Although they’ve known their driving instructors for less than 10 days, the seven students in Transport Topics’ CDL or Bust class have forged some bonds with them.
It’s much more a case of Professor McGonigle and Harry Potter than Sgt. Foley and Zack Mayo from “An Officer and a Gentleman.” The trainers at Truck America Training in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, are more about praise than putdowns.
That might be especially true for instructor Jimmy Gibson and CDL or Bust student Teddy Flener Jr. It turns out that Gibson was a buddy of Flener’s uncle/fellow quarterback Jerry Flener at Bullitt Central High School.
“I guess they were good friends,” said Flener, who admitted that while he was quicker, his uncle was a better quarterback for the Cougars. “He said my uncle was a great guy. They both said hello to each other. I guess for the rest of the class, if I ever get [in a truck] with Jimmy, I’ll probably get a pep talk.”
Gibson, Flener and student Joey Wilson Jr. couldn’t get their truck started again on Day 6 after taking a snack/bathroom break at truck stop in Bardstown, Kentucky.
“We came back out to start the truck to get ready to leave and it’s just clicking,” recalled Flener, who’s mellow enough that he took a nap while they waited for the truck to be fixed. “A guy from the store tried to jump it for us. That really didn’t have an effect, but [instructor] Bob [Cross] came out in his personal truck [with] some hand tools. We beat on the starter a little bit and voila! It started right back up. [Bob] knows what he’s doing when it comes to the big trucks.”
Unlike Wilson and classmates Anna Basham and Jason Horton, the 25-year-old Flener came to TAT never having been behind the wheel of anything bigger than a pickup, so this week has been an eye-opener on the facility’s range and on road.
“It was rough the first couple of days trying to get used to everything,” Flener said. “Being on the interstate is a whole lot different than being out there on the range. I had some trouble with my shifting. Coming in Monday, my nerves were shook up, but today was the best day I’ve probably had. Instructor Ed [Stephens] showed me a way to downshift at a proper speed and RPMs and the gears were falling in smooth. … My upshifting was smooth, my turns were smooth, downshifting was smooth. You get the bad stuff and the mistakes out of the way, you feel more confident and you go into the [three-day] weekend and you’re just like, ‘Finally I can get a break here.’ “
-By David Elfin, Transport Topics staff reporter. Photo by John Sommers II for TT.