It was a long couple of weeks between CDL exams for CDL or Bust student Teddy Flener Jr. Having been tripped up during the pre-trip portion of the test Sept. 14, Flener had to wait until Sept. 29 before he could take the exam again.
During his 15 days away from trucks, the 25-year-old former high school quarterback worked for a buddy’s lawn care company, hung out with his girlfriend and their 1-year-old son and studied his pre-trip sporadically.
“I went over it a few times, but I didn’t want to overdo [it],” Flener said Sept. 30 from his home not far from Truck America Training in Shepherdsville, Kentucky.
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The only day that Flener would have been allowed to practice the maneuvers and road portions of the exam at TAT was Sept. 27, but he chose to work and keep a doctor’s appointment, so he headed to the exam at the State Fairgrounds in Louisville without having been behind the wheel of a truck since Sept. 13.
“I went straight in there and done it,” Flener said, chuckling.
Flener keeps in touch with classmates Wayne Meenach, Ryan Strange and Joey Wilson Jr., so he knew that the first two passed on their first attempts and that Wilson needed three tries to do so.
“[Joey] made a simple mistake [by getting caught with a traffic light turning yellow] and it cost him,” Flener said. “I tried to think about the mistake he made so when I got up to my red lights, I made sure that I slowed down quite a bit so I would have a fresh start going through the intersection.”
Flener also knew that Russell Durgasingh and Jason Horton passed immediately, leaving him and Anna Basham as the CDL or Bust members without their licenses.
Wilson gave last-minute encouragement to Flener, whose confidence rose when he arrived at the test site at 6:45 a.m. on Sept. 29 and learned that the laid-back Jerry Hess, not stickler Evan Harrod, would be his examiner.
“I knew it’s got to be a good day,” said Flener, who went and got breakfast for himself and TAT instructor Bob Cross before Hess arrived with his own meal. Flener used the extra five minutes for a final pre-trip brush-up and it was go time.
“At first, I was doing everything kinda quick because I had just gotten out of [studying] that packet, but then I kinda slowed myself down when I was doing the in-cab because … there’s a lot that has to be told about and if you miss anything, it’s an automatic fail,” said Flener, who was fortunate not to be tested on the entire truck as Basham and Strange had been. “When I got through the in-cab, I was pretty much confident that everything else was going to be smooth as can be. I felt confident that I had already passed, that I already had my CDL. When we were driving back at school, I was real confident, [and] my range was good.”
That proved accurate Sept. 29 as Flener only lost two points on the maneuvers for hitting a cone while parallel parking. He only needed to get out of the truck once during the offset parking piece to make sure his back tire was lined up with the center cone. And Flener said the only things that Hess warned him about during the road test was to check his mirrors every five to eight seconds and to hurry up and change gears when the light changed with traffic behind him.
Now that earning his CDL is behind him, Flener said, “A lot of weight was lifted off my shoulders, [but] my career, my journey is just starting.”
Although Flener has talked to several companies, he has his sights set on driving for UPS even if that means delivering packages from a box truck locally before handling a Class 8 vehicle over the road.
“It was probably the best decision I’ve made in my life as far as working,” Flener said of leaving his job as an electrician’s assistant to enroll at TAT last month. “If somebody’s not driving a truck, people’s not getting their food, their clothes, their furniture, so it’s a job that’s always gonna be there.”
Durgasingh is the only CDL or Bust member who has accepted a job in the industry. He will drive locally for Central Transport of Louisville starting Oct. 3.
Basham, who finally surmounted the parallel parking hurdle on her third try, on Sept. 28, came up short on the road test. She’ll make another attempt Oct. 6.
Flener advised, “Be calm. Don’t rush anything. Check your mirrors [and be careful with the traffic lights]. Keep them turns wide, and [you] shouldn’t have a problem.”
— By David Elfin, Transport Topics staff reporter. Photo by John Sommers II for TT.