too close.
Drop back a little and count again until you have 4
seconds of following distance (or 5 seconds, if you
are going over 40 mph). After a little practice, you
will know how far back you should be. Remember
to add one second for speeds above 40 mph. Also
remember that when the road is slippery, you need
much more space to stop.
Space Behind
You cannot stop others from following you too
closely. But there are things you can do to make
it safer.
Stay to the right.
Heavy vehicles are often tailgated
when they cannot keep up with the speed of traffic
such as when you are going uphill. If a heavy load
is slowing you down, stay in the right lane if you
can. Going uphill, you should not pass another
slow vehicle unless you can get around it quickly
and safely.
Handle tailgaters safely.
In a large vehicle, it is
often hard to see whether a vehicle is close behind
you. You may be tailgated:
• When you are traveling slowly. Drivers trapped
behind slow vehicles often follow too closely.
• In bad weather many passenger vehicle drivers
follow large vehicles closely, especially when
it is hard to see the road ahead.
If you find yourself being tailgated, here are
some things you can do to reduce the chances of
a collision:
• Avoid quick changes. If you have to slow
down or turn, signal early and reduce speed
very gradually.
• Increase your following distance. Opening up
room in front of you will help you to avoid
Handle tailgaters safely.
having to make sudden speed or direction
changes. It also makes it easier for the tailgater
to get around you.
• Do not speed up. It is safer to be tailgated at a
low speed than a high speed.
• Avoid tricks. Do not turn on your taillights or
flash your brake lights. Follow the suggestions
above to avoid collisions.
When you follow too closely and another driver
“cuts” in front of you, the normal reaction is to
slam on your brakes and swerve out of the way.
Swerving out of the way can often result in cutting
someone else off, possibly driving off the roadway,
or driving into another lane of traffic. It might also
result in the vehicle behind you crashing into you
or other vehicles around you.
If another driver “cuts” in front of you, it is better
to take your foot off the gas. This creates space
between your vehicle and the other driver without
swerving into another lane. Do not overreact if
you are cut off. Plan your emergency escape route
before the emergency happens.
Space to the Sides
Commercial vehicles are often wide and take up
most of a lane. Safe drivers will manage what little
space they have. You can do this by keeping your
vehicle centered in your lane, and avoid driving
alongside other vehicles.
Staying centered in a lane. Keep your vehicle
centered in the lane to keep safe clearance on
either side. If your vehicle is wide, you have little
room to spare.
Traveling next to others.
There are two dangers
in traveling alongside other vehicles:
• Another driver may change lanes suddenly
and turn into you.
• You may be trapped when you need to change
Find an open spot where you are not near other
traffic. When traffic is heavy, it may be hard to find
an open spot. If you must travel near other vehicles,
try to keep as much space as possible between you
and them. Also, drop back or pull forward so that
you are sure the other driver can see you.
Strong winds. Strong winds make it difficult to
stay in your lane. The problem is usually worse for
lighter vehicles. This problem can be especially
bad coming out of tunnels. Do not drive alongside
others if you can avoid it.
Space Overhead
Hitting overhead objects is a danger. Know the
overhead clearance of the vehicle you are driving.
• Do not assume that the heights posted at bridges
and overpasses are correct. Repaving or packed
snow may have reduced the clearances since
the heights were posted.
• The weight of a cargo van changes its height.
An empty van is higher than a loaded one.
Because you cleared a bridge when you were
loaded does not mean that you can do it when
you are empty.
Space Overhead
• If you doubt you have safe space to pass under
an object, go slowly. If you are not sure you
can make it, do not try it. Take another route.
Warnings are often posted on low bridges or
underpasses, but sometimes they are not.
• Some roads can cause a vehicle to tilt. There
can be a problem clearing objects along the
edge of the road, such as signs or trees. Where
this is a problem, drive a little closer to the
center of the road.
• Before you back into an area, get out and check
for overhanging objects such as trees, branches,
electric wires. It is easy to miss seeing them
while you are backing. (Also check for other
hazards at the same time.)
Space Below
Many drivers forget about the space under their
vehicles. That space can be very small when a
vehicle is heavily loaded. Railroad tracks can
stick up several inches. This is often a problem on
dirt roads and in unpaved yards where the surface
around the tracks can wear away. Do not take a
chance on getting hung up. Drainage channels
across roads can cause some vehicles to drag.
Cross such depressions carefully.
Space for Turns
The space around a truck or bus is important when
turning. Because of wide turning and offtracking,
large vehicles can hit other vehicles or objects
during turns.
Right turns. Here are some rules to help prevent
right turn collisions:
• Turn slowly to give
yourself and others
more time to avoid
• If you are driving a truck
or bus that cannot make
a right turn without
swinging into another
lane, turn wide as you
complete the turn as
shown in Figure 2-8.
Keep the rear of your vehicle close to the curb.
This will stop other drivers from passing you
on the right.
• Do not turn wide to the left as you start the turn.
A following driver may think you are turning
left and try to pass you on the right. You may
hit the other vehicle as you complete your turn.
• If you must cross into the oncoming lane to
make a turn, look for vehicles coming toward
you. Give them room to go by or to stop.
However, do not back up for them, because
you might hit someone behind you.
Left turns.
Make sure you have reached the center
of the intersection before you start a left turn. If
you turn too soon, the left side of your vehicle may
hit another vehicle because of offtracking. If you
are turning into a multilane
street, enter any lane that is
safe and available to you.
If there are two turning lanes,
you should use the righthand
turn lane as shown
in Figure 2-9, because you
may have to swing right to
make the turn. Drivers on
your right may be hard for
you to see.
Space to Cross or Enter Traffic
Be aware of the size and weight of your vehicle
when you cross or enter traffic. Here are some
important things to keep in mind:
• Because of slow acceleration and the space
large vehicles require, you need a much larger
gap to enter traffic than you would in a smaller
• Acceleration varies with the load. Allow more
room if your vehicle is heavily loaded.
• Before you start across a road, make sure you
can get all the way across before cross traffic
reaches you. It is against the law to enter an
intersection if you cannot get completely across
before the light changes.
Driving at Night
More than half of all traffic collisions happen at
Drivers cannot see hazards as soon as in
daylight, so they have less time to respond. Drivers
caught by surprise are less able to avoid a collision.
The problems of night driving involve the driver,
the roadway, and the vehicle.
Human Factors
People cannot see as well at night or in
dim light. Also, the eyes need time to adjust to
seeing in dim light.
Glare. Drivers can be blinded for a short time by
bright light. .
It can take several seconds to recover
from glare. Even two seconds of glare blindness
can be dangerous. A vehicle going 55 mph will
travel more than half the distance of a football
field during that time. Do not look directly at bright
lights when driving. Look at the right-hand edge
of the road or your traffic lane
Fatigue and lack of alertness. Fatigue and lack
of alertness
are bigger problems at night. The
body naturally wants to sleep. Most drivers are
less alert at night, especially after midnight. This
is particularly true if you have been driving for a
long time. Drivers may not see hazards as soon
or react as quickly, so the chance of a collision is
greater. If you are sleepy, the only safe cure is to
get off the road and get some sleep. If you don’t,
you risk your life and the lives of others.
Roadway Factors
Poor lighting.
In the daytime, there is usually
enough light to see well. This is not true at night.
Some areas may have bright street lights, but many
areas will have poor lighting. On most roads you
will probably have to depend entirely on your
Roadway Factors
Poor lighting.
Less light means you will not be able to see hazards
as well as in daytime. Road users who do not have
lights are hard to see. There are many collisions
at night involving pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists,
or animals that are hard to see.
Even when there are lights, the road scene can
be confusing. Traffic signals and hazards can be
hard to see against a background of signs, shop
windows, and other lights.
Drivers under the influence. Drivers under the
influence of alcohol and/or drugs
are a hazard to
themselves and to you. Be especially alert around
the closing time of bars and taverns. Watch for
drivers who have trouble staying in their lane, or
maintaining speed, stop without reason, or show
other signs of driving under the influence of alcohol
and/or drugs
Vehicle Factors
Headlights. At night your headlights will usually be
the main source of light for you and for others to see
you. You cannot see as much with your headlights
as you can see in the daytime. With low beams,
you can see ahead about 250 feet and with high
beams about 300–500 feet. You must adjust your
speed to keep your stopping distance within your
sight distance. This means going slowly enough to
be able to stop within the range of your headlights.
Otherwise, by the time you see a hazard, you will
