BUCKHANNON — Drivers from eight different companies around the Mountain State competed Saturday in the West Virginia Trucking Association’s Truck Driving Championship held for the first time at Winjean Trucking Company located on Airport Road.
Winston McHenry, owner, said, “We normally have this event at the Charleston Civic Center, but due to the construction there, they could not host it this year. The board of the trucking association got together and put out some emails, and being a board member, I suggested they could use our property here. It was a privilege and an honor to be able to host it. I think the day went quite well.”
Forty-seven drivers competed in nine classes of competition that included a written test, driving course and pre-trip inspection.
Traci Nelson, member services coordinator for the W.Va. Trucking Association, said, “This day celebrates our drivers in West Virginia. We have the best of the best drivers who are all here today to compete on a course. This is a great way for them to showcase their skills and their experience in the trucking industry.”
“This is our 62nd year,” Nelson added. “We have nine classes of competition and our winners will go to what we call the Super Bowl of Safety, put on by the American Trucking Association in Orlando in August.”
There are no local or regional competitions as precursors for the state competition.
“All of the drivers practice on their own with their companies before coming here today,” she said.
Once at the competition, the drivers are put in different vehicles from their own, which adds a challenge to the competition.
“The driver’s don’t drive their own equipment,” Nelson said.
The course is also different every year with six problems that the drivers have to navigate.
“The problems change every year but could be a stop problem, backing up to a loading dock, how to properly get on scales, etc.,” Nelson said.
After the event wrapped up, a safety awards banquet was held to honor the driver of the month, driver of the year, a state police safety award and the winners from the championship.
“If you can get the younger drivers in, it gets them excited about the competition,” Nelson said. “It’s a great way for them to build relationships with the other drivers, but it also increases their awareness of what they need to be doing on the road for safety like the pre-trip inspection and how they handle themselves. It’s great exposure for them, especially when they go to nationals.”
At its core, the championship is a safety event, Nelson stressed.
“The most important issue we have is safety on our highways and this just highlights that,” she said. “We are so proud of our West Virginia drivers. We think we have the best of the best and we look for any activity we have to showcase them.”
McHenry’s employees at Winjean did well in the flatbed division of the competition, with Jim Beall capturing first place and the chance to compete in the national championship in Florida in August.
“We got the top four spots, but they only give plaques for the top three,” he said.
McHenry said the focus of the championship is safety, which is a focus of drivers at his company.
“The total purpose of it is to be safety minded and it starts with the driver,” he said.
“I think it was a very successful event. It was a real privilege for me to be able to contribute to the association and the town of Buckhannon. The hotels were full Friday and Saturday and we had a lot of people here.”
The event was dedicated to Jan Vinegard, president of the trucking association, who died in late May.