I have not driven much since obtaining the CDL, but I did get some unique seat time in late August. In preparation for the KTA Annual Conference, held at the French Lick Resort and Casino in Indiana, I was given the opportunity to drive a truck that few have been allowed to drive. No, it wasn’t around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; it wasn’t even entirely outside. I drove a 2023 Kenworth, compliments of Kenworth of Louisville, inside the French Lick Resort Ballroom.
As in years past, KTA had several vendors displaying trucks. Historically, the road team captains were at the event to move all the equipment inside the building, but due to a scheduling conflict (several were at the National Truck Driving Championship), this left us slightly short-handed as far as drivers. David Proctor and I were left to get the equipment inside the building.
The French Lick facility can have several truck tractors and a couple of trailers positioned inside the ballroom area. Entry is made via a set of extremely large garage-type doors at the rear of the building. Once David positioned the two semi-trailers, it was time to bring the display truck tractors. David brought the first one in, and I had already decided that if he could do it, I could too. Well, probably!
To put this in perspective, as you already know, I have had limited driving experience when it comes to CMVs, and this was not the same as driving in an open lot or even the open road. These were somewhat tight spots to get into the ballroom. The trick is not to tear up the carpet tiles, something that apparently is not that difficult to do. So, with David as my co-pilot, I began to drive this on-the-upper-side-of-$100,000 truck into essentially a ballroom/parking garage.
I made it with room to spare. Years ago, I heard someone describing an endeavor to park or drive a vehicle through a tight space. I distinctly remember the person saying, “Oh, you could drive a tractor-trailer through there;” maybe you’ve heard the saying. It’s usually used to describe an instance where there was ample room, even if there wasn’t. For some reason, that saying has stuck with me through the years, and I’ve made that very same statement when talking about a tight spot or questionable parking space. Well, with this driving experience, I think it has come to be.
On the subject of “driving in general,” I hope you will allow me a small indulgence of a paragraph to thank the person that taught me how to drive. That person would be my dad, who turned 80 in October. Dad is responsible for turning me into a car guy, and all that implies, of which I am certainly proud. My first stint at driving something with a gas engine was at age six. Dad built me a go-cart with a Briggs-Stratton engine, and the cart was maroon. To put my excitement in perspective, imagine yourself winning a brand-new Peterbilt! My very first lap in the yard included a helmet for safety and a fence post. As I neared the fence, I got confused about the gas pedal and the brake. I hit the fence post and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I quickly figured out which pedal was which, and I was off to the races. My grandmother was certain that dad had provided me with a vehicle that would bring certain death. Her words: “You’re going to kill that baby!” Luckily, I survived and lived to tell the tale some 45 years later. I just wanted to say, “Thanks, Dad!” for teaching me how to drive.
Back behind the wheel of the big trucks, all said equipment displayed at the conference remained damage free, as did the carpet tiles. I must admit, it was fun to say I drove a big truck inside a ballroom. Again, something I most certainly would never accomplish at my former occupation, not to mention that not every truck driver can attest.
I want to thank all the vendors for providing the equipment, and a big shout out to both David Proctor for his guidance and Rick Taylor for having the confidence to turn me loose in a big truck in such a confined space. You really could drive a tractor-trailer through there!
Until next time, “From Under the Truck to Behind the Wheel!”