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As the nation’s top truck drivers prepare to convene in Pittsburgh for the National Truck Driving Championships, another group of safety professionals — law enforcement officers — will meet in the same city for its own competition.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s North American Inspectors Championship, in which contenders complete a written test and vehicle inspections, will take place Aug. 13-17.
Fifty-one competitors representing the United States, Canada and Mexico are slated to attend this year’s championship.
After an orientation period the first day of the event, inspectors will attend a general session the morning of Aug. 14. Speakers at the general session will include Pennsylvania State Police Capt. Robert Krol Jr. and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Chief Ray Martinez.
Jeremy Usener of the Texas Department of Public Safety, named Grand Champion at last year’s NAIC, also will deliver remarks. In accordance with CVSA policy, as a past winner Usener will not be competing.
Jeremy Usener of the Texas Department of Public Safety was named Grand Champion of last year's North American Inspectors Championship. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
Usener, who previously competed in 2014 and 2016, said his speech primarily will address the competitors. He acknowledged that most competitors will be under a lot of pressure, but he will encourage them to offset the stress by enjoying the city and befriending one another.
“Although they need to be prepared for it, they need to go out and spend some time with the people they’re with,” Usener said. “If you just sit there uptight about it the whole time and you’re stuck in your hotel room studying, you’ll be so stressed out that you’re going to basically go to vapor lock.”
Before competition activities ramp up Aug. 16, the inspectors will attend various training sessions. New this year is a session on combating human trafficking, which will take place over a four-hour period Aug. 14. In July, FMCSA announced a new policy imposing lifetime bans on truckers convicted of human trafficking. Inspectors also can expect sessions on subjects such as hazardous materials, motorcoach inspections and violation documentation.
“They always like that,” said Kerri Wirachowsky, director of CVSA’s roadside inspection programs. “Hazardous materials is complicated, so they always like a refresher on that.”
The competition tasks all participants with conducting an array of inspections, including the North American Standard Level 1 Inspection. According to CVSA’s website, this inspection covers everything from a driver’s record of duty status and use of seat belt to cargo securement and lighting devices. Contestants also have to conduct inspections on motorcoaches, cargo tank/bulk packagings and hazardous materials.
For the inspection practicals, organizers set up a series of trucks and motorcoaches and create the same violations on each vehicle. A participant will inspect one vehicle while the other members of his or her competition pool do the same with other vehicles.
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level have advanced to the national competition, where a Grand Champion will be crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written examination and their driving skills
When: Aug. 14-17
Wirachowsky described Aug. 16 as the “big game day.” It begins at 6 a.m. with a staff meeting and breakfast. Competition begins at 8 a.m. and includes practicals for the Level 1, cargo tank/bulk packagings and motorcoach inspections. The hazmat inspections will take place Aug. 17 and will be completed in time for the joint awards ceremony that evening.
Inspectors are allowed 55 minutes to conduct the Level 1 Inspection — 60 minutes if conducting the inspection in a language other than English. They are allowed 25 minutes for both the hazmat and bulk packagings inspections. The motorcoach inspection is 20 minutes, with a 25-minute option for those competing in French or Spanish.
In order to make the most of the tight time frames, Usener urges competitors to have their materials ready. For example, he said inspectors should highlight or earmark pertinent portions of their textbook and set up their equipment, such as flashlights and air gauges, in a way that’s easy for them to access.
Usener said he is eager for the opportunity to “pay it forward” and give advice to the competing inspectors.
“I want to be a mentor for other troopers out there on the road,” Usener said. “I want to help.”