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Deaf Truck Driver Clears Road to Limitless!

Deaf Truck Driver

The Road to Limitless!

Joey Woodle of Scottsboro, AL has always wanted to drive the big trucks.
Surrounded by family – his dad, brother, cousin and uncle – who worked in
trucking and big machinery; Joey has always been fascinated with mechanics
and the lifestyle of trucking.

However, as a young man, when he asked if he could drive a truck he was told, “You can’t. You’re deaf.” In order to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), he had to pass a ‘whisper test’ – a requirement by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) that the applicant be able to hear a forced whisper at no less than five feet.

Knowing he couldn’t fulfill his dream, he resigned himself to the next best thing - riding along on trips – even though the lure of driving a rig still pulled at him. “I worked at a sock manufacturer and they had trucks, and I would just watch the forklift loading and unloading pallets onto trucks. I’d look at the body of the truck and ask myself how I could do that. I wanted to drive a truck!”

In 2011, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) began the process of filing exemption applications to the DOT to waive the hearing requirements for drivers with safe driving records who are deaf or hard of hearing. In 2013, the exemptions were finally allowed, opening the doors for drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing to pursue careers in driving commercial vehicles.

Two years later, Joey was asking questions by his vocational rehabilitation
counselor and learning, “Deaf and hard of hearing? Yes - you can!”
“My Dad and I talked about driving trucks,” said Joey. “My cousin has one, and I’d take it and practice – not on the road – and I’d drive it around. I told him, I want to do this in the future.’”

Next, Joey enrolled at AIDB’s E.H. Gentry Facility and in the Truck Driver
Training Program at Central Alabama Community College (CACC). “Gentry worked hard to create a successful and customized program for me,” said Joey. “They provided the teachers, staff, facilities and technology to make me successful in reaching my goals. It’s a wonderful place.”

There are three parts to acquiring a CDL license: air brakes, combination and general knowledge. After receiving a hearing waiver and clearance, Joey passed the air brakes and combination exams. Then Joey embarked on a rigorous 14-month study at Gentry in order to pass the general knowledge portion of the exams. After passing these, he could then register for CACC, where he would finally take the six-week road skills course in the Truck Driver Training Program.

Joey learned more than 400 specific vocabulary words, and did daily reviews of 500 teacher-developed questions that he might encounter on the exam.

Finally, Joey took the test and passed! He then enrolled in CACC and on May 9, 2018 - at 50 years of age and despite having been told that he would never drive a big rig due to his hearing - Joey accomplished his lifelong dream of obtaining his CDL! Joey is now living his dream and working on the open road in a big rig. Joey offers this advice to everyone working toward a goal, “Be patient. Don’t give up. Work hard and know that the future is limitless!”