not have time to stop.
Night driving can be more dangerous if you have
problems with your headlights.
Dirty headlights
may give only half the light they should. This
reduces your ability to see, and makes it harder
for others to see you. Make sure your lights are
clean and working, and in adjustment. If out of
adjustment, they do not give you a good view and
they can blind other drivers.
You must turn on your headlights:
• from a half hour after sunset to a half hour
before sunrise, or
• if snow, rain, fog, or other hazardous weather
condition require the use of windshield wipers,
• when visibility is not sufficient to clearly see
a person or a vehicle for a distance of 1,000
feet (CVC §§280 and 24400).
No vehicle may be driven with only parking lights
on. However, they may be used as signals or when
the headlamps are also lighted (CVC §24800).
Other lights. In order for you to be seen easily,
the following must be clean and working
(CVC §25100):
• Reflectors.
• Marker and clearance lights.
• Taillights.
• Identification lights.
Turn signals and brake lights. At night your turn
signals and brake lights
are even more important
for telling other drivers what you intend to do.
Make sure you have clean, working turn signals
and stop lights.
Windshields and mirrors.
It is more important at
night than in the daytime to have clean windshields
and mirrors. Dirt on your windshield or mirrors can
cause bright lights at night to create a glare of its
own, blocking your view. Clean your windshield
on the inside and outside for safe driving.
Night Driving Procedures
Make sure you are rested and alert. If you are
drowsy, sleep before you drive. Even a nap can
save your life or the lives of others. If you wear eye
glasses, make sure they are clean and unscratched.
Don’t wear sun glasses at night. Do a complete
pre-trip inspection of your vehicle. Pay attention
to checking all lights and reflectors and cleaning
those you can reach.
Avoid blinding others. Glare from your headlights
can cause problems for drivers coming toward you
as well as drivers going in your direction. Dim your
lights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle and
when following another vehicle within 300 feet.
Avoid glare from oncoming vehicles.
Do not
look directly at lights of oncoming vehicles. Look
slightly to the right at a right lane or edge marking,
if available. If other drivers don’t put their low
beams on, don’t try to “get back at them” by putting
your own high beams on. This increases glare for
oncoming drivers and increases the chance of a
Use high beams when you can. Many drivers
make the mistake of always using low beams. This
cuts down on your ability to see ahead. Use high
when it is safe and legal to do so. Use them
unless you are within 500 feet of an approaching
vehicle or are following another vehicle within 300
feet. Also, don’t let the inside of your cab get too
bright. This makes it harder to see outside. Keep
the interior light off and adjust your instrument
lights as low as you can and still be able to read
the gauges.
If you get sleepy, stop driving. People often do
not realize how close they are to falling asleep. If
you look or feel sleepy, stop driving! You are in
a very dangerous condition.
The only safe cure
is to sleep.
Driving in Fog
The best advice for driving in fog is
“Don’t.” It is better to pull off the road into a rest area or truck
stop, if available, until visibility is better. If you
must drive, be sure to consider the following:
• Assume the fog will become thicker after you
enter it.
• Obey all fog-related warning signs.
• Slow before you enter fog.
• Turn on all your lights. (Headlights should be
on low beams.)
• Be prepared for emergency stops.
Driving in Winter
Make sure your vehicle is ready for driving in
winter weather.
During the pre-trip inspection.
Vehicle Checks
Coolant level and antifreeze. Make sure the cooling
system is full and there is enough antifreeze in
the system to protect against freezing. This can be
checked with a special coolant tester.
Defrosting and heating equipment.
Check to
see if the defrosters and heaters work. They are
needed for safe driving. Make sure you know
how to operate them. If you use other heaters and
expect to need them (mirror heaters, battery box
heaters, fuel tank heaters), check their operation.
Wipers and washers. The windshield wiper blades
must be in good condition. Make sure the wiper
blades press against the window hard enough to
wipe the windshield clean of snow. Make sure the
windshield washer works and the washer reservoir
is full. Use windshield washer antifreeze to prevent
freezing of the washer liquid. If you can’t see well
enough while driving (i.e., your wipers fail), stop
safely and fix the problem.
Tires. Check the tread on your tires. The drive
tires m
ust provide traction to push the rig over wet
pavement and through snow. The steering tires must
have traction to steer the vehicle. Enough tread is
especially important in winter conditions. You must
have at least 4/32 inch tread depth in every major
groove on the front tires and at least 2/32 inch on
other tires. More would be better. Use a gauge to
determine if you have enough tread for safe driving.
Tire chains.
You may find yourself in conditions
where you can’t drive without chains, even to get
to a place of safety. Carry the correct number of
chains and extra cross links. Make sure they will
fit your drive tires. Check the chains for broken
hooks, worn or broken cross links, and bent or
broken side chains. Learn how to put the chains
on before you need to do it in snow or ice.
Lights and reflectors. .
Make sure the lights and
reflectors are clean. Lights and reflectors are
especially important during bad weather. Check
from time to time during bad weather to make sure
they are clean and working
Windows and mirrors.
Remove any ice, snow,
etc. from the windshield, windows, and mirrors
before starting. Use a windshield scraper, snow
brush, and windshield defroster as necessary.
Handholds, steps, and deck plates.
Remove all
ice and snow from hand holds, steps, and deck
plates which you must use to enter the cab or
to move about the vehicle. This will reduce the
danger of slipping.
Radiator shutters and winterfront.
ice from the radiator shutters. Make sure the
winterfront is not closed too tightly. If the shutters
freeze shut or the winterfront is closed too much,
the engine may overheat and stop.
Exhaust system. Exhaust system leaks
especially dangerous when cab ventilation is poor
(windows rolled up, etc.). Loose connections can
permit poisonous carbon monoxide to leak into
your cab which will make you sleepy. In large
amounts, it can kill you. Check the exhaust system
for loose parts and for sounds and signs of leaks.
Driving on Slippery Surfaces
Slippery surfaces.
Drive slowly and smoothly on
slippery roads. If it is very slippery, you shouldn’t
drive at all. Stop at the first safe place. The following
are some safety guidelines:
• Start gently and slowly. When first starting,
get the feel of the road. Do not hurry.
Adjust turning and braking to conditions.
Make turns as carefully as possible. Do not
brake any harder than necessary and do not use
the engine brake or speed retarder. (They can
cause the driving wheels to skid on slippery
Adjust speed to conditions.
Do not pass
slower vehicles unless necessary. Go slowly
and watch far enough ahead to keep a steady
speed. Avoid having to slow down and speed
up. Take curves at slower speeds and do not
brake while in curves. Be aware that as the
temperature rises to the point where ice begins
to melt, the road becomes even more slippery
and you must slow down even more.
Adjust space to conditions.
Do not drive
alongside other vehicles. Keep a greater following
distance. When you see a traffic jam
ahead, slow down or stop and wait for it to
clear. Try to anticipate stops early and slow
down gradually.
Wet brakes. When driving in heavy rain or deep
standing water, your brakes will get wet. Water on
the brakes can cause the brakes to be weak, apply
unevenly, or grab.
This can cause lack of braking
power, wheel lockups, pulling to one side or the
other, and a jackknife if you pull a trailer.
Avoid driving through deep puddles or flowing
water, if possible.
If you cannot, you should:
• Slow down.
• Place transmission in a low gear.
• Gently put on the brakes. This presses linings
against brake drums or discs and keeps mud,
silt, and water from getting in.
• Increase engine rpm and cross the water while
keeping light pressure on the brakes.
• When out of the water, maintain light pressure
on the brakes for a short distance to heat them
up and dry them out.
CAUTION: Brake drums and linings can
overheat if you do this for too long.
• Make a test stop when safe to do so. Check
your mirrors to be sure no one is following, then
apply the brakes to be sure they are working.
If not, dry out further as described above.
Driving in Very Hot Weather
During the pre-trip inspection, pay special attention
to the following items:
Tires. Check the tire mounting and air pressure.
Inspect the tires for overheating and tread separation
every two hours or 100 miles when driving
in very hot weather. Air pressure increases with
temperature. Do not let air out or the pressure will
be too low when the tires cool off. If a tire is too
hot to touch, remain stopped until the tire cools
off. Otherwise, the tire may blow out or catch fire.
Pay special attention to recapped or retreaded tires.
Under high temperatures, the tread may separate
from the body of the tire.
Engine oil. The engine oil helps keep the engine
cool, as well as lubricating it.
Make sure there is
enough engine oil. If you have an oil temperature
gauge, make sure the temperature is within the
proper range while you are driving.
Engine coolant. Before starting out, be sure the
engine cooling system has
enough water and
antifreeze according to the engine manufacturer’s
directions. Antifreeze helps the engine under hot
conditions, as well as cold conditions. When driving
in hot weather, check the water temperature
