Day 16: Sept. 13, 2016

At 28, Shawn Dillon has seen more of life than most people twice his age. A native of Williamsburg in the southeast corner of Kentucky near its borders with North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, Dillon had driven in all 48 continental states, served in the Army in Iraq and fathered three children before he began teaching at Truck America Training in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, in June.

Dillon drove Humvees in the Army from 200 to 2011 and came home from Iraq without a scratch other than a knee injury that he suffered when diving into a ditch during a firefight.

“I drove a 48-foot-long vehicle in Iraq, and I decided I’d come back and do the same thing here,” said the newest instructor at Truck America Training in Shepherdsville, Kentucky.

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After earning his CDL, Dillon hit the road.

“I’ve been to all 48 continental states six or seven times,” he said. “The [trip] that sticks out the most is waking up on the rim of the Grand Canyon and getting to see the sun rise. There was a makeshift truck stop with [room for] two or three trucks. I pulled in, and when I woke up, there it was.”

In contrast, Dillon wasn’t a fan of driving in the Bronx section of New York City, terming it crazy.

With so many miles behind him, Dillon first trained drivers for an owner-operator, next for a flatbed company and then for a firm that only trucked locally when his father pushed him to call TAT to see if the school needed an instructor.

“The biggest part of the reason I do what I do is that I’m teaching guys that come in that have no experience whatsoever … and I’m able to teach them something that’s going to carry them for their rest of their lives and their careers,” Dillon said. “And it’s going to help them and their families.”

Dillon is young enough to be the son of some of his CDL or Bust students, but that hasn’t been an issue.

“When I first got here, I thought he was one of the students, but his knowledge is vast,” said Russell Durgasingh, who’s 17 years older than Dillon. “He’s a really good instructor. I would highly recommend him to train anybody.”

Dillon has grown close enough to the CDL or Bust students that he went out with Wayne Meenach and Joey Wilson Jr. after classes ended Sept 1. That was a first for Dillon during his three months at TAT.

“Joey and Wayne actually live pretty close to me, and we just got talking about the area,” Dillon said. “And all three of us were in the military. That brotherhood stays with you and that’s why the three of us clicked, especially me and Joey [since] we’re close in age and have a lot of similar interests.”

But fellow Army veterans Meenach and Wilson aren’t the only CDL or Bust students who can have fun with Dillon.

“We can relate to him a little bit,” Ryan Strange said. “It’s a good change of pace from [instructor] Ed [Stephens], who’s more serious, and [instructor] Bob [Cross] who’s laid back. Shawn will cut up and joke around.”

But Dillon is serious when it comes to the CDL or Bust students passing their state exams. Today, Day 16, is the last official day of preparation, with three students taking the test Wednesday and the remaining four on Thursday.

“I don’t see any problem,” he said. “They should all pass the first time around. I tell ‘em, ‘Make sure you study your [pre-trip inspection]. Make sure you have the wording down. When you go through everything with a confident voice [with me], I’m going to be able to say you know what you’re doing and not doubt it.’ “

— By David Elfin, Transport Topics staff reporter. Photo of Shawn Dillion with student Anna Basham by John Sommers II for TT.