Joey Wilson Jr. was excited to get behind the wheel of a big rig on the highway for the first time Aug. 31 as our CDL or Bust class reached Day 8, the halfway point of preparations for their CDL exams Sept. 14 or 15.
Wilson did get on the road, but he also spent an unanticipated hour at a fuel station in Bardstown, Kentucky, 21 miles from Truck America Training’s facility one county over in Shepherdsville.
“I had just got done parking it, and the truck broke down for a little bit,” Wilson said after returning from his adventure with classmate Teddy Flener Jr. and instructor Jimmy Gibson. “[Jimmy] was starting the truck back up, and it wouldn’t start. There was a loose wire or something. It took about an hour to take care of. Things happen. Things break.”
Wilson, who had a couple of breakdowns in his former job driving dump trucks, including one in which the rear drive shaft came off, wasn’t unnerved by the change in plans. He just smoked cigarettes while waiting for the truck to be fixed.
He also was pretty mellow about handling a tractor-trailer for the first time.
“It was good,” said the 27-year-old Wilson, adding that he has never had an accident. “It’s a little bit different because you have a big section [the trailer] that doesn’t want to follow exactly behind you.”
Although Wilson believes he’s doing very well, he’s not sure he could pass his CDL driving exam today.
“It wouldn’t hurt none,” Wilson said of having eight more days of practice, the last two of which will be at the State Fairgrounds in Louisville, where the exams will occur.
Wilson already has come through two exams as part of the CDL or Bust class: His own and Flener’s. The night before Flener was going to take the written test for a second straight day after failing the first time, he reached out to Wilson for pointers.
“He was doing practice tests and just wasn’t sure about some things,” Wilson said. “I helped him the best I could, helped him get over a little bit of nervousness.”
That’s a prime example of how the seven students have bonded. Wilson compared that process with making friends on the job, adding that he might also stay in touch with TAT’s instructors well after the class graduates. Beers anyone?
— By David Elfin, Transport Topics staff reporter. Photo by John Sommers II for TT.