Anna Basham, the last member of our CDL or Bust class from Truck America Training without a CDL, earned hers this morning on her fourth try at the State Fairgrounds in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I’m really proud that I made the accomplishment that I’ve done,” said the emotional Basham, who only had to attempt the on-road portion today after passing the pre-trip on her first try and the maneuvers on her third Sept. 28. “For a 51-year-old woman, this was a big game changer. I was starting to wonder if I was going to be able to do it.”
That was even the case today with examiner Jerry Hess riding shotgun.
PHOTO GALLERY: Photos from Graduation Week
“We got to where we normally do one of our turns and there was three semis sitting there along the road with cars on ‘em for the Ford plant, so we couldn’t go down that road,” Basham explained. “I actually had to do a U-turn [her first in a large truck]. Jerry was like, ‘Hang to the right and then swing to the left and we’ll just turn around.’ Two of my [expected] turns, I didn’t get to do, but by doing the U-turn, I guess he figured I knew what I was doing.”
Basham was grateful that U.S. Xpress Enterprises, which had accepted her into its training program pending her earning her CDL, didn’t break the agreement through her three failed exams.
“They were wonderful,” said Basham, who’ll take a bus three days from now at 4:30 a.m. from Louisville to Springfield, Ohio. She starts orientation the next day with two to three weeks of training to follow before she begins her career as a tandem over-the-road driver.
Basham, a former school bus driver, “was very disappointed with myself” after failing the parallel parking piece of the maneuvers Sept. 14 and Sept. 22.
“I had really bad test anxiety [the first day], and when I messed up at one point during the parallel parking, I just fell apart,” recalled Basham, who acknowledged that she might have gotten overconfident after sailing through the pre-trip and the straight backing and offset parking maneuvers.
During her second test, Basham parked the truck slightly out of the box without getting out to check the accuracy of her alignment. Being out of the box cost her 10 points on a piece of the test on which 12 taken off causes an automatic failure.
Failing to downshift in more than four seconds while driving also is an automatic failure in examiner Evan Harrod’s eyes. That’s why Basham didn’t pass on her third try after successfully navigating almost the entire road portion.
“When I couldn’t get it into fourth, I went ahead and put it in third, thinking that maybe I caught it in time,” Basham said. “I [told Evan], ‘I really needed to pass so I can get to work’ and he said, ‘Well, you’ll have to come back again.’ “
At that point, Basham began doubt that she would ever pass, but a phone call from CDL or Bust classmate Teddy Flener Jr., who had failed once, and an equally upbeat Facebook message from classmate Wayne Meenach helped restore her confidence. So did a practice drive with TAT instructor Ed Stephens this morning.
All the heartache of the past three weeks made today’s triumph even better.
“It would’ve been great to pass it on the first day because I would’ve been working sooner, but I grew with my confidence with the extra practice and everybody [at TAT] went out of their way to help me get to the point where I am now,” Basham said while wearing her CDL or Bust T-shirt and planning to celebrate with a steak and a Bahama Mama cocktail tonight. “I’m happy that I was part of the class because it’s like I’ve got six new brothers now.”
-— By David Elfin, Transport Topics staff reporter; photo by John Sommers II for TT