or coolant temperature gauge more frequently.
Make sure it remains in the normal range. If the
gauge goes above the highest safe temperature,
there may be something wrong that could lead to
engine failure and possibly fire. Stop driving as
soon as safely possible.
Some vehicles have sight glasses, see-through
coolant overflow containers, or coolant recovery
containers which permit checking coolant level
while the engine is hot. If the container is not part
of the pressurized system, the cap can be safely
removed and coolant added even when the engine
is at operating temperature. Never remove the
radiator cap or any part of the pressurized
system until the system has cooled. Steam and
boiling water can spray under pressure and cause
severe burns.
- 45 -
If coolant has to be added to a system without a
recovery tank or overflow tank, follow these steps:
• Shut engine off.
• Wait until engine has cooled.
• Protect hands (use gloves or a thick cloth).
• Turn radiator cap slowly to the first stop, which
releases the pressure seal.
• Step back while pressure is released from
cooling system.
• When all pressure has been released, press
down on the cap and turn it further to remove it.
• Visually check level of coolant.
• Replace cap and turn all the way to the closed
Engine belts. Learn how to check V-belt tightness
on your vehicle by pressing on the belts. Loose belts
will not turn the water pump and/or fan properly.
This will result in overheating. Also check belts
for cracking or other signs of wear.
Be sure the coolant hoses are in good
condition because a broken hose can lead to engine
failure and even fire.
Watch for bleeding tar. Tar in road surfacing
frequently rises to the surface in very hot weather.
Spots where tar “bleeds” to the surface are very
Go slow to prevent overheating.
High speeds
create more heat for tires and engine. In desert
conditions, the heat may build up to the point where
it is dangerous. The heat will increase chances of
tire failure, tire fire, and engine failure.
Mountain Driving
In mountain driving,
the force of gravity plays
a major role. The steeper the grade, the longer
the grade, and/or the heavier the load, the more
you will have to use lower gears to climb hills
or mountains. In going down steep hills, gravity
will tend to speed you up. You must select an
appropriate safe speed, then use a low gear and
proper braking techniques. You should plan ahead
and obtain information about any long steep grades
along your planned route of travel. If possible, talk
to other drivers who are familiar with the grades
to find out what speeds are safe.
You must go slowly enough so your brakes can
hold you back without getting too hot. If the brakes
become too hot, they may start to “fade.” This
means you have to apply them harder and harder
to get the same stopping power. If you continue
to use the brakes hard, they can keep fading (have
less stopping power) until you cannot slow down
or stop at all.
Select a “Safe” Speed
Your most important consideration is to select a
speed that is not too fast for the:
• Total weight of the vehicle and cargo.
• Length and steepness of the grade.
• Road conditions and weather.
If a speed limit is posted, or there is a sign indicating
maximum safe speed, never exceed the speed
shown. Also, look for and heed warning signs
indicating the length and steepness of the grade
Going Downhill in the Correct Gear
Use the braking effect of the engine as the principal
way of controlling your speed. The braking effect of
the engine is greatest when it is near the governed
rpms and the transmission is in the lower gears.
Save your brakes so you will be able to slow or
stop as required by road and traffic conditions.
Slow the vehicle and shift the transmission to a low
gear before starting down the grade. Do not try to
downshift after your speed has already built up.
You will not be able to shift into a lower gear. You
may not even be able to get back into any gear and
all engine braking effect will be lost. Forcing an
automatic transmission into a lower gear at high
speed could damage the transmission also and lead
to loss of all engine braking effect.
With older trucks, a rule for choosing gears is to
use the same gear going down a hill that you would
need to climb the hill. However, new trucks have
low friction parts and streamlined shapes for fuel
economy. They may also have more powerful
engines. This means they can go up hills in higher
gears and have less friction and air drag to hold them
back going down hills. For that reason, drivers of
newer trucks may have to use lower gears going
down a hill than needed to go up the hill. Find out
what is right for your vehicle.
Brake Fade or Failure
When going downhill, brakes will always heat
They are designed so brake shoes or pads rub
against the brake drum or discs to slow the vehicle,
which creates heat. Brakes are designed to take a lot
of heat. However, brakes can fail from excessive
heat if you try to slow down from a high speed too
many times or too quickly. Brakes will fade when
they get very hot and may not slow the vehicle.
Brakes also can fade because they are out of adjustment.
To safely control a vehicle, every brake must
do its share of the work. If some brakes are out
of adjustment, they will not be doing their share.
The other brakes can overheat and fade and there
will not be enough braking available to control
the vehicle(s). Brakes can get out of adjustment
quickly, especially when they are used a lot; also,
brake linings wear faster when they are hot. Check
brake adjustment frequently.
Proper Braking Technique
Remember: The use of brakes on a long and/
or steep downgrade is only a supplement to the
braking effect of the engine.
Once the vehicle is
in the proper low gear, the following is a proper
braking technique:
• Apply the brakes just hard enough to feel a
definite slowdown.
• When your speed has been reduced to approximately
5 mph below your “safe” speed,
release the brakes. (This brake application
should last for about three seconds.)
• When your speed has increased to your “safe”
speed, repeat the steps above.
For example, if your “safe” speed is 40 mph, you
would not apply the brakes until your speed reaches
40 mph. You now apply the brakes hard enough to
gradually reduce your speed to 35 mph and then
release the brakes. Repeat this as often as necessary
until you have reached the end of the downgrade.
Escape Ramps
Escape ramps have been built on many steep mountain
and are used to stop runaway vehicles
safely without injuring drivers and passengers.
Escape ramps use a long bed of loose, soft material
(pea gravel or sand) to slow a runaway vehicle,
sometimes in combination with an upgrade.
Know escape ramp locations on your route. Signs
show drivers where ramps are located. Escape
ramps save lives, equipment, and cargo.
Railroad Crossi ngs
Railroad crossings
are always dangerous. You
must approach every railroad crossing expecting
to see a train coming.
The round, black-on-yellow warning sign is placed
ahead of a public railroad-highway crossing. The
advanced warning sign tells you to slow down,
look and listen for the train, and be prepared to
stop before the tracks if a train is coming.
Never attempt to race a train to a crossing.
It is
extremely difficult to judge the speed of an approaching
Your speed should be based on your ability to see
whether a train is approaching from any direction.
You should be driving slowly enough so you can
stop short of the tracks in case of an emergency.
Because of noise in the cab, you cannot expect to
hear the train horn until the train is dangerously
close to the crossing.
Do not rely solely upon the presence of
signals, gates, or flagmen to warn of approaching
Double tracks require a double check. Remember
that a train on one track may hide a train on the
other track. Look both ways before crossing. After
one train has cleared a crossing, be sure no other
trains are near before starting across the tracks.
Train yard areas and grade crossings in cities and
towns are just as dangerous as rural grade crossings.
Approach them with care.
Typical Passenger Transport Vehicle Inspection Guide
STEP 1: Engine Compartment
Belts and hoses
STEP 2: Front of Vehicle
Lights and reflectors
Typical Passenger Transport Vehicle Inspection Guide
STEP 3: Right Front Corner
General condition
Right front wheel
Right outside mirror
Front passenger door
STEP 4: Right Side of Vehicle
General condition
Lights and reflectors
Exit doors
Fuel cap
Fuel tank
Exterior body
Baggage compartment doors
Right rear wheels
STEP 5: Rear of Vehicle
General condition
Lights and reflectors
Engine cover and inspection doors
Bellows level
Fluid leaks
STEP 6: Left Side of Vehicle
General condition
Lights and reflectors
Exterior body
Left rear wheels
Battery box
STEP 7: Left Front Corner
General condition
Left front wheel
Left outside mirror
STEP 8: Inside the Vehicle
Fire extinguisher (if applicable)
Emergency reflectors (if applicable)
Passenger entry and exit door
Emergency exits
Interior lights
Rear door interlock (if applicable)
STEP 9: Operator’s Cab
Service brakes Gauges
Parking brakes Horn
Steering Mechanism Wiper operation
Wheel chair lift & Mirrors
tie downs (if applicable) Turn signals
Driver’s seat belt Lights
Passenger signals Heater/defroster
Radio/PA system Sun visors
Destination signs
STEP 10: In Cab Brake Check
Headlights, Signal &
Clearance Lights
Entry Area
Front Suspension &
Engine Start
Passenger Items
Front Wheel
Fuel Tank Area
Rear Wheels
Signal, Brake, and Clearance Lights
Typical Truck or Combination Vehicle Inspection Guide
STEP 1: Engine Compartment
Belts and hoses
STEP 2: Left Side of Cab Area
Left front wheel
Left front suspension
Left front brake
STEP 3: Front of Cab Area
Front axle
Condition of Steering system
Light and reflectors
STEP 4: Right Side of Cab Area
All items as done on left side of cab area
STEP 5: Fuel tank(s)
Visible parts
STEP 6: Trailer Front Area
Air and electrical lines and connections
Lights and reflectors
STEP 7: Right Rear Tractor Wheels Area
Dual wheels
Tandem axles
