Complete List of Automatic Fails on Your CDL Skills Test

The CDL road test is one of three parts of the CDL skills test that you must pass to get your CDL. The vehicle inspection and the basic control test will also be covered in other articles. Today we're focusing on the CDL road test. Inevitable mistakes during the road test are considered an automatic failure, and the examiner will direct you to drive back. While some errors are apparent like, getting in an accident or running a red like, others are safety-related items that a driver must always be aware of and perform properly every time. With a better understanding of what your examiner is looking for, you can prepare for your test day.

Automatic Fail #1: Dangerous Action

  • Anytime the examiner must intervene and stop you from striking any fixed object.
  • Failing to put the vehicle in neutral/park and/or set the vehicle’s parking brake, before leaving the driver’s seat.
  • Anytime the examiner takes verbal or physical control of the vehicle to prevent an accident or dangerous situation from occurring. For example, while positioning the vehicle before starting the test or moving the vehicle during the test-may also apply to other dangerous situations.
  • Whenever another driver must drive evasively.
  • A pedestrian must avoid your vehicle.
  • The examiner takes physical or verbal control of your vehicle to prevent an accident or a dangerous act.
  • Your vehicle speed is too fast for weather and/or traffic conditions.

Automatic Fail #2: Exiting the Vehicle in An Unsafe Manner

  • Repeated instances of exiting the vehicle in an unsafe manner.
  • Exiting a truck needs to be done facing towards the cabin and three points of contact.
  • Exiting a passenger vehicle forward/backward and three points of contact.

Automatic Fail #3: Vehicle Over a Curb:

  • Applies to any of your vehicle's wheels go up onto a curb or sidewalk during any part of your test. What may seem like a small mistake, the "curb check", is a potentially deadly one. The danger to pedestrians makes this unwary error #1 on the list of automatic fails.

Automatic Fail #4: Violation of Law

A violation of law applies to any traffic law or act for which you could be cited, common violations are:

  • Operating the vehicle more than 5 mph over the speed limit under normal conditions.
  • Failing to come to a complete stop at any stop sign or traffic light
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • Driving the wrong way on a one-way street.
  • Failing to stop at any railroad crossing (coach/transit/school bus).
  • Any part of your vehicle on railroad tracks after stopping.
  • A seat belt violation: Anytime you drive a commercial vehicle without the seatbelt fastened.

Automatic Fail #5: Accident

  • An accident, however slight. This includes contact with other vehicles or pedestrians, running off the roadway, and contact with any fixed object.

Note: Striking exercise boundary cones is not scored as an accident.

Automatic Fail #6: Failure to Perform

When you cannot comprehend or respond to instructions given during any part of the Basic Control Test. The test requires English proficiency—be able to follow instructions. CDL skills testing is conducted in English only. Use of interpreters or bilingual examiners is not allowed.

  • When you cannot repeatedly comprehend or cannot respond to instructions given during any part of the Vehicle Inspection test or road test.
  • Applies to the inability to perform any of the backing exercises.
  • Repeated inability to properly demonstrate and/or verbalize your vehicle’s inspection items during the Vehicle Inspection test.
  • When you refuse to try a maneuver or say that you cannot perform a required action.
  • If you are unable to properly operate your vehicle after going a short distance on the test route.
  • Taking your hands off the wheel.
  • Forgetting your turn signal when making a turn or switching lanes can be grounds for failing a CDL road test. Signal at least 100 feet before changing lanes. Smoothly change lanes when it is safe to do so. Cancel your turn signal after the rear of your vehicle completes a lane change. Of course, don’t forget the mirrors checks too.
  • Failing to notice simple road signs like lane restrictions, highway exits, truck stop exits or lane endings.

Automatic Fail #7: Not Following Ground Rules

  • No markings, labels, or cues on vehicle components or inside the vehicle.
  • No use of wired/wireless headset or other Bluetooth devices, cell phone, or other transmission devices.
  • Cell phone can be used as a timer for the air leak test only.
  • No use of tape/digital recorders, cameras, video recorders.
  • No interference from trainers, co-workers, or others. They must stay in designated waiting area(s) and not give signals of any kind. Note: Perceived signals given could result in cancellation of the test.
  • No testing will be conducted when you are under the influence of any controlled or recreational drugs/alcohol.
  • Practicing at any CDL skills test site is prohibited.

Automatic Fail #8: Vehicle Stalling During the Road Test

It’s important to master the art of taking off from a stop, especially on hills and in heavy traffic. If you roll backwards when taking off from a stop during the exam, you are guaranteed to receive a failing grade.

  • Any time the vehicle stalls during the road test.
  • Any part of your vehicle on railroad tracks after stopping
  • Impeding traffic
  • Operating the vehicle more than 10 mph under the posted speed limit due to lack of driving skills.

Automatic Fail #9: Performing the Cab Check Incorrectly

You must tell the examiner that the Low Air Warning light and/or alarms must activate before it drops below 55 psi. Verbalizing this incorrectly will cause you to be automatically disqualified at the conclusion of the Air Supply System check.

The student must specify the correct leakage rate for the type of vehicle they are operating and apply full brake pedal pressure for one minute.

You will be automatically disqualified for any of the following:

  • Air supply system checks – Failure to properly demonstrate and/or verbalize required numbers or ranges listed for any of the following air supply system checks:
  • Air leak check.
  • Low air warning check.
  • Parking brake and tractor protection valve Class A only.
  • Parking brake valve–Class B/C only.

Automatic Fail #10: Losing Your Cool

Examiners know that driving a commercial vehicle requires a mentally prepared person to perform well under pressure. CDL examiners want to see if all this pressure will make you lose your cool. Driving thousands of pounds through dangerous traffic and road conditions every single day is no job for the faint of heart.

It is very critical that during a road test, you act relaxed and confident. Even if you're nervous, you can always pretend otherwise. No matter what happens, don't show the examiner you can't handle it.

Failure is a necessary evil. Without it, we would never learn anything. Get in plenty of practice, work out all the kinks. Build your mental memory. Then, when test day comes, you won't fail. You will succeed!