When Jeremy Thomas of Cross Lanes, W.Va., was younger, he often would play in the cab of his father’s truck. He blew the horn and pretended to shift gears. He wanted to be just like his dad, his hero.
Fast forward about three decades to the 2018 West Virginia Truck Driving Championships. The elder Thomas, Randy, places first in the 4-axle class. Now 35 and a driver for 13 years, Jeremy places first in the tank truck class.
West Virginia 4-axle champion Randy Thomas (West Virginia Trucking Association)
And Jeremy is standing next to Randy when he finds out he is named Grand Champion in only his second year of competing, a title he could not have earned without his father’s guidance.
“Growing up with a professional driver in your house as someone you looked up to, you really gained a respect for how important the job of a professional driver is not only to the local community but the country in general,” Jeremy said.
PHOTO GALLERY: See West Virginia winners, competition scenes
Both Randy and Jeremy work for FedEx Freight. When training, they work as a team and are constantly motivating each other.
“I think the reason I [was] so successful was because the two of us prepared together and really pushed each other, and being able to tap into his wealth of knowledge from his 40-plus years of driving, that really helps quite a lot,” Jeremy said. “I think we really just pushed each other to do better.”
During his first year competing, Jeremy won Rookie of the Year and placed second in the tank truck class. This year, he was nervous about competing, but he also felt prepared.
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
“West Virginia has a lot of highly skilled and experienced competitors,” Jeremy said. “So any time you can compete on that kind of level with professional drivers like that it’s very humbling.”
The father-son duo prepared for the competition by studying “Facts for Drivers.” They also built a driving course for practice and worked on their pre-trip. They will continue to practice together as they both head to nationals, Aug. 15-18 in Columbus, Ohio.
Although Jeremy and his father are both competing at nationals, there is no sense of rivalry between them. Jeremy said his father taught him what it meant to be a safe, professional truck driver and set him up for success.
“I don’t want to let him down,” Jeremy said. “I’m working hard, I’m putting in a lot of time and effort to make sure we’re successful in the competition and as a professional driver.”