INDIANAPOLIS — The head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was among a host of top officials giving an enthusiastic send-off to the 430 truck drivers competing in the 2016 National Truck Driving Championships and Step Van Driving Championships.
“These championships are where the best of the best compete,” said Scott Darling, FMCSA administrator, at the event’s “Breakfast of Champions” on Aug. 11. “Personally, I appreciate what you do to keep our roads safe. And I also thank you for your contributions every day for making sure that safe trucking rules our economy.”
Chris Spear, CEO of American Trucking Associations, encouraged the drivers to return to their terminals and “share your knowledge, share your story, share your experiences here this week, and your commitment and passion for safety with every driver who shares our highways.”
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“Every accident, every injury, every driver who weaves in and out of traffic, speeds, texts or hugs the bumper, defeat all the good that trucking does,” Spear said. “That’s why as an industry we hold you, the champions in this room, with such high esteem.”
With the written test under their belts, the drivers competing in the event began the skills and pre-trip inspection phases of the competition Aug. 11.
At an Aug. 10 briefing, the drivers also got a pep talk from from Larry Bizzell, the competition’s chairman and a safety executive with FedEx Ground, and other event officials, who commended them for collectively logging 630 million accident-free miles.
“You are now apostles,” Bizzell said. “You have to take your experience back to your terminals and your stations and spread the gospel of NTDC so that others will drive safely and compete.”
Bizzell advised the drivers to “breathe” as a way to calm their nerves before they begin negotiating the course.
“As long as you breathe, you will not get all jacked up,” Bizzell said. “It’s the six inches behind your ears that make the difference. Think about it. More people watch you drive every day than during the next three days.”
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive Jason Wing said he realized that the drivers were at the event to “play to win.”
“But I also want to make sure that you keep in mind the spirit of this competition,” Wing said. “The spirit of this competition is to celebrate the jobs that you do and the success that you’ve had over this past year, and the example that you are as professionals to the rest of the industry.”
Delta Airlines is well known for its advertising promise that it’s “ready when you are.”
But five truck drivers — four of them from Idaho and one from Alaska — trying to get to the National Truck Driving Championships probably are not buying the slogan.
The airline’s widely publicized systemwide computer glitch Aug. 8 and subsequent fallout has been in the news for leaving thousands of travelers stranded at airports across the United States.
The four Idaho drivers who arrived to the competition late were Jerry Aguirre, sleeper birth champ, Old Dominion Freight Line; Randall Schwasinger, step van champ, FedEx Freight; Glen Puthal, tank truck champ, Old Dominion Freight Line; and, William Hill, flatbed champ, Old Dominion Freight.
The other late arrival was Alaska’s tank truck champ, Jack Sorensen, Lynden Transport.
The five drivers, who missed the written test portion of the competition Aug. 10, took their test a day later, after the event’s “Breakfast of Champions” on Aug. 11.