Typical Truck or Combination Vehicle Inspection Guide
STEP 8: Rear of Tractor Area
Frame and cross members
Lights and reflectors
Air and electrical lines and connections
STEP 9: Coupling System Area
Fifth-wheel (lower)
Fifth-wheel (upper)
Sliding fifth-wheel
Air and electrical lines and connections
STEP 10: Right Side of Trailer Area
Front trailer support (landing gear or dollies)
Spare tire(s)
Lights and reflectors
Frame and body
STEP 11: Right Rear Trailer Wheels Area
Dual tires Suspension
Tandem axles
STEP 12: Rear of Trailer Area
Lights and reflectors
Cargo securement
STEP 13: Left Rear Trailer Wheels Area
STEP 14: Left Side of Trailer Area
STEP 15: Left Saddle Tank Area
STEP 16: In Cab Brake Checks
Headlights, Signal &
Clearance Lights
Front Suspension
Front Wheel
Front Brake
Cab Area
Saddle Tank Area
Coupling System
Rear Tractor Wheels
Side of Trailer
Trailer Wheels
Start Engine
Signal, Brake, and
Clearance Lights
• Look for broken seat frames and check that
seat frames are firmly attached to the floor.
• Check that seat cushions are attached securely
to the seat frames.
Remember: The pre-trip test must be passed before
you can proceed to the skills test.
Emergency Exit
• Make sure that all emergency exits are not
damaged, operate smoothly, and close securely
from the inside.
• Make sure that any exterior or interior locking
devices, if equipped, are not “locked” and that
the door is free to open.
• Check that any emergency exit warning devices
are working.
Passenger Entry/Lift
• Check that the entry door is not damaged,
operates smoothly, and closes securely from
the inside.
• Hand rails are secure and the step light is
working, if equipped.
• The entry steps must be clear with the treads
not loose or worn excessively.
• If equipped with a handicap lift, look for leaking,
damaged, or missing parts and explain how
lift should be checked for correct operation. Lift
must be fully retracted and latched securely.
Make sure the lift door warning device is
activated when the door is open.
Stop Arm
• If equipped, check the stop arm to see that it is
mounted securely to the frame of the vehicle.
Also, check for loose fittings and damage.
• In addition to checking the lights and reflective
devices, school bus drivers must also check
the following (external) lights and reflectors:
— strobe light, if equipped
— stop arm light, if equipped
— alternately flashing amber lights, if
— alternately flashing red lights
Lighting Indicators
• In addition to checking the lighting indicators
listed in Section 11 of this handbook, school bus
drivers must also check the following lighting
indicators (internal panel lights):
— alternately flashing amber lights indicator,
if equipped
— alternately flashing red lights indicator
— strobe light indicator, if equipped
School Buses Only
Emergency Equipment
• In addition to checking for spare electrical
fuses, if equipped, three red reflective triangles,
and a properly charged and rated fire extinguisher,
school bus drivers must also inspect
the following emergency equipment:
— three red-burning flares (fusees) or three
bidirectional emergency reflective triangles
(FMVSS 125)
— a first aid kit consisting of 10–24 items,
depending on the number of passengers
• Wherever located, see that battery(ies) is
secure, connections are tight, and cell caps
are present.
• Battery connections should not show signs of
excessive corrosion.
• Check that battery box and cover or door is
not damaged and is secure.
• Check that baggage and all other exterior
compartment doors are not damaged, operate
properly, and latch securely.
Fuel Tank(s)
• See that fuel tank(s) is secure with no leaks
from tank(s) or lines.
Level/Air Leaks
• See that the vehicle is sitting level (front to
rear), and if air-equipped, check for audible
air leaks from the suspension system
• Check that entry/exit doors are not damaged
and operate smoothly from the outside. Hinges
should be secure with seals intact.
• Make sure that the passenger exit mirrors and
all external mirrors and mirror brackets are
not damaged and are mounted securely with
no loose fittings.
Passenger Seating
• Look for broken seat frames and check that
seat frames are firmly attached to the floor.
• Check that seat cushions are attached securely
to the seat frames.
Emergency Exits
• Make sure that all emergency exits are undamaged,
operate smoothly, and close securely
from the inside.
• Check that any emergency exit warning devices
are working.
Passenger Entry/Lift
• Check that entry doors operate smoothly and
close securely from the inside.
• Check that hand rails are secure and, if
equipped, that the step light(s) is working.
• Check that the entry steps are clear, with the
treads not loose or worn excessively.
• If equipped with a handicap lift, look for any
leaking, damaged, or missing part and explain
how it should be checked for correct operation.
• Lift should be fully retracted and latched
• Make sure the lift control interlock(s) functions
Remainder of Trailer
• Please refer to earlier pages of this handbook
for detailed inspection procedures regarding
the following components:
— wheels
— suspension system
— brakes
— doors/ties/lift
— splash guards
Tandem Release Arm/Locking Pins
• If equipped, make sure the locking pins are
locked in place and release arm is secured.
• Look for cracks, broken welds, holes or other
damage to the frame, cross members, box,
and floor.
• If equipped, check that doors are not damaged.
Check that doors open, close, and latch properly
from the outside.
• Check that ties, straps, chains, and binders
are secure.
• If equipped with a cargo lift, look for leaking,
damaged or missing parts, and explain how it
should be checked for correct operation.
• Lift should be fully retracted and latched
Side of Trailer
Landing Gear
• Check that the landing gear is fully raised, has
no missing parts, crank handle is secure, and
the support frame is not damaged.
• If power operated, check for air or hydraulic
Header Board
• If equipped, check the header board to see that
it is secure, free of damage, and strong enough
to contain cargo.
• If equipped, the canvas or tarp carrier must be
mounted and fastened securely.
• On enclosed trailers, check the front area for
signs of damage such as cracks, bulges, or holes.
Front of Trailer
Air/Electrical Connections
• Check that trailer air connectors are sealed and
in good condition.
• Make sure glad hands are locked in place and
free of damage or air leaks.
• Make sure the trailer electrical plug is firmly
seated and locked in place.
Sliding Fifth-Wheel Locking Pins/Sliding
• If equipped, look for loose or missing pins in
the slide mechanism of the sliding fifth-wheel.
If air powered, check for leaks.
• Make sure locking pins are fully engaged.
• Check that the fifth-wheel is positioned properly
so the tractor frame will clear the landing
gear during turns.
• If equipped, check that the sliding pintle is
secured, that there are no loose or missing
nuts or bolts, and that the cotter pin is in place.
Kingpin/Apron/Gap/Tongue Drawbar
• Check that the kingpin is not bent.
• Make sure the visible part of the apron is not
bent, cracked, or broken.
• Check that the trailer is laying flat on the
fifth-wheel skid plate (no gap).
• Check that the tongue/drawbar is not bent or
twisted. Check for broken welds and stress
• Check that the tongue/drawbar eye is not worn
Release Arm (Fifth-Wheel)
• If equipped, make sure the release arm is in
the engaged position and the safety latch is in
place. Check to see if the hitch release lever
is in place and secure.
Platform (Fifth-Wheel) (Pintle Hook)
• Check for cracks or breaks in the platform
structure which supports the fifth-wheel skid
• Check the pintle hook for cracks, breaks, or
excessive wear.
Safety Latch/Locking Jaws/Safety Devices
• Look into fifth-wheel gap and check that locking
jaws are fully closed around the kingpin.
• Check that the latch is secured and locked in
place and that the cotter pin is not missing, is
in place, and not damaged.
• Safety chains must be hooked and crisscrossed,
free of kinks and excessive slack, cotter pins
to hooks are in place and hooks are secured
with the hooks pointing in an outward position.
• If trailer is equipped with electric brakes, check
that the breakaway chains or cables with battery
back up are not missing or damaged.
• On other types of coupling systems (i.e., ball
hitch, drawbar/eye, etc.), inspect the locking
mechanism for missing or broken parts and
make sure it is locked securely. If present,
safety cables or chains must be secure and free
of kinks and excessive slack.
Mounting Bolts
• Check for loose or missing mounting brackets,
clamps, bolts, or nuts. Both the fifth-wheel and
the slide mounting must be solidly attached.
• On other types of coupling systems (e.g., ball
hitch, pintle hook, etc.), inspect all coupling
components and mounting brackets for missing
or broken parts.
• Check for loose or missing mounting bolts.
Look for broken welds on the pintle hook,
or other hitch mount, and tongue/drawbar
assembly to be sure they are solidly attached
in place.
Catwalk/Tongue Storage Area
• Check that the catwalk is solid, clear of objects,
and securely bolted to tractor frame.
• Check that the storage area is solid and secured
to the tongue.
• Cargo in the storage area (i.e., chains, binders,
etc.) must be secured.
Air/Electric Lines
• Listen for air leaks. Check that air hoses and
electrical lines are not cut, chafed, spliced, or
worn (steel braid should not show through).
• Make sure air and electrical lines are not
tangled, pinched, or dragging against tractor
• Check that doors and hinges are not damaged
and that they open, close, and latch properly
from the outside, if equipped.
• Ties, straps, chains, and binders must also be
• If equipped with a cargo lift, look for leaking,
damaged or missing parts, and explain how it
should be checked for correct operation.
• Lift must be fully retracted and latched securely.
Rear of Vehicle
Splash Guards
• If equipped, check that splash guards or mud
flaps are not damaged and are mounted securely,
