Day 15: Sept. 12, 2016

None of the instructors at Truck America Training in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, can match Ed Stephens’ experience. The 69-year-old Stephens navigated 6.25 million miles during a 42-year career as a truck driver without a single major accident.

When losing your left mirror after three decades behind the wheel of big rigs stands out like a red dress in a sea of white outfits, you know all the ins and outs of driving trucks.

“You think how many hours he’s had behind the wheel and never had a [major] accident, that’s very impressive,” said CDL or Bust student Jason Horton.

PHOTO GALLERY: Photos from Graduation Week

“You’re very lucky to survive 42 years without a major accident,” Stephens said modestly. “I liked running the Carolinas a lot. You’ve got the mountains [so] you’re not getting bored. Flat land, you get bored. But I enjoyed all of it.”

And Stephens enjoys passing his vast trove of knowledge on to others.

“I like helping people get their CDLs, get a better way of life,” Stephens said. “I’m going to work as long as I can put one foot in front of the other.”

Stephens, Bob Cross and the rest of the TAT staff received an emphatic endorsement from CDL or Bust student Teddy Flener Jr.

“Bob and Ed have really helped me,” Flener said. “All the instructors are great. If you want to get your CDL, this is the place to be. It’s amazing.”

Horton, Flener, Joey Wilson Jr. and Ryan Strange are all 32 and under, while classmates Russell Durgasingh, Wayne Meenach and Anna Basham are all at least 45. Stephens said there are generally differences between students from the first age group and those from the second.

“Young people tend to pick up things a little faster, but the older ones, once they pick it up, they seem to have it more steady,” Stephens explained.

And while Stephens said in a typical TAT class of eight, two won’t earn their CDLs on the first attempt, he has “a very good feeling” about the seven students passing when they get tested by state examiners on Wednesday and Thursday.

Today, on Day 15, they’ll be back at the course near the Kentucky State Fairgrounds to rehearse the moves that they’ll be tested on.

--By David Elfin, Transport Topics staff reporter. Photo of Stephens (right) talking with students by John Sommers II for TT.