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August 24, 2015 4:00 AM, EDT

Editorial: Saluting the Nation’s Finest Drivers

This Editorial appears in the Aug. 24 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today. 

One week ago in this space, we focused on how rapidly in-cab technologies and active safety systems are maturing and gaining in popularity. Many of the demonstrations and test drives that we at Transport Topics have the opportunity to participate in are nothing short of remarkable. The long-term economic benefits for truckers are clear, and the overall improvement in highway safety is obvious.

Talking about how these technologies may help transform trucking in the near future is fun. Still, we must remember not to overlook the importance of the men and women that make the industry as strong as it is today.

That is just the purpose an event such as the National Truck Driving Championships serves. The 78th annual “Super Bowl of Safety” brought 431 of the nation’s top truckers to St. Louis to show off their amazing skills.

“I’m still on cloud nine. I thought it was an outside shot to even be in the top five, much less to win,” Grand Champion Ronald Emenheiser said.

Certainly, NTDC is a heated competition — all the drivers will tell you they are there to win. But there also is a sense of camaraderie that sets it apart from almost any other competition. For many, it serves as a reunion of sorts; for others, a way to share safety tips with fellow drivers, regardless of what company they work for.

That dedication to safety was the key message shared by Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations, during NTDC’s kickoff event, the Breakfast of Champions.

“Every accident, every injury, every driver who weaves in and out of traffic, speeds or hugs a bumper defeats all of the good that trucking does,” Graves said. “That’s why, as an industry, we hold the championships and the champions in this room with such high esteem. The driving champions set the example. You inspire, and you put a positive face on our industry.”

That goes far beyond the accomplishments of Ronald Emenheiser and this year’s other NTDC competitors. It applies to each trucker out there who does everything possible to be safe and keep America moving.