Ryan Strange is a part-time dealer at a casino in Indiana, but the 32-year-old aspiring truck driver has spent the rest of his working hours for more than a decade cutting grass. That experience of driving a pickup with a long trailer stocked with equipment has helped as Strange has begun learning this week how to handle a big rig as one of the seven members of our CDL or Bust class.
“I’m used to backing trailers up, so I picked up [backing a tractor-trailer] pretty quick,” Strange said during his lunch break on Day 8 of CDL or Bust at Truck America Training. “When I cut lawns, with the trailer it’s about 40-foot. The trailer alone [on TAT trucks] is 48-foot. [But] it’s getting a lot easier.”
While offset parking has been difficult for some of his classmates, Strange said the concept of turning the wheel in the opposite direction from where he wants the trailer to go also hasn’t been a big deal, thanks to his years cutting grass.
PHOTO GALLERY: Photos of students, classroom and training property.
As for parallel parking, Strange said he nailed it on his first try.
“I didn’t knock a cone over,” he said proudly. “It was actually easier than doing the offset.”
But as of lunchtime Aug. 31, Strange had only driven on TAT’s property in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, so the clutch hadn’t been an issue. Yet. “We haven’t gotten out of third gear yet, but I haven’t touched a clutch since I was 16 so that’s going to be my problem, getting used to upshifting and downshifting,” said Strange, who was due to hit the road for the first time on the afternoon of Aug. 31.
Watching his classmates shift gears and use the clutch probably will help Strange, as watching them backing up and parking on the range at TAT has.
"When you’re outside watching somebody else try to back in, you can kinda tell what they need to do,” Strange explained. “When you’re in [the cab], they’re seeing … what you’re doing wrong. We’re helping each other out pretty good.”
-By David Elfin, Transport Topics staff reporter. Photo by John Sommers II for TT.