Area truck driving school trains state safety examiners

Area truck driving school trains state safety examiners

Examining and learning every part of school bus safety was part of a course for students seeking to become state CDL examiners.


The American Professional Truck Driving School in Gnadenhutten held a recent training event as part of a call to safety issued by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. The two-week training session was for people interested in becoming licensed commercial driver’s license examiners.

A missive received by Robert “Red” Higgenbotham, owner of the business, said, “The people attending this training program play a very integral part in the governor’s important role in making Ohio highways safe.”

Five people took the course at APTDS under the direction of Sherry McLaughlin, a CDL field representative for the State of Ohio Department of Public Safety.

“The biggest thing we focus on in training CDL examiners is safety,” McLaughlin said. “We don’t want to put anybody out there on the road with your family who is not safe to be driving.”

It’s a rigorous program, and even after completing the two-week session, students are still not licensed.

“They’ll go back to their home site and shadow a seasoned examiner there,” said Ben Stamper, a CDL field representative who assisted with administering the course. “When they feel they’re ready, we’ll come and do a final performance evaluation and then release them once they test out.”

The certification process includes a road test with the examiners-to-be. Alan Sadolsky, a supervisor and lead instructor who has been with APTDS for 30 years, is one of the people who will administer that test.

“We’ll make mistakes on purpose,” Sadolsky said of the test the future examiners must take. “Then they are graded on how well they do.”

The students

Ivory Gerton and Chad Bowlin came from the Dayton area to become examiners. Gerton, a former school bus driver who has been a preservice instructor, said she wants to move up a step in her career.

Bowlin has had his CDL since 2001. After a car accident caused by a texting driver broke his knee in three places, he chose to pursue becoming an examiner rather than return to driving.

Christopher Wood from Zanesville has done it all. He has driven commercial trucks, city buses, school buses and even worked as an ice road trucker in Canada.

“After about 20 years of driving, I got tired of seeing accidents that could have been avoided,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of putting good drivers on the road.”

Local couple Steve and Janet Bush also attended the course. Steven Bush had been a truck driver since 1974. “I’m retired now, so I thought it would give me some extra money and something to do,” he said.

“I was a Newcomerstown school bus driver for more than 25 years and was an examiner here for nearly 10 years,” Janet Bush said.

The couple attended in order to become recertified as examiners.

Focused on safety

At the age of 93, Higgenbotham still suits up and shows up to work every day. “Safety is of the utmost concern with me,” the former Army tank commander said.

There’s a reason for Higgenbotham’s insistence on safety first. He is one of six boys in the family, all of whom served in the military.

“We served in Vietnam, Korea, all over the world,” Higgenbotham said. “We all came home, and then two were killed in accidents, one by a drunk driver and the other one by a fire truck out of control.”

Higgenbotham was a preservice instructor for the state and helped write a book on school bus safety used by state CDL trainers. Anyone wanting to drive a school bus must complete a preservice course that includes classroom and practical instruction.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Higgenbotham is the Ohio preservice East Region instructor.

“I’m in charge of all the training for new and recertifying school bus drivers in counties,” he said. “My primary job is keeping our kiddos safe.”

APTDS offers a variety of CDL training and testing at 8334 state Route 36 in Gnadenhutten. Call 740-254-9313 or find them on Facebook.

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