COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the nation’s top truck drivers descend on Ohio’s capital for the National Truck Driving Championships, a smaller group of safety enthusiasts — 52 law enforcement officials — have convened to determine who among them is the champion inspector.
Inspectors representing the United States, Canada and Mexico have gathered here to compete in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s North American Inspectors Championship. The competition, in which contenders complete a written test and vehicle inspections, officially commenced Aug. 15 and will end Aug. 18 in conjunction with the NTDC awards banquet. This tandem banquet marks a departure from previous years, during which the two ceremonies were separate affairs.
PHOTO GALLERY: NAIC gets going
Competitors started their day Aug. 15 with a general session featuring speakers representing law enforcement offices and federal agencies. The inspectors are divided into six teams, which are identified by color and arranged to represent a miscellany of regions and nationalities. Of the 52 inspectors competing, two are Mexican and five are Canadian.
Approximately 4 million inspections are conducted each year across North America, according to Capt. Christopher Turner of the Kansas Highway Patrol. Turner, who also is CVSA president, encouraged returning competitors to share their championship experiences with their peers.
Turner (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
“The work of an inspector is not easy, but it’s one of the most important jobs in transportation safety,” Turner said.
Besides a written test, competitors complete an array of inspections, including the North American Standard Level 1 Inspection, which includes portions dedicated to driver inspection, vehicle inspection and inspection procedure.
Inspectors have 45 minutes to complete the written exam, which they can elect to take in English, French or Spanish. They are allowed 55 minutes to conduct the North American Standard Level 1 Inspection (those conducting the inspection in a language other than English are allowed one hour for this portion).
The hazardous materials and bulk packagings inspections are 25 minutes. The passenger vehicle inspection is 20 minutes, with a 25-minute option for those competing in French or Spanish.
Different elements of the competition contribute certain percentages to an inspector’s final score. The written exam comprises 20% of the final grade. Driver inspections and vehicle inspections each weigh 15%, while inspection procedure weighs 5%. Hazardous material package inspection, bulk packagings inspection and passenger carrier vehicle inspection each comprise 15%.
In addition to the inspections, participants will attend a series of training sessions covering subjects such as hazardous materials, motorcoach inspections, hours-of-service rules, violation documentation and autonomous technologies. Rommel Garcia, the officer with the Houston Police Department who was named grand champion last year, encouraged drivers to treat the event as a training opportunity.
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. 15-18
Where: Columbus, Ohio
“You should be very proud of this accomplishment. Now you can relax and enjoy this week,” Garcia said. “Take full advantage of this week, and don’t let the challenge overwhelm you. All of you are already winners and considered the best of North America.”
The CVSA representatives running the competition give each participant a bag with the same materials, including gloves, lights, tire pressure gauges and hard-plated hats called bump caps. Kerri Wirachowsky, director of CVSA’s roadside inspection program, explained that the standardized supplies ensure that no inspector has an advantage, at least when it comes to materials.
After the general session, inspectors separate into their teams for group photos. They will then attend the day’s training sessions, which cover automation and hazardous materials regulations. Training on motorcoaches, hours of service and documenting a violation are scheduled for Aug. 16, and the competition itself starts Aug. 17.
The competition, held annually since 1993, offers opportunities to learn in addition to recognizing a champion inspector, according to Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. He said road safety improves when government agencies and safety organizations work together.
“[It’s an] opportunity to learn from the best, contend with the best, but most of all develop long-lasting relationships. What is learned here in the competition can help make our roadways safer,” Van Steenburg said. “Every inspection matters. All 4 million of them.”