While many other kids his age probably grew up listening to fairy tales of knights riding grand stallions, Timothy Melody of ABF Freight was regaled with stories of knights driving big rigs down the highways.
Melody, from Payette, Idaho, finished first in Tank Truck and grabbed the grand champion title at Idaho’s Truck Driving Championships May 4-5, earning his fourth trip to nationals.
When Melody was a child, his father, Al Melody, would tell him stories about truck drivers Al would meet when he used to hitchhike across the country. They always centered around one theme — truck drivers being the knights of the highway. Ultimately, those tales are what drove Melody to join the profession.
Melody by John Sommers II for TT
“Ever since I was 6, I wanted to drive a truck,” Melody said.
After completing a four-year stint in the Army, Melody couldn’t image being anything else but a trucker. He fondly recalls some of the scenes he has witnessed over the years.
“Sitting in the dark in South Dakota because it’s raining so hard you can’t see to drive and sitting there watching the lightning putting on nature’s fireworks is pretty amazing.
“Driving through Montana after a snowstorm knowing nobody’s out there and it’s really quiet because the snow deadens the sound.
“There’s a lot of anecdotes that I can put out,” Melody said. “I really like driving trucks, always have.”
And Melody himself has proved to be one of those knights of the highway he grew up hearing about. With 29 years of experience behind the wheel, Melody has racked up 3.2 million safety miles and is proud to be an America’s Road Team Captain.
In that capacity, Melody has taken part in several events that not only educate the community on the importance of trucking, but also reinforce the concept of the knights of the highway.
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
One event in particular that still sticks with Melody was a trip to the Oregon capitol with the Share the Road image truck.
“When I was there, we had a bunch of interns and a couple legislators that were able to come out and go through the truck and talk about the importance of trucking,” he said.
He related similar experiences at the Nebraska Truck Driving Championships and at a junior high school career day in Reno, Nev.
Melody loves having the opportunity to make a difference within the trucking industry.
“It’s quite an honor. It’s exciting because we get to go to various places, meet lots of different people and hopefully make a difference. Change how people perceive the trucking industry,” Melody said. “I wish I could do more of it all the time, but I do have to work.”
In addition to those accomplishments, Melody also has become a notable competitor at the truck driving championships.
In 2013, Melody finished first in Twins and had a perfect score on the written exam at nationals. Melody also competed in Twins in 2010 and Tank Truck in 2017 at nationals.
While Melody thinks it is exciting to win at the state tournament, it’s nothing compared to winning at nationals.
“That is just beyond exciting,” Melody said. “I was just on cloud nine for a year.”
Congratulations to our ABF Freight drivers who competed recently at the 2018 Idaho Truck Driving Championships!— ABF Freight (@ABFtoday) May 15, 2018
Tim Melody won 1st place in tank class; Nickie Anderson won 3rd in 3-axle; and Tim, Nickie and Scott Volkers won a team trophy. Way to go!#trucking #truckers #safety pic.twitter.com/A3s4gMuHEc
Even though Melody has had a lot of success in Twins, he switched to Tank Truck for a noble reason — to get more truckers involved in the championships.
“I started the tank last year and the reason I did that is I was trying to recruit other drivers in my terminal to compete and they were like, ‘Well, the twins aren’t available and that’s what we drive every day.’ And, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll get out of that class, so I can get more people to compete in it.’ It worked. I actually managed to get seven people including me to go out and compete. I got everybody to spread out,” Melody said. “We had someone in most of the classes.”
Although Melody doesn’t have much opportunity to practice driving with a tank truck, he does what he can to prepare for nationals.
“There are some of the problems that you can practice, and it doesn’t matter what you are in. It’s learning the placement of your vehicle, left to right, front bumper. You can practice that in anything, but the turning radius will vary from vehicle to vehicle. Keeping yourself sharp by pulling up to a stop line somewhere and seeing how close you can get to that line, or we’ve got a dirt parking lot where I work and I’ll just go through a turn and just clip a rock that might be sitting there,” Melody said. “General stuff like that.”
According to Melody, the truck driving championships is an event that all truck drivers should aspire to compete in.
“I think that the National Truck Driving Championships is a good motivator for safety because you have to go a year without having an accident whether it was your fault or not, so getting to compete is pretty important. You’re always out here thinking about what can I do if something happens. How can I be safe? Check your equipment a little bit better to make sure that you are going to be safe on the highway,” Melody said. “It’s a great motivator. Everybody should do this.”
Other Idaho winners headed to nationals are:
- David Shattuck of Giltner Inc. in Sleeper Berth
- Randall Schwasinger of FedEx Freight in 3-axle
- Jeffrey Halford of XPO Logistics in 4-axle
- Stephanie Henderson Standlee of Hay Trucking in 5-axle
- Paul Unser of YRC Freight in Straight Truck
- Alan Stacy of FedEx Ground in Step Van
- Casey Walker of Boise Boys Inc. in Flatbed
- Beau Bonds of Old Dominion Freight Line in Twins