not dragging on ground, or rubbing tires.
Condition of Visible Parts
• Rear of engine not leaking
• Transmission not leaking
• Air lines and electrical wiring secured against
sagging, rubbing, or wearing.
• Spare tire carrier or rack not damaged (if so
• Spare tire and/or wheel securely mounted in
rack (if so equipped).
• Spare tire and wheel adequate (proper size,
properly inflated, and in good condition).
• Look for cracks, bends, aftermarket welds,
or holes to longitudinal frame members and
cross members.
Exhaust System
• Check system for damage and signs of leaks
such as rust or carbon soot.
• System should be connected tightly and
mounted securely.
• Exhaust system should not have excessive
noise when engine is running.
Drive Shaft
• See that drive shaft is not bent or cracked.
• Couplings should be secure and free of foreign
Fuel Tank
• Check that tank(s) are secure, cap(s) are tight,
and that there are no leaks from tank(s) and
fuel cap(s).
Side of Vehicle
• Check that door(s) are not damaged and that
they open and close properly.
• Hinges should be secure with seals intact.
• Check that mirror(s) are clean, mirror brackets
are not damaged, and mirrors are mounted
securely with no loose attachments.
• Windows are clean and work properly.
• If equipped, check that spacers are not bent,
damaged, or rusted through.
• Spacers should be evenly centered, with the
dual wheels and tires evenly separated.
• No debris between dual tires.
Note: Be prepared to perform the same
wheel inspection on every axle (power unit
and trailer, if equipped).
Lug Nuts
• Check that all lug nuts are present, free of
cracks and distortions, and show no signs of
looseness such as rust trails or shiny threads.
• Make sure all bolt holes are not cracked or
Hub Oil Seals/Axle Seals
• See that hub oil/grease seals and axle seals are
not leaking and, if wheel has a sight glass, oil
level is adequate.
• The following items must be inspected on
every tire:
— tread depth: Check for minimum tread
depth (4/32 inch on steering axle tires, 2/32
inch on all other tires).
— tire condition: Check that tread is evenly
worn and look for cuts or other damage
to tread or sidewalls. Also, make sure that
valve caps and stems are not missing,
broken, or damaged.
— tire inflation: Check for proper inflation by
using a tire gauge, or inflation by striking
tires with a mallet or other similar device.
— tires same size. Duals not touching and
nothing stuck between them.
— tires same type (not mixed radial and bias).
Front tires for buses cannot be recapped,
retreaded, or regrooved.
Note: You will not get credit if you simply
kick the tires to check for proper inflation.
Rims, Rim Locks, or Slide Ring
• Check for damaged or bent wheels or rims.
• Wheels cannot have welding repairs.
• Check that there are no rust trails that would
indicate the wheel is loose.
Brake Linings
• Brake linings, where visible, should not be
worn down dangerously thin.
Note: Be prepared to perform the same
brake components inspection on every
axle (power unit and trailer, if equipped.)
Brake Drums
• Check for cracks or damage. Also check for
loose or missing bolts.
• Check for contaminants such as grease or oil
on drums and linings.
Brake Hoses/Lines
• Look for cracked, worn, or leaking hoses, lines,
and couplings.
Brake Chambers
• See that brake chambers are not leaking,
cracked, dented, and are mounted securely.
• See that there are no loose or missing clamps.
Slack Adjustors/Push-Rod
• Check slack adjuster is securely mounted.
• Look for broken, loose, or missing parts.
• When the brakes are applied, the push rod
from the brake chamber should not move more
than two inches. (It is also acceptable to state
that the angle between the push rod and the
adjustor arm should be a little over 90° when
the brakes are released, and not less than 90°
when the brakes are applied.)
Shock Absorbers
• See that shock absorbers are secure and that
there are no leaks.
Note: Be prepared to perform the same suspension
components inspection on every axle (power unit
and trailer, if equipped).
• Look for cracked or broken spring hangers,
missing or damaged bushings, and broken,
loose, or missing bolts, U-bolts, or other axle
mounting parts.
• Look for missing, shifted, cracked, or broken
leaf springs (if 1/4 or more are missing or
broken, it will put the vehicle out of service).
• Look for broken or distorted coil springs.
• If vehicle is equipped with torsion bars, torque
arms, or other types of suspension components,
check that they are not damaged and are
mounted securely.
• Air ride suspension should be checked for
damage and leaks.
• Axles secure
• If retractable axle equipped, check condition of
lift mechanism. If air powered, check for leaks.
Steering Linkage
• See that connecting links, arms, and rods from
the steering box to the wheel are not worn or
• Check that joints and sockets are not worn or
loose and that there are no missing nuts, bolts,
or cotter keys.
Steering Box/Hoses
• Check that the steering box is securely mounted
and not leaking. Look for any missing nuts,
bolts, and cotter keys.
• Check for power steering fluid leaks or damage
to power steering hoses.
External Inspection (Buses,
Trucks, Tractors)
• Check that all external lights and reflective
equipment are clean and functional. Light and
reflector checks include:
— clearance lights (red on rear, amber
— headlights (high and low beams)
— sidemarker lights
— taillights
— turn signals (left and right)
— 4-way flashers
— brake lights
— red reflectors (on rear) and amber reflectors
— license plate light(s)
Note: Checks of brake, turn signal, and 4-way
flasher functions must be done separately.
Seat Belts
• Check that the seat belt is securely mounted,
and adjusts and latches properly.
• Check that belt is not ripped or frayed.
Air Brake Check (for air brake equipped
vehicles only)
Refer to Section 5,
“In-Cab Air Brake Check”
for DMV pre-trip testing. All items marked with
an asterisk (*) are required during the pre-trip
test. These items must be demonstrated and the
parameters verbalized to receive credit. Failure to
perform these air brakes tests correctly will result in
an automatic disqualification for the entire pre-trip
portion of the test.
Hydraulic Brake Check
• Pump the brake pedal three times, then hold it
down for five seconds. The brake pedal should
not move during the five seconds.
• If equipped with a hydraulic brake reserve
system, with the key off, depress the brake
pedal and listen for the sound of the reserve
system electric motor.
• If equipped with a “Hydro—Boost” brake
system, release the parking brake and with the
engine off, depress and release the brake pedal
several times to deplete all hydraulic pressure.
Depress and hold the brake pedal with light
pressure (15–25 lbs) then start the engine and
run it at idle speed. If the Hydro—Boost is
operating, the pedal will yield slightly to foot
pressure and then hold. Less pressure is required
to hold the pedal at this position.
• Check that the warning buzzer or light is off.
Service Brake/ABS Brake Test
• Demonstrate the service brakes are working
properly by driving forward at 5 mph and
applying the service brake to see if the vehicle
pulls to one side or the other.
• Check the ABS lighting indicator illuminates
and then promptly turns off.
• Check the ABS light on the rear driver’s side
on the trailer. (Combination vehicles only.)
Parking Brake Check
• Fasten your seat belt.
• Check the parking brake holds the vehicle
in place by trying to drive forward with the
parking brake engaged. (Trailer brakes released
on combination vehicles.)
• Check the trailer parking brake holds the
vehicle by trying to drive forward with the
trailer parking brake engaged. (Parking brake
released and the trailer parking brake engaged
on combination vehicles.)
• Test that the heater and defroster work.
• Check that air horn and/or electric horn work.
Lighting Indicators
• Test that dash indicators work when corresponding
lights are turned on:
— left and right turn signals
— 4-way emergency flashers
— high beam headlight
• Check that wiper arms and blades are secure,
not damaged, and operate smoothly.
• Power steering:
With the engine running,
check for excessive play by turning the steering
wheel back and forth. Play should not exceed
10 percent (about two inches on a 20-inch
wheel) before front left wheel barely moves.
Steering Play
• Non-power steering:
Check for excessive
play by turning steering wheel back and forth.
Play should not exceed 10 percent (about two
inches on a 20-inch wheel).
Steering Wheel
• Check for looseness, sticking, or damage.
Check Optional Emergency Equipment
• Tire chains (where winter conditions require
• Tire changing equipment
• List of emergency phone numbers
• Collision reporting kit (packet)
Emergency Equipment
• Check for spare electrical fuses.
• Check for three red reflective triangles.
• Check for a properly charged and rated fire
Mirrors and Windshield
• Mirrors should be clean and adjusted properly
from the inside.
• Windshield should be clean with no illegal
stickers, no obstructions, or damage to the glass.
• If equipped, check that the windshield washer
operates correctly.
Air Gauge
• Check that the air gauge is working properly and
that the air compressor builds the air pressure to
the governor cut-out at no higher than 130 psi.
Oil Temperature Gauge
• Check that gauge begins gradual rise to normal
operating range.
• Start vehicle.
• Check that gauges show alternator and/or
generator is charging or that warning light is off.
Coolant Temperature Gauge
• Start vehicle.
• Make sure the temperature gauge is working.
• Temperature should begin to climb to the
normal operating range or temperature light
should be off.
Oil Pressure Gauge
• Start vehicle.
• Make sure oil pressure gauge is working.
• Check that pressure gauge shows increasing or
normal oil pressure or that the warning light
goes off.
• If equipped, oil temperature gauge should begin
a gradual rise to the normal operating range.
automatic transmissions).
• Start engine, then release clutch slowly.

