I was threading my minivan in reverse through teen-agers’ sport-utilities and pickups in my wide driveway the other day. Looking left and right, never turning around, I suddenly realized: I trust my mirrors.
It wasn’t always that way. Like any four-wheeler, I was quick to rubberneck when backing. What changed me? Training to earn an Alabama commercial driver’s license.
“Get your head back in that window!” I heard one examiner yell repeatedly at a CDL applicant attempting an alley dock at the lot where we were training. I took note. When my day came, my head placement would be that of a scared turtle. And, God willing, I would learn to steer our canary-yellow 2001 Peterbilt 387 so adeptly that the rear bumper would swing into the cone “dock” as parallel as railroad tracks.
I had to use all four allowed pull-ups on the docking, but I passed. So did four other Randall Publishing Co. editors. As proud as we are to become holders of a CDL, the card is not the point. A commercial driver’s license doesn’t make you a trucker any more than a marriage license makes you a good spouse. Any CDL holder needs a lot of experience under the belt to go with the plastic in the wallet before he begins to understand the wonder and the trials of what it means to earn a living on the road.
CDL training, though, did give us an appreciation of the skills you’ve mastered and a better understanding of the equipment you depend upon every day. That was worth the effort because no trade magazine is any better than its credibility with readers. Having CDL holders on staff – Overdrive also has Equipment Editor Paul Hartley, a former trucker, and contributing editors Jane Connors and Carolyn Magner – is one step we’ve taken so you can trust us more than I trust my side mirrors. As we test ourselves as trade journalists, it’s not our achievements, but what we continue to learn about your world that counts.