Course Calendar

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BC Practice Driving Test

yellow parking brakeExplanation of ICBC’s Air Brake Endorsement

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Getting an on-highway air brake endorsement in B.C.

Who needs an air brake endorsement?

Most tandem-axle trucks, some RVs, and a number of other vehicles require an air brake endorsement to operate. If the vehicle you are driving is equipped with a “yellow-four-sided” button on the dash that controls the parking brakes, then your vehicle is equipped with air brakes. According to laws and regulations, you will be required to earn an air brake endorsement before operating any vehicle equipped with air brakes.

To get an on-highway air brake endorsement in B.C. you must complete a course, pass a knowledge test and pass a pre-inspection test.

The Course

Most air brake courses in BC are two eight-hour days, often over a weekend. The bulk of air brake endorsement courses are taught at commercial driving schools. Some are taught at local community colleges; however, these tend to be more expensive.

The theory component of an air brake component covers a number of topics related to brakes and braking:

Introduction to Air Brakes

• What are brakes and how do these stop your vehicle?

Stopping Large Vehicles

• What are the different dynamics in stopping a passenger vehicle vs. a large truck?

Basic Air Brake System

• What are the foundational components of an air brake system?

Service Brakes

• How do service brakes differ from emergency and parking brakes?

Fail-Safe Braking Sub-Systems

• How do the primary, secondary and spring brakes act as back up and emergency systems?

Trailer Air Brake Sub-System

• How are the trailer brakes similar to air brake systems on trucks & buses?

Foundation Brakes & Accessories

• A review of the foundation brake components and the accessories that enhance & protect the air brake performance.

Air Brake Pre Trip Inspection

• What are the procedures and steps involved in ensuring that an air brake system is operational and safe?

Air Brake Adjustment

• How do you adjust air brakes that are equipped with manual slack adjusters?

As part of the 2-day course, most schools will conduct the last two portions of the course, either on an air brake board, or in and around a vehicle equipped with air brakes.

Owing to the technical nature of an air brake course, the majority of students find that they understand much of the theory once they are working in and around the trucks. “Hand on” practical training is often easier for many students, especially for those that haven’t seen the inside of a classroom for some time.

The Practical Assessment

Once you have completed the two-day course, either the school or an ICBC official will conduct a practical assessment.

The evaluation consists of two parts:

1) The outside pre-trip inspection, which examines the safety and security of the air brake components such as compressor, governor, air lines and foundation brake components. As well, the student will demonstrate that she can determined that the brakes are within adjustment limits.

2) After the student completes the pre-trip inspection on the outside of the vehicle, she will enter the cab and complete the in-cab portion of the air brake examination, consisting of governor, compressor, low-air warning and leak test. As a final component of the pre-trip inspection, the student will test parking, service, and steering response.

The Theory Assessment

After successfully completing the course and the practical examination, the student will receive a “certification of completion”. The certification of completion is required to write ICBC’s air brake knowledge test.

The ICBC air brake theory test consists of 24 multiple choice questions – most of these tests are administered via computer. Some ICBC offices, Sidney for example, still administer their tests in paper form.

When completing the theory test, ensure that you read each test answer carefully. Despite the first or second answer appearing as being the right answer, this choice may neither be the best nor the correct answer.

On the other hand, if you have “absolutely no idea” as to the answer then the question can be skipped. By skipping the question, it will go to the bottom of the queue. At this juncture, one of two events will happen:

1) If you are successful and attain 80% on the test before reaching the bottom of the queue, then the test automatically ends.

2) If you do not get 80% on the remaining questions, or have skipped a number of questions, then the question or questions that you skipped will reappear. In the interim, however, you may have had time to think about the answer.

You are allowed to skip a question only three times before you must answer it.


The cost of an air brake course at a driver training facility should be between 2 and 3 hundred dollars. You may need to pay fees to take the tests. When inquiring about the cost of an air brake course at a driver training facility, the practical assessment “should” be included in the cost of the course.

ICBC fees are part & parcel of the air brake endorsement. The cost to write the theory test is $15, and $17 to add the endorsement to your licence upon successful completion of both the practical and theory tests.

If you take driver training to upgrade your licence, and are operating a vehicle equipped with air brakes, you will be required to complete a practical air brake assessment. This demonstration of your abilities is part of the pre-trip inspection of your ICBC on-road test for that particular class of licence.

An air brake course is highly recommended as even experienced drivers learn more about air brakes by taking the course, however.

You may be exempt from an air brake training course if you can prove you have sufficient air brake experience. If you are exempted from the air brake training course, you'll still need to pass the air brake Knowledge Test and the air brake pre-trip inspection test, for which you will be required to provide an air brake equipped vehicle. If you don't pass these tests, you may have to attend an ICBC-approved course before you attempt any further tests. Contact a local driving school or driver licensing office for more information.