Earlier this month, I traded in my Honda Accord for a 1970 Mack fire truck.
Now, personally, I would have preferred a semi, but I haven’t yet mastered driving a six-speed manual, let alone a 10-plus gear big rig.
I was working on a story about driver shortages for the latest edition of our bi-weekly the week before last, and Dion McNeeley, president of Commercial Driver School in Lakewood, invited me to learn firsthand what it takes to get your commercial driver’s license.
When I got to his school, he told me about another reporter who did a story on the school and ended up enrolling and becoming a driver. Sure enough, her previous workplace confirmed she left the company about three or four months ago.
I didn’t discover a new calling at the school, but I did have fun learning to drive a fire truck around the school’s parking lot. (Check out the video our photographer shot.)
Let’s just say driving this 32,000-pound truck was easier said than done.
Driving a fire truck requires a Class-B CDL. There’s an exemption when you’re responding to an emergency, but you’ll need it to drive the truck back to the station, said Randy Dean, lead instructor at Commercial Driver School.
He’s the instructor in the video with me. He said I did well, but I should have honked the horn before I started backing up. I vaguely remember him saying this when my lesson started, but I had a hard enough time remembering lessons about parallel parking and backing around a corner from driver’s ed. while I was trying to maneuver the course at the school.
If you read my story in the paper, you’ll learn about the new requirements for getting a CDL. As of 2009, commercial drivers must complete a state-approved training course to get their license. It’s keeping our roads safer, but compounding the shortage. What do you think about the requirement?