Hello from Ohio

The Na­tional Truck Driv­ing Cham­pi­onships was a high­light of the US leg of the Churchill Trust trip

Owner Driver - - Eyes On The Road - Rod Han­nifey

“Some US truck­ers wanted to know was I re­cruit­ing for driv­ers in Aus­tralia.”

WELL, I’M BACK in the land of Oz and also back at work. While in the US I at­tended the Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons as part of the open­ing of the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s Na­tional Truck Driv­ing Cham­pi­onships and Na­tional Step Van Driv­ing Cham­pi­onships in Colum­bus, Ohio. To en­ter you must be a full time driver and your com­pany a mem­ber of one of the 50 state as­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers of the Amer­i­can Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion.

With pre­vi­ous fi­nals in all 50 states across nine classes, there are over 430 driv­ers in­volved and they com­pete for the na­tional ti­tles in each class, and then a Grand Cham­pion. There is a writ­ten ex­am­i­na­tion, a very se­ri­ous pre-trip in­spec­tion, and a skills test that com­prises six ac­tiv­i­ties.

Af­ter the break­fast, speeches, and guest speaker, I watched some of the skills tests and I spoke with a cou­ple of driv­ers who were par­tic­i­pants, say­ing that al­though it was timed, there was am­ple time and it was more about the skill level.

With two con­cur­rent cour­ses go­ing, the Colum­bus Con­ven­tion Cen­ter’s hall was enor­mous and at any time there were two trucks com­pet­ing and oth­ers lin­ing up to start. There were a num­ber of judges in­volved with each test and there were rules about the back­ing test. It had to be done in one mo­tion; once you stopped there was a penalty if you moved back­ward again and each of the other tests could gain you points for skill and place­ment, or lose points if you went over the line or ob­sta­cle.

The pre­vi­ous na­tional win­ner also spoke at the break­fast about both his pas­sion and thanked the con­test and the or­gan­is­ers about how win­ning had given him the chance to help pro­mote the in­dus­try.

AMER­ICA’S ROAD TEAM

As I had com­mit­ted to a show 12 hours away the fol­low­ing day, I did not get to ob­tain all the info I would have liked. What I did dis­cover was that those who do well can also be nom­i­nated for Amer­ica’s Road Team. Some states and com­pa­nies have their own as well, and as a mem­ber of Amer­ica’s Road Team you are one of a group of 20 driv­ers nom­i­nated for two years who are asked to at­tend events and pro­mote the road trans­port in­dus­try and road safety.

It is a very se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion with driv­ers prac­tis­ing for months in ad­vance, ac­cord­ing to an­other driver I spoke with, and of course you have to get through the state fi­nals first. In con­junc­tion with this they also hold the Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cle Safety Al­liance’s North Amer­i­can In­spec­tors Cham­pi­onship (NAIC), where again each state nom­i­nates their best in­spec­tor and they are tested, and a Na­tional Cham­pion awarded. For the first time this year the awards for both events were pre­sented at the end of the same din­ner func­tion.

The ta­bles at the break­fast were state based. I spoke to one of the in­spec­tors, a nom­i­nated en­trant who ex­plained they are a num­ber of steps up from nor­mal po­lice, hav­ing spe­cialised in com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle safety in­spec­tions.

Again there were six cat­e­gories of tests to­wards a num­ber of awards in those cat­e­gories and then a Grand Cham­pion. Un­til the break­fast, I was not aware of this part of the event and while none of us like get­ting a ticket, we mostly recog­nise that these of­fi­cers do aim to keep us safe, as well as the gen­eral pub­lic. I think we should look at some­thing sim­i­lar here if it im­proves the con­sis­tency and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of those we meet at the road­side.

DRIV­ERS’ MAR­KET

I drove to Wis­con­sin and at­tended the Eau Claire Truck Show, which was started some years ago to help a lo­cal child. On the Fri­day af­ter­noon a small con­voy at­tended from a nearby town hav­ing again raised funds for a lo­cal there. There was also much press about ‘18 Wheels for Bubba, Bubba’s 16th Sur­prise Birth­day Cel­e­bra­tion’ in Mil­ton, Wis­con­sin about four hours away. It started out there as a sur­prise party with a few trucks and ended up with 200.

The Eau Claire event had some mag­nif­i­cent trucks and mon­ster trucks on the Fri­day and Sat­ur­day nights, along with mu­sic and stalls. Even at this lo­cal show there were com­pa­nies with stands look­ing to re­cruit driv­ers. It is a driv­ers’ mar­ket, with some com­pa­nies rais­ing driv­ers’ wages three times this year, ac­cord­ing to the satel­lite truck ra­dio show ad­verts. I’d like to thank the or­gan­is­ers for a small mar­quee and space for my stand.

I trav­elled back to Colum­bus to do a tour of the Cum­mins Tech­ni­cal Cen­tre, then onto to Wal­cott, Iowa and the Iowa 80 Truck Stop. It claims to be the big­gest on earth with over 900 truck bays, a the­atre, bar­ber, and den­tist on site, and an ad­join­ing mu­seum. I took pho­tos, spoke with driv­ers, checked out the mu­seum and there was a bit of traf­fic chaos as I left. A rig car­ry­ing a blade for a wind tur­bine was try­ing to get in, so all the trucks try­ing to get out had to back up.

From there I vis­ited the Chrome Shop Mafia and then onto the Great Amer­i­can Truck­ing Show in Dal­las, Texas where I had a stand (see page 52). I could have given away dozens of copies of Owner//Driver if I had been able to carry them. Many truck­ies stopped in to say hello and some US truck­ers wanted to know was I re­cruit­ing for driv­ers in Aus­tralia and could they come and drive our road­trains.

Thank you to the Churchill Trust and my spon­sors, the NRMA and ACT Road Safety Trust, for the Road Safety Fel­low­ship.

It was a mar­vel­lous jour­ney and I have much fol­low-up work and in­for­ma­tion to sift through in a bid to work out what we might do bet­ter or safer here.

I did 6000 miles in the US. I just wish our roads and some rest ar­eas were half as good.

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