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May 20, 2019 3:15 PM, EDT

America’s Road Team Captains Project Safety Image at Trucking Championships

Steve Brand of FedEx Freight checks his park job after stopping at the final problem with the Sleeper Berth truck on the driving course at the Ohio Truck Driving Championships May 17. (Marissa Gamache/Transport Topics)

SANDUSKY, Ohio — Truck driving championships bring out the best of the best in the industry. Whether it is lifetime competitors, former champions or Road Team captains, Ohio has them all.

America’s Road Team captains Steve Brand of FedEx Freight and Russell Simpson of Holland have seen it all. The two competitors gave it their all at the Ohio Truck Driving Championships May 17-18.

America’s Road Team is a program operated by American Trucking Associations.

Brand

Every driver is tested on his knowledge through a written exam, pre-trip inspection and a driving course. Decked out in kneepads, a flashlight and hammer, Brand was ready for pre-trip. Many of the competitors bring mallets to check for flat tires and flashlights to complete inspections under the tractor and trailer.

“A normal day takes 15 to 20 minutes to do a pre-trip, here we get nine minutes,” Brand said. This year, he competed in the Sleeper Berth division. “I am blessed that God has given me the ability to do what I do,” he said.

Brand has accumulated more than 4 million safe driving miles in the past 30 years. The passion for driving came from his father, who was a driver, and culminated into a stable career that has allowed him to provide for his family and share his infectious smile.”I love driving and being out,” Brand said. “I now have friends all over the country.”

He was named an America’s Road Team captain in 2017 and continues to stay active in the trucking community, participating in his 16th state championship.

Russ Simpson of Holland walks away after completing the course in the Flatbed division. (Marissa Gamache/Transport Topics)

“Doing these competitions made me a better driver,” he said. “We have to remember that the most important trip is the trip home.”

Fellow captain Simpson received his jacket and served from 2015-16. This year, he competed in the Flatbed division and finished second. In previous years, he has clinched two titles in 5-Axle, two in Tank Truck and one in Flatbed.

Competing offers drivers many benefits.

“Programs like this help so much,” Simpson said. “We all get together and practice.”

As an America’s Road Team captain, Simpson has been able to travel, educate people on truck safety and meet those from all walks of life.

Simpson

“It has allowed me to meet a lot of people, including the movers and shakers of the industry,” Simpson said.

At 19, Simpson earned his CDL. He has accumulated more than 2.3 million safe-driving miles in the past 23 years.

Though Brand and Simpson have been to nationals, neither was able to punch his ticket to Pittsburgh. But the experience and camaraderie is what it is all about.

Simpson is always excited when competition season rolls around.

“TDC is what I look forward to in the summer,” he said.