Vernon Keola is a man of many skills and interests who is always looking for the next adventure or new project. Retired from 35 years as a mail carrier with the US Post Office in Superior, WI, he decided to go back to school for truck driving. “I had butterflies in my stomach coming to my first day of class,” he said. “I am not one to sit around at home as a retired guy. I like to push myself to try new things.”
Keola now works for Jeff Foster Trucking where he drives over-the-road irregular flatbed loads. “I would tell anybody who is considering training as a professional truck driver that the pay and benefits are really good but not everybody can do this job.”
Truck driving is a job where every day is different and, as Keola’s instructors emphasized, can be a dangerous job if you are not focused. “You are in charge of an 80,000-pound machine so you must pay attention to what is going around you all the time,” said Keola. “It’s a different mindset from delivering mail. You are responsible for this big machine with a 48-foot trailer. It can be a lot of pressure and stress but I love being up in the cab with the views of everything.”
The challenges of learning to drive big rigs can be both physically and emotionally draining. “We learned double clutching with 10-speed non-synchronized manual transmissions,” said Keola. “You practice gear change by watching the tachometer and also listening to the engine.” Keola also practiced at home while watching TV. “I would be sitting at home with my wife and mimic the shifting with my hand and foot. My instructor, Dave Amys, said you are going to have a sore left leg at the end of training.”
Originally from Hawaii, Keola moved to the area in 1987 as a military man who served six year’s active duty with several tours in Afghanistan. Keola also serves as an electrician at the 148th National Guard base in Duluth. Keola also trained as an electrician at LSC and graduated from the Commercial and Residential Wiring program in 2005.
Keola appreciates the excellent training he received at LSC. “I feel confident about driving truck. Dave Amys was right next to me in the cab along with other students. He was a very patient instructor. There is a lot to learn and practice but I am not a quitter. I told him that you guys are going to have to kick me out of here because I am finishing the program and driving truck.”