Teddy Flener, Jr. is the youngest of the seven members of our CDL or Bust class, so he had fewer life experiences to draw upon as he tries to earn his commercial driver license.
However, the 25-year-old Flener is the only member of the class who had been in a position of leadership as a high school quarterback, which tends to give one a confidence booster. But Flener said he was sweating and itching from nerves when he took the CDL permit exam on Day 4. When he failed to pass the combination vehicle and air brake sections, he was down in the dumps.
“On Thursday after I got back into class and I hadn’t passed, my head was down and all [my classmates] was like, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just study hard. Get back in there tomorrow and knock it out,’ “ Flener said. “I went home after I got out of class and put my face in the books for about five-and-a-half hours. I was still little nervous [at the re-test], but I had already passed the general knowledge part of the test, so I had to just take combination and air brakes.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Photos of students, classroom and training property.
Flener not only got some pointers that day from classmate Joey Wilson Jr., who has driven a dump truck for a living, but also from an uncle who has a CDL. Thanks in part to their advice, Flener joined classmate Russell Durgasingh in passing the exam on Day 5, meaning that all seven students moved on to get behind the wheel Monday.
Even though he had to baby-sit son Grayson, who turns 1 on Sept. 8, much of the weekend so that girlfriend Crystal Chappell could work her shifts at a local tavern, Flener was able to spend some time in the books studying truck gears and clutches.
“I’ve got to get into that rhythm and that pattern, to get the gears to go in smooth,” Flener said during his lunch break on Day 6 as the CDL or Bust students moved from the classroom to the range at Truck America Training in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. “I think I grinded maybe one gear going around the whole the facility twice. Shawn’s [instructor Shawn Dillon] pretty laid-back. He’ll let you make the mistake and then he’ll go back and show you and correct it for you.”
Flener said that he also did so well in this morning’s backing drills that he, along with Wilson and Jason Horton – each of whom has driven smaller trucks professionally – were the only ones who moved on to offset backing before lunch.
“It’s not really hard,” Flener said about backing up the big rig in a straight line. “I felt pretty good.”
--By David Elfin, Transport Topics staff reporter. Photo by John Sommers II for TT.