“I am not amazing.”
That’s what Eric Courville says, but his competitors in the Louisiana Truck Driving Championships might dispute that. After watching Courville carve up the course to win the 3-Axle competition and take Grand Champion honors March 30, he earned a trip to the National Truck Driving Championships for the 11th time.
His family might beg to differ with him as well. His wife, Missy, and teenage sons, Eric and Ethan, know him as a patriot who has served his country, community and family for more than 30 years, while driving for FedEx Freight for nearly 27 years as well.
A humble, Southern gentleman, Courville, of Breaux Bridge, La., served in the Navy from 1987 to 2009, and now loves driving for FedEx and competing in truck driving championships
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. 14-17
“I do it for my family, I do it because I am able to, and I do it for the pride of the people I served with,” Courville said.
In 1980, Courville’s father retired from being a tugboat captain and spent three years unemployed. After looking around, his father entered the trucking industry as an owner-operator, hauling sand and gravel.
“It’s a noble job,” Courville said. At the age of 15, his father’s 18-wheeler was the first vehicle he got behind, even if it was just putting the truck in gear in the front yard.
After high school, he worked in the food industry for a couple of years, but “I was ambitious and looking for something, because that was not my cup of tea,” said Courville.
With that, he enlisted in the Navy.
Courville brought auto mechanic skills, but was given the opportunity to go into a 16-month training program as a gunners mate that prepared him for sctive duty.
Courville is a plank owner of the USS Monterey (CG-61) and Special Boat Team (SBT) 22. This means he was a member of the first crew on the ship when it was placed in commission. During his years on the ship, Courville took care of the missile systems. “I am proud of my ship, I am proud of SBT 22. They meant a lot in my training,” he said.
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When Courville returned home to Louisiana, he decided to enter the aviation field, gut after the company he was hoping to work for laid off 300 personnel, Courville knew it was back to the drawing board. He found work hauling ready-mix concrete through the help of a job-training service. After three months, he made the switch to Waste Management, a job in which he drove a roll-off truck for a year. In 1993, he got a job driving for American Freightways, which later became FedEx Freight. Twenty-seven years later, Courville is still with the company. “I feel that the trucking industry picked me,” said Courville. “It was God’s will … he wanted me to serve our community.”
After 9/11, Courville decided to re-up with the Navy, and in 2005 was sent to Afghanistan. “I said to myself, Well this country has invested in my training for the Navy and this specific job, therefore I have to pay back this country by serving where it was needed,” he said.
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During his 11-month deployment, Courville spent six months on the ground as a small-arms weapons specialist on an embedded training team, which equipped Afghani soldiers. “It was a great feeling going out there and taking care of business for us as Americans,” he said.
Courville served 21 years in the Navy and Navy Reserve, and his driving skills were honed over the years. Whether it was transporting sailors in buses or hauling concrete, it was all practice that made him the skilled truck driver he has become.
“Family, friends, fellow veterans and co-workers,” are the people who have gotten him to where he is today, Courville said.
He gave a shout-out to fellow co-workers and competitors such as Joseph Vital, Damian Herbert, Brian Landry, Milton Herbert and all the others who show up to compete and support him.
“All these guys that you meet over at TDC and the national championship, these are highly professional commercial drivers, truly top-notch,” Courville said. “That’s what lights the fire as far as continuing to try to improve ourselves. We go to competition not to outdo each other, but to see how we can advance ourselves.”
Courville runs his LTL route in St. Martin Parish in the greater Lafayette, La., area.
Competitors wait at the Lousiana state competition. (John Ballance for Louisiana Motor Transport Association)
The FedEx team prepares for the competition every year, usually starting a couple of weeks before the state truck driving championships. Courville and his colleagues set up cones and help each other prepare.
“John Collins, the service center manager, is fully supportive of us coming here on a weekend to practice,” Courville said.
He noted that preparing for TDC takes a different skill set than when the drivers are out on their runs.
“When you are out on the highway, you are not looking to see how close you get to things; you’re seeing how far you can get from things,” said Courville. “Safety is paramount in all aspects whether practicing, in competition or on the streets and highways.”
The competition requires precision and accuracy from drivers who are executing tight maneuvers.
Courville and his wife are looking forward to bringing their sons to nationals this year in Pittsburgh, school-schedule willing. There, he will call upon all of the skills he has honed over his decades as a driver and a veteran to take aim at repeating as 3-Axle champion. And who knows, perhaps national Grand Champion?
That might qualify as being truly amazing.