• Accelerator checked for looseness, sticking,

or damage.

• Listen for unusual engine noises.
Safe Start
• Make sure the parking brake is set.

• Depress clutch.

• Place gearshift lever in neutral (or park, for
Get in and start the engine.
Cab Check/Engine Start

Note: Ensure engine compartment hood is closed

and latched. Cab-over-primary and safety locks

Check and identify the following belts for

snugness, cracks, frays, or excessive wear:
— power steering belt

— water pump belt

— alternator belt

— air compressor belt

— belt deflection is not more than ¾ of an inch
Check for adequate power steering fluid level.
Level must be above refill mark.

Windshield Washer Fluid Level

• Check fluid level and cap secure.

Automatic Transmission Fluid Level (may

require engine to be running)

Engine Compartment Belts
Power Steering Fluid
• Indicate where power steering fluid dipstick

is located.
Level must be above refill mark.

Coolant Level
• Inspect reservoir sight glass or

• (If engine is not hot), remove radiator cap and

check for visible coolant level.
Oil Level
• Indicate where dipstick is located.

• See that oil level is within safe operating range.
Air Compressor
• Identify air compressor.

• Check that the air compressor is securely

mounted and is not leaking.
• Identify alternator.

• Check that alternator is securely mounted and

that all wires are securely fastened.
Water Pump
• Identify water pump.

• Identify water pump is mounted securely and

is not leaking.
Engine Compartment (Engine Off)
Leaks/Hoses (fuel, coolant, oil, power

steering fluid, hydraulic fluid, battery fluid,


• Look for puddles on the ground.

• Look for dripping fluids on underside of engine

and transmission.

• Inspect hoses for condition and leaks.
Test trailer service brakes. Check for normal
air pressure, release the parking brakes, move

the vehicle forward slowly, and apply trailer

brakes with the hand control (trolley valve), if

so equipped. You should feel the brakes come

on. This tells you the trailer brakes are connected

and working. (The trailer brakes should

be tested with the hand valve but controlled in

normal operation with the foot pedal, which

applies air to the service brakes at all wheels.)
Test trailer emergency brakes.
Charge the trailer air brake system and check that the

trailer rolls freely. Then stop and pull out the
trailer air supply control (also called tractor

protection valve control or trailer emergency

valve), or place it in the “emergency” position.

