So you want to be a truck driver?
Here’s the gauntlet that CDL or Bust students Anna Basham, Russell Durgasingh and Teddy Flener Jr. will have to overcome today on the testing course adjacent to the State Fairgrounds in Louisville, Kentucky.
The exam is divided into three main parts: pre-trip, maneuvers and driving on the road.
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Examiner Evan Harrod, a retired state trooper, will decide whether to run through the pre-trip with each student before having them start the truck, or whether each will go through the entire test before the next one starts.
The pre-trip inspection includes up to 130 questions outside the vehicle as well as inside the cab. Wrong answers on certain key topics result in automatic failure. Pre-trip usually takes about half an hour, less if it’s not the full-blown version.
“It’s randomized testing,” explained Sgt. Larry Farris of the Kentucky State Police, which administers the state’s CDL exams. “They may do a full pre-trip or a Part A, a Part B or a Part C. But everyone does in-cab [shifting, clutch, etc.] and the coupling system [the air lines]. Part A would be just the engine compartment. Part B is from the driver’s door to the back of the truck. Part C is the trailer.”
If a student gets at least 80% of the pre-trip correct, he or she starts the truck and move on to the maneuvers: straight line backing up through a 12-foot wide lane of cones, offset parking and parallel parking. Again, students must get 80% — not exceeding more than 12 points in errors in any of the three — on the maneuvers to succeed on this section, which typically lasts half an hour.
Having survived those two portions, the students begin navigating the local streets and highway service roads around the fairgrounds and Louisville International Airport.
TAT instructor Ed Stephens drove me around the course yesterday. It’s not particularly harrowing but does include a couple of traffic lights and stop signs as well as some tight turns — one of which a Class A truck can’t make without crossing the double line, a move that is obviously permitted on the exam.
“The examiner tells them to drive straight until otherwise directed,” Farris said. “He gives them ample [notice] before they have to make a turn.”
Again, a score of at least 80% is the minimum required to pass. If the students have done so on each of the three portions of the exam, they earn their CDLs.
The examiner then alerts the state police headquarters in Frankfort. Once the score is entered into the computer system, the students can pick up their new license at any clerk’s office, usually the one in their home counties, and pursue the truck driving career that brought them to TAT in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, in the first place last month.
The chance of thunderstorms for this morning has dropped significantly, so Basham, Durgasingh and Flener should be tested under partly cloudy skies. The weather is supposed to be the same when Jason Horton, Wayne Meenach, Ryan Strange and Joey Wilson Jr. follow suit tomorrow. Watch CDLorBust.com and @TransportTopics for results on how they do!
--By David Elfin, Transport Topics staff reporter. Photo by John Sommers II for TT.