Pennsylvania Commercial Driver License (CDL) Exams

Those wondering how to pass the CDL exam in Pennsylvania should know that there is no single commercial driver license test; rather, there is a combination of tests that will comprise a driver's experience when trying to receive a CDL in Pennsylvania. There are two types of CDL tests that all applicants will need to pass in order to receive the PA CDL license: the knowledge test and the road skills test. Learn more about commercial driver license test requirements by reviewing the sections below.

Types of Commercial Driver License Tests in Pennsylvania

The CDL knowledge test is also referred to as the CDL written exam, and will vary depending on the CDL classification and CDL endorsement(s) you seek. Written CDL exams fluctuate in length, and can range anywhere from 25 to 70 questions, depending on your CDL needs. Note that the CDL test will fall under a variety of classifications. As such, it may be possible for applicants to take several different tests for CDLs in order to receive the license class and endorsements they desire.

The second type of CDL test in PA is the road skills test. CDL road test must be completed at the Pennsylvania Driver License Center. CDL skills tests differ based on the license class and endorsements an applicant is seeking, but will generally follow the same format. Learn more about CDL exams by downloading our free, informative guide.

The CDL Knowledge Test in Pennsylvania

A single exam for CDL license types A through C exists in the form of the general CDL knowledge test. Most applicants will take this test, as it covers a broad range of rules and regulations within Pennsylvania law for commercial drivers. Specifically, the general knowledge exam for CDL covers all vehicles outlined by Classes A through C, from buses to hazardous material vehicles to combination trailers. However, the CDL written exam list below shows tests that are unique in classification.

  • Passenger knowledge test: This is a Pennsylvania CDL test that is unique to drivers seeking CDL Classes B and C who may be transporting passengers on the job. Specifically, this examination is necessary for drivers of public transport and school buses.
  • Air brake knowledge test: This CDL test is applicable to most, if not all, commercial vehicles (Classes A through C). As such, this written CDL exam may be administered in conjunction with other examinations, depending on the type of vehicle you intend to drive. Along with standard air brakes, this test for CDL licenses is also required for drivers in vehicles with air-over-hydraulic brakes.
  • Combination vehicle knowledge exam: This exam for CDL license type A will cover information specific to the operation of combination vehicles.
  • Hazardous materials (Hazmat) knowledge test: The Hazmat CDL test is for those drivers transporting a large quantity of hazardous materials that require placarding. Additionally, these drivers must not only pass this test for a CDL every four years to recertify, but they must also comply with all federal regulations.
  • Tanker knowledge exam: This test for a CDL license is required if your vehicle hauls a mounted cargo tank ranked at a particular safety rating. These are typically liquid and liquid gas tanks.
  • Double/triples knowledge exam: This written CDL exam as is similar to the combination vehicle test, in that it covers combinations of trailers for double- and triple-tows.
  • School bus knowledge test: This CDL test in Pennsylvania is specific to those drivers who will be operating school buses. Like the Hazmat test, this classification will need to be recertified every four years, but will also require both classroom and in-bus training.

Learn more about CDL testing in our free, comprehensive guide.

The Road Skills CDL Test in Pennsylvania

After an applicant has passed each of the required written CDL exams, he or she will then need to address the road skills CDL test obligations ahead. All CDL road tests will involve a form of pre-trip inspection of the vehicle before getting onto the road, a vehicle control test on a closed course, and finally, a live test on the actual road. Below is a rundown on what to expect from each.

Pre-trip inspection test: During this portion of the commercial driver license test, your examiner will review the interior and exterior of your chosen vehicle to ensure that it is safe to drive. Applicants will be scored based on the scrupulousness of their inspection and explanation of key points. More specifically, the CDL exam asks that drivers check under the hoods or engine compartments, inspect the brakes and other key aspects, and then provide a reason for inspection. Note that if your vehicle has air brakes, then you will also be slotted to complete an air brakes knowledge test.

Basic vehicle control test: The second portion of your road skills CDL test will be to demonstrate your ability to maneuver the vehicle before actually getting on the road. As such, your basic vehicle control test will take place on a closed course with boundaries and space given to conduct an examination of various turns, parking and back-and-forth movements. You will be primarily judged on your ability to stay within the lines. Note that each test will differ based on the layout of the selected test site.

On-road driving test: Your final commercial driver license test will be on the road, and will be comprised of a driving route, as determined by your examiner. Specifically, there will be between three to six exercises your proctor will have you complete, which will involve different traffic situations. These could be railroad crossings and different kinds of roads, highways and intersections. Furthermore, your ability to indicate movements like turns, merges and switches will be measured.

Learn more about CDL tests in Pennsylvania by downloading our complimentary guide.