Pull gently on the trailer with the tractor to

check that the trailer emergency brakes are on.
If the tractor protection valve doesn’t work
right, an air hose or trailer brake leak could

drain all the air from the tractor. This would

cause the emergency brakes to come on,

with possible loss of control.
• Test tractor protection valve. Charge the

trailer air brake system. (That is, build up
normal air pressure and push the “air supply”

knob in.) Shut the engine off. Step on and off

the brake pedal several times to reduce the air

pressure in the tanks. The trailer air supply

control (also called the tractor protection valve

control) should pop out (or go from “normal”

to “emergency” position) when the air pressure

falls into the pressure range specified by the

manufacturer. (Usually within the range of 20

to 45 psi.)
Use the trailer handbrake to provide air to the service line.
Go to the rear of the rig. Open the emergency line shut-off valve at the rear of the last trailer. You should hear air escaping, showing the entire system is charged. Close the emergency line valve. Open the service line valve to check that service pressure goes through all the trailers (this test assumes that the trailer handbrake or the service brake pedal is on), and then close the valve. If you do NOT hear air escaping from both lines, check that the shut-off valves on the trailer(s) and dolly(ies) are in the OPEN position. You MUST have air all the way to the back for all the brakes to work.
Check that air flows to all trailers. Use the

tractor parking brake and/or chock the wheels to hold the vehicle.
Wait for air pressure to reach

normal, then push in the red “trailer air supply”

knob. This will supply air to the emergency (supply) lines.
Landing gear:
• Fully raised, no missing parts, not bent or

otherwise damaged.

• Crank handle in place and secured.

• If power operated, no air or hydraulic leaks.

Combination Vehicle Brake Check
Sliding fifth-wheel:
— slide not damaged or parts missing

— properly greased

— all locking pins present and locked in place

— if air powered—no air leaks

— fifth-wheel not so far forward that tractor

frame will hit landing gear, or cab hit the

trailer, during turns
Air and electric lines to trailer:
— electrical cord firmly plugged in and


— air lines properly connected to glad hands,

no air leaks, properly secured with enough

slack for turns

— all lines free from damage
Fifth-wheel (upper):
— glide plate securely mounted to trailer frame

— kingpin not damaged
Fifth-wheel (lower):
— securely mounted to frame

— no missing, damaged parts

— properly greased

— no visible space between upper and lower


— locking jaws around the shank, not the

head of the kingpin

— release arm properly seated and safety

latch/lock engaged
Inspect the Trailer Supports
• Make sure ground is supporting trailer.

• Make sure landing gear is not damaged.

Step 10. Pull the Tractor Clear of the


• Release parking brakes.

• Check the area and drive tractor forward until

it clears.
Step 7. Pull the Tractor Partially Clear of
the Trailer

• Pull tractor forward until fifth-wheel comes

out from under the trailer.

• Stop with tractor frame under trailer.

Step 8. Secure the Tractor

• Apply parking brake.

• Place transmission in neutral.
Step 6. Unlock the Fifth-Wheel
• Raise the release handle lock.

• Pull the release handle to “open” position.

• Keep legs and feet clear of the rear tractor

wheels to avoid serious injury.
Step 5. Disconnect the Air Lines and

Electrical Cable

• Disconnect air lines from trailer. Connect air

line glad hands to dummy couplers at back of

cab or couple them together.
• Hang electrical cable with plug down to prevent

moisture from getting in.

• Make sure lines are supported so they won’t

be damaged while driving the tractor.
Step 4. Lower the Landing Gear
• If trailer is empty—lower the landing gear until

it makes firm contact with the ground.

• If trailer is loaded, after the landing gear makes

firm contact with the ground, turn crank in

low gear a few extra turns. This will lift some

weight off the tractor. This will:

— make it easier to unlatch fifth-wheel.

— make it easier to couple next time.
Step 3. Chock the Trailer Wheels
• Chock the trailer wheels if the trailer doesn’t

have spring brakes or if you are not sure.
Step 2. Ease the Pressure on the

Locking Jaws

• Shut off trailer air supply to lock trailer brakes.
• Ease pressure on fifth-wheel locking jaws by

backing up gently.

• Put parking brakes on while tractor is pushing

against the kingpin.
Step 1. Position the Rig
• Make sure surface of parking area can support

weight of trailer.

• Have tractor lined up with the trailer.
Step 15. Fully Raise the Front Trailer

Supports (Landing Gear)

• Use low gear range, if equipped, to begin

raising the landing gear. Once free of weight,
switch to the high gear range.

• Raise the landing gear all the way up.

• After raising landing gear, secure the crank

handle safely.

• When full weight of trailer is resting on tractor:

— check for clearance between the rear of the

tractor frame and the landing gear.

— check for clearance between the top of

the tractor tires and the nose of the trailer.
Step 14. Connect the Electrical Cord

and Check Air Lines

• Plug the electrical cord into the trailer and

fasten the safety catch.
• Check both air and electrical lines for signs

of damage.

• Make sure air and electrical lines will not hit

any moving parts.
Step 13. Inspect the Coupling
• Use a flashlight, if necessary.

• Make sure there is no space between the upper

and lower fifth-wheel.

• Make sure the fifth-wheel jaws have closed

around the shank of the kingpin. (Figure 6-4)

• Check that the locking lever is in the “lock”


• Check that the safety catch is in position over

the locking lever.


(View From Underneath)



Step 12. Secure the Vehicle
• Put transmission in neutral.

• Put parking brakes on.

• Shut off the engine and take the key so someone

will not move the truck.
Step 11. Check the Connection for

• Raise the landing gear slightly off the ground.

• Pull forward gently against the trailer brakes to

be sure that the trailer is locked to the tractor.
Step 10. Back Under the Trailer
• Use lowest reverse gear.

• Back tractor slowly under trailer to avoid

hitting the kingpin.

• Stop when the kingpin is locked into the

Step 9. Lock the Trailer Brakes
• Pull out the air supply knob or move the

tractor protection valve control from normal

to emergency.
Step 7. Connect the Air Lines to the


• Check glad hand seals and connect tractor

emergency air line to trailer emergency glad

• Check glad hand seals and connect tractor

service air line to trailer service glad hand.

• Make sure air lines are safely supported where

they won’t be crushed or caught while tractor

is backing under the trailer.

Step 8. Supply Air to the Trailer

• From the cab, push in the air supply knob or

move tractor protection valve control from

the “emergency” to the “normal” position to

supply air to the trailer brake system.

• Wait until the air pressure is normal. Check

brake system for crossed air lines:

— shut engine off so you can hear the brakes.

— apply and release trailer brakes and listen

for sound of trailer brakes being applied

and released. You should hear the brakes

move when applied and air escape when

the brakes are released.

— check air brake system pressure gauge for

signs of major air loss.

• When trailer brakes are working, start the


• Air pressure must be up to normal.
Step 6. Check the Trailer Height
• The trailer should be low enough that it is

raised slightly by the tractor when the tractor

is backed under it. Raise or lower the trailer

as needed.

• To see that the kingpin and fifth-wheel are

Step 5. Secure the Tractor
• Set the parking brake.

• Put the transmission in neutral.
Step 4. Back Slowly
• Until the fifth-wheel just touches the trailer.

• Do not hit the trailer.
Step 3. Position Tractor
• Directly in front of the trailer. (Never back under

the trailer at an angle because you might push

the trailer sideways and break the landing gear.)

• Check position, using outside mirrors, by

looking down both sides of the trailer.
Step 2. Inspect Area and Chock Wheels
• To be sure the area around the vehicle is clear.

• To be sure the trailer wheels are chocked or

the spring brakes are on.

• To see that cargo (if any) is secured against

movement during coupling.
Step 1. Inspect the Fifth-Wheel
• For damaged or missing parts.

• To see that mounting to tractor is secure, no

cracks in frame, etc.

• To see that the fifth-wheel plate is completely

greased. Failure to keep the fifth-wheel plate

lubricated could cause steering problems

because of friction between the tractor and


• To see that the fifth-wheel is in proper position

for coupling.

— the fifth-wheel should be tilted down

towards the rear of the tractor with the

jaws open and the safety unlocking handle

in the automatic lock position.

• To see that the sliding fifth-wheel is locked.

• To see that the trailer kingpin is not bent or

Coupling and Uncoupling

Knowing how to couple and uncouple correctly is
basic to safe operation of combination vehicles.

