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Passing the Class A CDL Skills Test in Washington State

To obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL) in Washington you must pass a 160 hour course at a state licensed CDL school. Once completed with satisfactory marks, the final step will be your skills test administered by an examiner sanctioned by the State of WA DOL.


The skills test consists of a pre-trip inspection, basic backing maneuvers, and an on-road driving test. You will be scored on each of these three areas, and you must achieve a passing score in all three to pass the test and obtain your Class A CDL.


Pre-Trip Inspection

The pre-trip inspection is a critical part of the road test and is designed to assess your knowledge of the commercial motor vehicle you will be driving. This inspection includes air brake tests, parking brake tests for the tractor and trailer, then inspecting the vehicle to ensure all equipment is present and functioning properly.


On the Outside Inspection you will be asked to identify and explain how you would inspect essential parts of the vehicle including the engine, critical components, brakes, lights, and mirrors; as well as the trailer, coupling devices, and suspension.


This is a long list of items that all need to be identified and talked about, so this part of your CDL schooling should not be taken lightly. This portion of the final exam can take up to an hour, but with lots of studying you should target around 40 minutes to complete.


Backing Maneuvers

The backing maneuvers portion of the skills exam will assess your ability to control the commercial motor vehicle and trailer in a designated course. You will be asked to perform three backing maneuvers:

- Straight backing

- Off-set backing

- 90 degree backing (ally dock)


Each maneuver must be completed following the examiners instructions, and points will be deducted for pull-ups, encroachments, and mistakes.


City and Highway Driving

The on-road driving portion is the final section of the road test and is designed to assess your ability to operate the commercial motor vehicle safely in traffic. You will be scored on your ability to follow the rules of the road and your overall safe driving habits. It is critical that you follow the examiner's instructions closely and make sure you are always checking your mirrors. Points will be deducted for any errors along the way.


Preparing for the road test can be daunting, but if you take the time to study and practice, you'll be in good shape. This means making the most of your time at CDL school and taking advantage of the instructors' knowledge and experience.

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