COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a partitioned section of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, removed from the occasional staccato of horns, the cheers of supporters and the deep voice of the announcer moderating the National Truck Driving Championships, uniformed law enforcement officers began to conduct vehicle inspections.
They are competing in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s North American Inspectors Championship. There are 52 inspectors competing, and they represent the United States, Canada and Mexico. 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.
PHOTO GALLERY: Scenes From NAIC
NAIC officials intentionally place safety risks on the vehicles that will be inspected. It’s up to the inspectors to identify and document these components properly. Details of the competition — down to which company’s trucks are being inspected — are kept secret.
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. According to CVSA’s website, this inspection covers everything from a driver’s record of duty status and seat belt to cargo securement and lighting devices.
Contestants also have to conduct inspections on hazardous materials, bulk packagings and passenger vehicles. Officer Steven Payne of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said he feels more confident about the hazardous materials inspection than the Level 1 inspection because he teaches lessons on hazardous materials.
“Most of my inspections are hazmat trucks. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with it, and I wasn’t comfortable with it until I started making myself do inspections on hazardous materials trucks,” Payne said. “The more you do, the more confident you get doing it.”
This is Payne’s second year competing in NAIC, and he said he felt better about his Level 1 inspection than he did last year, which was the first time he participated in the championship. Although he said his day-to-day work mostly consists of compliance reviews, he still does roadside inspections every so often.
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
“[The] toughest part is people watching you and having time on you,” Payne said. “You’re just knowing that you’re being timed, and you’ve got people watching you.”
Inspectors have 45 minutes to complete the written exam, which they can 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%.
John McMahan, an officer with the Kansas Highway Patrol who competed in NAIC in 2012, ran out of time on his Level 1 inspection. He now moves on to complete the hazardous materials inspection. Next comes the written test.
“I almost finished,” McMahan said. “The written exam? I can do that.”