COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jeremy Usener of the Texas Department of Public Safety has been crowned Grand Champion of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s North American Inspectors Championship for 2018.
The championship pit 52 inspectors from the United States, Canada and Mexico against each other. The competition culminated with a ceremony held in tandem with the National Truck Driving Championships awards banquet Aug. 18.
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This year marks the third time Usener has competed at NAIC. He expressed surprise and relief that his hard work to win this competition paid off.
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
“It was a surprise. I’ve been shooting for this for three years now, trying to win this award,” said Usener, of Colorado City, Texas. “It’s been something.”
In addition to a written test, competitors completed an array of inspections, including the North American Standard Level 1 Inspection, which includes portions dedicated to driver inspection, vehicle inspection and inspection procedure. Contestants also had to conduct inspections on hazardous materials, bulk packagings and passenger vehicles.
NAIC officials intentionally placed safety risks on the vehicles that were inspected. It was up to the inspectors to identify and document these components properly.
Inspectors had 45 minutes to complete the written exam, which they can take in English, French or Spanish. They were allowed 55 minutes to conduct the North American Standard Level 1 Inspection (those conducting the inspection in a language other than English were allowed one hour for this portion).
The hazardous materials and bulk packagings inspections were 25 minutes. The passenger vehicle inspection was 20 minutes, with a 25-minute option for those competing in French or Spanish.
Matt Johnson of the Illinois State Police won the Jim Youngblood award (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
The toughest part of the week for Usener was balancing the stress that accompanied the different aspects of the competition.
“[The hardest part was] trying to get through the stress and anticipation of all the inspections, what violations might be there, what might be on the test,” Usener said.
Usener, who has been with the Texas Department of Public Safety for almost 20 years, became a commercial vehicle enforcement trooper in 2009. His team members, training staff and coworkers from Texas accompanied him at the ceremony.
Grand Champion was not Usener’s only award of the night. He earned the High Points United States Award, which is given to each inspector who scores the most points representing each of the three participating countries. He placed third in the North American Standard Level V Passenger Carrier Vehicle Inspection, which pertains to motorcoaches, and he placed first in the North American Standard Hazardous Materials/Dangerous Goods and Cargo Tank/Bulk Packagings Inspection.
He said the hazmat inspection was more difficult than the written exam for him.
“[The] test was hard, but I can read a book,” Usener said. “In the inspection, you don’t know what you might get.”
Usener was also a member of the team that earned the highest combined score. The inspectors were divided into six teams, which were identified by color and arranged to represent a miscellany of regions and nationalities. Usener was on the yellow team.
When he’s not inspecting vehicles, Usener enjoys “fixing things” and caring for the ranch and farm he operates.
Before the inspection practical exams began Aug. 17, participants attended a number of training sessions, covering subjects such as hours of service, autonomous technologies, hazardous materials, motorcoaches and documenting a violation.
This tandem banquet with NTDC marks a departure from previous years, when the two ceremonies had been separate affairs.
“We hope this evening is the start of a longstanding tradition,” said Capt. Christopher Turner of the Kansas Highway Patrol. Turner also is CVSA president.