Day 1: Aug. 22, 2016

The doors open early at Truck America Training in Shepherdsville, Kentucky: 6:30 a.m., a half-hour or so before sunrise. For the students who are here hoping to complete a 16-day course and earn a commercial driver's license, those doors could be opening up a new career path. 

American Trucking Associations estimates the trucking industry needs an average of 89,000 new drivers per year to enter the field over the next decade to keep up with demand. Beginning today, Transport Topics will be documenting the efforts of these students over the next three-plus weeks to meet part of that demand, with daily installments here at, and on Twitter (@CDLorBust and #CDLorBust).

PHOTO GALLERY: Photos of students, classroom and training property. 

Shepherdsville sits about 20 minutes south of downtown Louisville. Given complete access to the students, the classroom and the facility, Transport Topics will illustrate what it takes to earn a CDL from the point of view of the students themselves. We'll bring you daily photos, videos and blog posts, and let you get to know the folks who are hoping to become professional truck drivers. 

We've even set up a live Webcam in the classroom, so you can peek in to get a feel for what's going on at any point in time. 

Today begins with a bit of an orientation in the early part of the day: A half-hour each dedicated to discussion of drug testing policies, CDL requirements and course objectives. 

Four hours are set aside for basic knowledge related to truck driving, then an hour each for coverage of transportation cargo and vehicle control and safety. 

Transport Topics is also being given a two-hour window that coincides with an expanded lunch period to shoot photos and interview the students. Photographer John Sommers and reporter David Elfin are on site. 

Days 1-5 are spent in the classroom, with lectures followed by workbook requirements. In the second and third week, students head outside to learn about the equipment and get behind the wheel, getting practice both on the TAT range and on the nearby highways. 

The course culminates on Day 16 (Sept. 14) with commercial driver Class A testing conducted by Kentucky State Police, and for the students who are successful -- an employment briefing, and graduation.

It won't be easy. Truck driving isn't for everyone. In addition to the coursework, there are physical challenges in driving big rigs and hauling cargo. We hope to give you insight into what the students are thinking and feeling as well as glimpses at what they are learning. Who will make the grade? Follow along as our class of students marches through the doors toward a CDL. Or bust.  

-- By Gary Kicinski, Transport Topics Digital Media Editor. Photo by John Sommers II for TT