Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships
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August 14, 2018 4:30 AM, EDT
Finale of CVSA’s Inspectors Competition Will Coincide With NTDC Awards Banquet
Truck inspection in Landover, Md. Law enforcement members conduct inspections in Landover, Md. (CVSA)

In a few weeks, law enforcement officials from across the continent will convene in Columbus, Ohio, to participate in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s North American Inspectors Championship.

The competition, in which contenders complete a written test and a vehicle inspection, will be held Aug. 14-18 in Ohio’s capital. The biggest difference attendees can expect during this year’s competition is that the awards ceremony in which the top inspector is named will coincide with the National Truck Driving Championships’ awards banquet. NTDC, hosted by American Trucking Associations, challenges the best truck drivers in the country with a written exam, driving exercises and pre-trip inspections.

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“The most exciting part of this year is that we’ve moved it up a day and coordinated with the ATA banquet,” Kerri Wirachowsky, director of CVSA’s roadside inspection program, told Transport Topics. “That’s a big, new change this year, that we’ve integrated with ATA.”

Fifty-two competitors representing the United States, Canada and Mexico will attend this year’s championship. After a series of orientation sessions the first day of the competition, inspectors will have the opportunity to attend a general session the morning of Aug. 15.

Speakers at the general session will include Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Paul Pride, Kansas Highway Patrol Capt. Christopher Turner and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Chief Safety Officer Jack Van Steenburg.

“The North American Inspectors Championship shines a well-deserved spotlight on the thousands of dedicated men and women across the continent who work every day focused on keeping our roadways safe,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez told TT in a statement. “I heartily thank all CVSA-certified inspectors for their vital public service and for their partnership in transportation safety.”

Rommel Garcia, the officer with the Houston Police Department who was named grand champion last year, also will deliver remarks during the general session. Garcia will not be competing in accordance with CVSA policy, which states that winners cannot compete again. Besides delivering remarks, he will help judge the event.

Rommel Garcia

Rommel Garcia, last year's grand champion, will speak at this year's event. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Before competition activities ramp up Aug. 17, the inspectors will attend training sessions covering subjects such as hazardous materials, motorcoach inspections, hours-of-service rules, violation documentation and autonomous technologies. Wirachowsky said the session on autonomous technologies will offer “forward-thinking training.”

“We try to give them sort of a step above what they would get in their states,” Wirachowsky said. “Then they go home and share it.”

For the inspection practical, the competition runners set up about eight trucks and motorcoaches and create the same violations on each vehicle. Participants inspect one vehicle while the other members of his or her competition pool do the same with other vehicles.

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The Road to the National Truck Driving Championships

Qualifiers | Map | Photos | Video

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

Garcia, who ran out of time during his inspection in the 2016 competition in Indianapolis, urged participants to be systematic as a way of maximizing time. He said he was more relaxed for the 2017 competition, which he won. Garcia also encouraged inspectors to take advantage of the training sessions, which he said came in handy for both the competition and his everyday roadside inspections.

“The first time, you’re nervous. Nobody wants to be last. Even when someone says ‘relax,’ it’s not the same until you experience it yourself,” Garcia said. “Be systematic, and the rest will take care of itself. It’s everyday procedures. As long as you do that, the outcome would probably be what you expect.”

Wirachowsky, who competed in 2001, said Aug. 18 will be the busiest and toughest day of the competition. The day begins at 5:30 a.m. with a staff meeting, which is followed by breakfast. Competition begins at 8 a.m. and is over by 2 p.m., at which point the competition runners tear down the equipment to be ready for the joint awards ceremony at 6:15 p.m.

“It’s a really tight schedule. We’ll have to herd cats on Saturday because if one thing doesn’t work, we’ll be late,” Wirachowsky said. “[Our] volunteers are over-the-top helpful. They’ll do what it takes to make it go.”