CDL Training Tips for Pre-Trip Inspection and Backing

Two parts of CDL training that can rattle the nerves of new and inexperienced drivers are the pre-trip inspection and backing a trailer. We asked fans of the Driver Solutions Facebook to share the tips that helped them during their CDL training.  Here are some of their answers.

Pre-Trip Inspection:

With so many parts and possible defects of a truck, it's easy to believe you’ll never learn every aspect of the pre-trip inspection.

David Bellamy shares an interesting tip – he suggests just memorizing the parts of the pre-trip inspection and not worrying about memorizing the defects that you need to watch for. “If it’s metal, just say, ‘Checking to make sure it’s not bent, broken, or cracked.’ If it holds fluids, say, ‘Making sure it’s not cracked or leaking.’”

 If you simply remember the different parts of the pre-trip inspection, you cut down on a lot of material that you need to memorize. And as juvenile as they might seem to you, flash cards are always helpful. If you are trying to learn both the parts and defects, try writing the name of the part on the front, and its corresponding defect on the back and study, study, study. Also, use acronyms. They are easier to remember than the names of every individual part of the pre-trip inspection.

It’s all about committing the pre-trip inspection to memory. “Take pictures if you are a visual learner. If you are an audio learner, record yourself saying the pre-trip and play it over and over,” Matthew Allen Bradley says. Among all of our responses on Facebook, repetition seems to be the most valuable and successful method for getting the pre-trip inspection down pat.  Just remember: practice, practice, practice and try not to get frustrated. Even the most experienced of truck drivers still have things to learn.


Backing something that feels like it’s the size of a submarine would be a traumatic experience for most people, but just like with anything, all it takes is practice. The most important tip for backing is to pace yourself and take it slowly. You might be worried that you’ll annoy other drivers if you take too long to back up, but like David Bellamy says, “a safe backing job is better than having an accident because you were in a rush.”

According to Robbie Emery, “An easy way to remember which way the trailer goes when backing up is to place your hands on the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want the trailer to back left, move your hand left around the wheel (so the wheel is actually turning to the right). If you want it to back right, move your hand to the right. Take it slow and make minor changes as necessary.” Also, though you’re limited on the amount of “get-out-and-looks” you can use during your CDL test, you have an unlimited supply of them on the road. Use them if you need to! Mirrors are there for a reason – utilize them when backing the trailer. A helpful hint is to focus on a point on the ground where your trailer needs to start turning and take it slowly from there. Getting your trailer lined up properly is one of the biggest parts of backing up. If you can get that, you’re golden. And the most important part of backing your trailer? Patience! No one’s going to be mad at you for slowly but successfully backing your trailer into a space, but they’ll surely be sour when you back your trailer into their truck.

Remembering these tips in conjunction with practicing hard during your CDL training is sure to calm your nerves at least a little bit. Just remember – memorize the parts of the pre-trip inspection as best as you can, and be patient when you’re backing up.  It'll come with practice!

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