If you do what you love for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life. Or so the adage goes.
For Hobie Eirich of FedEx Freight, driving a 4-axle is a passion that has manifested into the highest honor in his home state of California. In May, he earned Grand Champion honors at the state’s truck safety tournament.
The victory meant a second trip to the National Truck Driving Championships. He had qualified in 2015, also in 4-axle.
“I figured, if I’m going to be driving that every day, then it’s a free practice for me and just, I’m able to hone my skills in better,” Eirich told Transport Topics last month.
The Golden State qualifier is among the most competitive in the country, with its diverse competitors from different regions. Appreciative of his passion for safety and a deep desire to return to the national stage, Eirich dedicated many weeks preparing for the state contest.
“I told myself, you know, this time around I know what’s out there, and I know what’s expected … so I just really put my nose to the grindstone and practiced as much as I possibly could,” he said.
After attending a preparatory tournament last month hosted by FedEx, the focus turns exclusively to training for the national contest. The main task is studying “2018 Facts for Drivers,” the book used to test the competitors, and developing strong muscle memory at pre-trip inspections and the driving course.
There’s also the issue of nerves. Because, many drivers realize hesitation leads to devastation.
“I look at it as, every day is a chance for me to get better and so when I do go to the nationals, hopefully I won’t be so nervous and I’ll perform better,” Eirich said. “For myself, try and get into a rhythm. Nerves is your No. 1 no-no. If you get nervous out there, you’re going to perform poorly.”
To calm his nerves, Eirich will envision the course to be one of the stops on his work route where he traverses safely around a dock. He explained, “That seems to calm myself down to where I’m not so nervous and I’m not getting jittery.”
When asked about competitors at nationals who would be looking up to him now that he has attained the highest honor at his state, Eirich said he does not see it that way: “I guess I’m too humble, and I don’t feel that I’m like that so I just, you know, I try and go out there and do my best and if I can help somebody else out I try and do that as well.”
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level advance to the national competition, with a grand champion crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written examination and their driving skills
When: Aug. 15-18
Where: Columbus, Ohio
Most grand champions will have an entourage of supporters. Eirich will be no exception. Joining him at nationals in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 15-18 will be his fan club, led by his wife, Shannon, and daughters: Carly, 22; Kaile, 19; Cambrya, 16; and Kiera, 13.
Other drivers advancing to nationals:
• Paul Kershaw, Walmart, sleeper berth.
• Alfonso Saavedra, XPO Logistics, 3-axle.
• Dawn Kerr, FedEx Express, 5-axle
• Gary Martin, FedEx Ground, tanker.
• Gary Cordova, FedEx Ground, straight truck.
• Johnny Pearson, Golden State Foods, flatbed.
• Jon Stafford, FedEx Freight, twin trailers.
• Oscar Enciso, FedEx Ground, step van.