How to Remember Pre Trip Inspection CDL Fast

CDL feature imageTired of mixing up the pre-trip inspection sequence?

If not, you should be.

These exams are expensive and failing any aspect of your commercial driver’s licence is the worst feeling on earth.

The good news is that you can memorize everything on the CDL pre trip checklist without resorting to rote repetition.

That way, learning won’t be frustrating or boring. And when you sit for your exam, you’ll pass with flying colors.

On this page, you’ll learn how.

This Memory Aid Shows You How to Remember Pre Trip Inspection CDL

The problem with a lot of mnemonic strategies people give for the pretrip cdl is that they’re abstract.

For example, people will suggest, just start “top to bottom and then go side to side.”

This kind of instruction won’t work for some people because they can’t necessarily visualize what this means. No joke – the individual might have aphantasia, which is the lack of a mind’s eye.

To fix this, we’re going to use an ancient technique called the Memory Palace. (You might also have heard it called the Mind Palace technique.)

Step One: Break the Sections Down & Use An Association

We’ll get into this technique in a second, but the first step of performing a pre trip inspection is to break the vehicle down into component parts. In other words, you’ll examine the front quarter first before going to the middle and then the back.

optimus prime memory aid how to remember pre trip inspection cdl

When I think about dividing a vehicle into parts for the purposes of inspection, The Transformers come to mind. Optimus Prime in particular because he’s based on a 992 Peterbilt 379 semi-truck.

This is a natural association, provided you know about The Transformers. But obviously, there’s a word of caution here:

This model is for general association. You want to base your knowledge on contemporary vehicles as well as newer models.

If you aren’t familiar with something like The Transformers, you might want to use another example by studying the kind of vehicle you’ll be driving and trying to find a pop culture reference.

Whichever reference you use, you’ll want to break it into sections.

pretrip cdl mnemonic example
It’s helpful to divide the vehicle’s you’ll be operating into distinct sections for success on your CDL exam.

Exactly how you divide these sections is up to you. Once you have them in your mind based on a well-known reference vehicle, it will be much easier to imagine the pre-trip inspection patterns.

Step Two: Turn Your Chosen Vehicle Into A Memory Palace

You’ll also now have the basis for a Memory Palace. And because you need to know the names of the major components of your vehicle, the Memory Palace technique will be golden for you.

For example, will want to use your mental vehicle to create a mental journey down a number of parts if you’re looking at the front of the vehicle and going from top to bottom:

  • Clearance lights
    • Clean and functional, amber color, not broken or damaged
  • Windshield
    • Fully intact, no cracks
  • Windshield wipers
    • Securely mounted with seals intact
  • Headlights
    • Clean, functional, not cracked or broken, clear color
  • Fog lights
    • Clear, clean and functional
  • Under the front of the vehicle
    • No pools of fluid or leaking fuel from the transmission

From side to side looking at the front:

  • Mirrors
    • Securely mounted, clean, properly adjusted

Then open up the hood and memorize those locations as if they were a journey in space.

Step Three: Create Associations

To impose all of these steps on your mental model, I recommend numbering the parts and adding an association to each.

numbering the parts
It’s easier to place associations on the vehicle when you’ve mentally divided and even numbered the different areas.

An image that can help you remember “Clearance lights” as a specific term, might be someone you name “Clarence.” Or maybe you know James Clear and can imagine him sitting up on those lights.

For the fog lights, you could imagine frogs exhaling fog in that location. The weird image will help you remember the name, but also make it hard for you to forget to name them when you’re taking your test.

You can do the same thing with your suspension, breaks and tires. 

For example, you can create an image of Bruce Lee on springs to help you remember to check the Lee springs in your front-end suspension area.

bruce lee mnemonic example for memorizing parts of suspension for commercial drivers license
Using a pop culture reference like Bruce Lee bouncing on springs is an easy way to remember that Lee springs are part of a vehicle’s suspension.

For the spring hangers, you could reuse Bruce Lee and have him hanging on to them in that part of your mental practice vehicle and later your inspection vehicle during the CDL exam.

I’m talking about making it a habit to imagine Bruce Lee bouncing on springs every time you look at them on the vehicle’s you inspect for practice. This will help you remember them when you’re an operator too.

It’s great practice to come up with your own associations for the other parts like:

  • U-Bolts
  • Shock absorber
  • Bushings

Ultimately, I hope my examples help you, but the real memory magic happens when you create your own associations and mentally place them on your own mental version of a vehicle.

Why can’t you just use the associations of someone else to help you pass the test?

Because the science of active recall demonstrates beyond all doubt that personalization is required to maximize memorability. It is hands down the best way to avoid wasting time and energy on rote learning.

Step Four: Review Mentally

Once you’ve placed your associations for the cdl pre trip checklist around your Memory Palace-version of the vehicle, you want to practice recalling the information.

To avoid rote learning and create long lasting memories of the information faster, I suggest you put the study information away and get out a notebook. 

Then, follow these simple steps:

  • Write down all of your associations
  • Take a break after creating them
  • Get a separate notebook or piece of paper
  • Think back to the mental version of the vehicle and the first location you assigned
  • Ask yourself, “What was happening there?”
  • Write down the target information?
  • See if you can elaborate your associations so they get stronger

I call this process “creative repetition.”

For example, let’s say that you get to the Lee springs step, but you can’t quite remember what they’re called.

You can look back to your original association and think about how to make it more striking. For example, you can add imaginary sounds, physical sensations or even tastes and smells. 

Thinking about Bruce Lee bouncing on springs with the taste of engine oil in his mouth is bound to be much more memorable!

Step Five: Bring Relaxation & Focus To The Test

One of the best ways to be focused when sitting for your CDL test is to practice being relaxed while studying.

To do this, I suggest learning some simple breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises.

Completing these same exercises shortly before practicing your knowledge and attending your exam will also help.

You will be timed for the exam, so it’s important to be able to put unhelpful thoughts aside. For help in this area, my mental strength test offers solid guidance.

Passing The Pre Inspection Test Is Just the Beginning

Being a pro is more than just passing a test and getting your license.

You’ll want to constantly keep your skills and knowledge upgraded.

This isn’t only because regulations are always changing.

You also have a lot of time on the road that you can use to accomplish other things, such as learning a language.

To learn more about how I can help you learn faster and remember more, get my FREE Memory Improvement Kit.

Magnetic Memory Method Free Memory Improvement Course

You’ll learn how to turn multiple trucks into Memory Palaces, and that’s just the beginning of the objects and locations you can use.

Because you see so many pick up and drop off locations, you’re in an excellent position to make the fullest possible use of this ancient learning technique.

And that means you can experience an incredibly mental life as you prepare for the exam and enjoy your life on the road thereafter.

So what do you say? Are you ready to prepare for this exam fast and pass the CDL with flying colors?


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Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary, names, music, poetry and more in ways that are easy, elegant, effective and fun.

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