What started out as a joke quickly turned into a personal challenge. Back in February the Houston Food Bank sent out an email asking if any employees wanted to become CDL certified. It went on to state upon completion of the course we could then transfer to the Transportation department, be utilized in an event of a natural disaster or if we are ever short on drivers.
I made a crack to my manger that I should enroll, and she went on to say “Yes, you totally should!” A few days later I found myself filling out the application and then meeting with HR and a few members of our Transportation department to discuss why I wanted to be accepted to this program. My response was “I would love to help our community out during a disaster in any way possible.” After a few handshakes, nods and approvals I found myself in a 12-week CDL course at Houston Community College with 9 fellow food bankers.
No one prepares you or tells you what to expect when earning your CDL. On the first night of class our instructor handed us a large stack of reading material and outlined the course. She went on to tell us we had 4 weeks to read and learn all the Texas’ rules and regulations for commercial vehicles. Upon finishing our reading material, we would then have to pass four written exams administered by the DMV to receive our learners permit. Without earning our learners permit we wouldn’t be allowed to graduate to the driving portion of the program.
I thought to myself, “piece of cake, I can read and learn this material!” Our instructor then told us besides the reading material we also needed to learn every mechanical part, bolt, tire tread depth and air break system of the truck before we could even touch the truck. I must admit, I felt overwhelmed hearing this.
Upon earning our learners permit, we then moved on to the driving portion of the course. This is where the “fun” began! We were required to learn three methods of backing procedures, which included straight back, off-set and parallel park. That’s when we realized this was going to be harder than we thought. Within a few weeks we were shifting gears like pros and even driving on public roads and the nearby interstate!
After several months of reading material, hot evenings spent in a truck yard, grinding gears, parking procedures, sweat & tears, and with each other’s help I am happy to say 9 of us received our CDLs this past July. Most of the guys in my class have now tested and transferred up to Class A drivers for the food bank. They are now delivering and picking up nutritious foods and donations around our community daily.
My classmates and I are thankful for this great opportunity to earn our CDL’s and to work for an organization that empowers and provides training to further our careers and knowledge. I also have a new-found respect for 18-wheeler drivers. They are truly amazing individuals who brave the roads each day ensuring goods are delivered to their proper location. This was a great opportunity and learning experience, with that said I have the upmost respect for the men and women who are out on the open road daily.