Coupling and uncoupling incorrectly can be very

dangerous. There are differences between different

rigs, so learn the details of coupling and uncoupling

the vehicle(s) you will operate. General coupling

and uncoupling steps are listed below:

Coupling Tractor/Semitrailers
As you slow down, monitor your tractor

and trailer and back off the brakes (if it is

safe to do so) to stay in control.
• Remember, if your ABS malfunctions, you

still have regular brakes. Drive normally, but

get the system serviced soon.

• ABS won’t allow you to drive faster, follow

more closely, or drive less carefully.
When you drive a tractor-trailer combination

with ABS, you should brake as you always

have. In other words

— Use only the braking force necessary to

stop safely and stay in control.

— Brake the same way, regardless of whether

you have ABS on the tractor, the trailer,

or both.
When only the trailer has ABS, the trailer is
less likely to swing out, but if you lose steering

control or start a tractor jackknife, let up on

the brakes (if you can safely do so) until you

gain control.
Braking with ABS
• ABS is an addition to your normal brakes.

It does not decrease or increase your normal

braking capability. ABS only activates when

wheels are about to lock up.

• ABS does not necessarily shorten your stopping

distance, but it does help you keep the vehicle

under control during hard braking.

• ABS helps you avoid wheel lock up. The

computer senses impending lockup, reduces

the braking pressure to a safe level, and you

maintain control.

• Having ABS on only the trailer, or even on only

one axle, still gives you more control over the

vehicle during braking.
Antilock Brake Systems

Trailers Required to Have ABS
• All trailers and converter dollies built on or

after March 1, 1998, are required to have ABS.

However, many trailers and converter dollies

built before this date have been voluntarily

equipped with ABS.

• Trailers will have yellow ABS malfunction

lamps on the left side, either on the front or

rear corner. Converter dollies manufactured on

or after March 1, 1998, are required to have a

lamp on the left side.

• In the case of vehicles manufactured before

the required date, it may be difficult to tell if

the unit is equipped with ABS. Look under the

vehicle for the ECU and wheel speed sensor

wires coming from the back of the brakes.
Test parking brake. Fasten your seat belt. Set the

parking brake and
try to move the vehicle or allow

the vehicle to slowly move forward and apply the

parking brake. The parking brake should stop a

rolling vehicle, or not allow any movement.
Test service brakes. Wait for normal air pressure,
release the parking brake, move the vehicle forward

slowly (about 5 mph), and apply the brakes firmly

using the brake pedal. Any pulling to one side,

unusual feel, or delayed stopping action should

be checked.
If air pressure does not build up fast enough, the
pressure may drop too low during driving, requiring

an emergency stop.
. If the vehicle has larger than minimum

air tanks, the buildup time can be longer and still

be safe.
Check the manufacturer’s specifications.

In single air systems (pre-1975), typical requirements

are pressure buildup from 50 to 90 psi

within 3 minutes with the engine at an idle speed

of 600-900 rpms.
Check that the spring brakes come on automatically.
Chock the wheels. Release all parking

brakes and shut the engine off. Pump the brake

pedal to reduce the air tank pressure. The trailer

air supply valve knob and tractor protection

valve should pop out when the air pressure falls

to the manufacturer’s specifications (usually in

a range between 20 to 45 psi). This causes the

spring brakes to engage. Some trailers use an air

applied emergency brake system and some trailers

use spring brakes as the emergency brake system.

Check rate of air pressure buildup. With the

engine at operating rpms, the pressure should build

from 85 to 100 psi within 45 seconds in dual air

If the warning signal does not work, you could
lose air pressure and not know it. This could cause

sudden emergency braking in a single circuit air

system. In dual systems the stopping distance will

be increased. Only limited braking can be done

before the spring brakes come on.
Low Air Pressure Warning Device Test
This test may be performed with engine on or off.

To perform the test with the engine off, turn the

electrical power on and have enough air pressure

to keep the low air pressure warning device from

coming on. Slowly pump the brake pedal to reduce

air tank pressure. The low air pressure warning

device must activate between 55 and 75 psi. For

testing purposes, identify when the warning signal

activates, and verbalize the legal range in which

the signal must activate.
Air Compressor Governor Cut-In Pressure

To perform this test, the air pressure for the vehicle

cannot be rising when the engine is running. With

the engine idling, slowly pump the brake pedal

to reduce the air tank pressure. Watch the air

pressure gauge between pumps to identify when

the compressor cuts in (needle starts to rise). This

should occur no lower than 85 psi.

For testing purposes, identify where the air

governor cuts in the compressor and verbalize the

minimum pressure at which this can occur.
Air Compressor Governor Cut-Out

Pressure Test
To perform this test, the air pressure for the vehicle

must be rising when the engine is running. Run the

engine at a fast idle. The air compressor governor

must cut-out prior to the needle reaching 130 psi.

Where the needle stops rising is the governor

cut-out pressure.

For testing purposes, identify where the air

governor cuts out the compressor and verbalize

the maximum pressure at which this can occur.

Note: The air dryer exhausting should not be

referenced as governor cut-out.
Applied Leakage Test
With a basically fully-charged air system (within

the effective operating range for the compressor),

turn off the engine, release all brakes so the entire

system is charged. Allow the system to settle (air

gauge needle stops moving), apply firm, steady

pressure to the brake pedal (brake on), and hold.

After the system settles again, time for one minute.

The air pressure should not drop more than:

• 3 psi for single vehicles.

• 4 psi for a combination of two vehicles.

• 6 psi for a combination of three or more


An air loss greater than those shown indicate a

problem in the braking system and repairs are

needed before operating the vehicle.

Note: You must be able to demonstrate this test and

verbalize the allowable air loss for the examiner

on this test.

If the air loss is too much, check for air leaks and

fix. For testing purposes, identify if the air loss

rate is too much.
Testing air leakage rate. There are two tests as follow:
Static Leakage Test With a basically fully-charged air system (within

the effective operating range for the compressor),

turn off the engine, release all brakes, and let the

system settle (air gauge needle stops moving).

Time for one minute. The air pressure should not

drop more than:

• 2 psi for single vehicles.

• 3 psi for a combination of two vehicles.

• 5 psi for a combination of three or more


An air loss greater than those shown indicate a

problem in the braking system and repairs are

needed before operating the vehicle.
In-Cab Air Brake Check
Note: All the Air Brakes system tests in this

section are considered important and each can be

considered critical parts of the in-cab air brakes

tests. The items marked with an asterisk (*) in this

section are required for testing purposes during

the pre-trip portion of the CDL driving test. They

may be performed in any order as long as they are

performed correctly and effectively. If these items

are not demonstrated and the parameters for each

test are not verbalized correctly, it is considered an

automatic failure of the pre-trip portion of the test.
Older trailers do not have spring brakes. If the air

supply in the trailer air tank has leaked away there
will be no emergency brakes and the trailer wheels

will turn freely. If you crossed the air lines, you

could drive away but you would not have trailer

brakes. Before driving, always test the trailer brakes

with the hand valve or by pulling the air supply

control. Pull gently against them in a low gear to

make sure the brakes work.
If you do cross the air lines, supply air will be
sent to the service line instead of going to charge

the trailer air tanks. Air will not be available to

release the trailer spring brakes (parking brakes).

If the spring brakes don’t release when you push

the trailer air supply control, check the air line

To avoid mistakes, metal tags are sometimes
attached to the lines with the words service or

emergency stamped on them. Sometimes colors

are used. Blue is used for the service lines and red

for the emergency lines.
Hose Couplers (Glad Hands)

Glad hands are coupling devices used to connect
the service and emergency air lines from the truck

or tractor to the trailer. The couplers have a rubber

seal which prevents air from escaping. Clean the

couplers and rubber seals before a connection is

made. When connecting the glad hands, press the

two seals together with the couplers at a 90° angle

to each other. A turn of the glad hand attached to

the hose will join and lock the couplers.

It is very important to keep the air supply clean.

To keep the air supply clean, some vehicles have

“dead end” or dummy couplers to which the hoses

may be attached when they are not in use. This

will prevent water and dirt from getting into the

coupler and the air lines. Use the dummy couplers,

if available, when the air lines are not connected

to a trailer.
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