“I will not be writing about – or interviewing anyone during – the Manitoba Truck Driving Championships! I will be a competitor and just enjoy the day.” Those were the words I kept telling myself leading up to the event on June 17.
But as is often the case, they’re just words.
Why is that even an issue, you ask? For years I have been writing about the importance of the Truck Driving Championships. I’ve spoken about them to friends, co-workers, and industry movers and shakers. This year leading up to the event I did some promotional work through my podcast.
Frankly, I was sure nothing more could be done on my end. I wanted to enjoy the day, because it is a fun day for all involved.
Preparing for competition
This year, for the first time since 2017 and only the second time since 2013, I entered as part of a team. I approached my boss, who talked to his boss, who talked…you get the picture. It’s a large company. They let me put together a team of three and get prepared. It was so much fun. We had quizzes, a practice day a week before the competition, and I made sure my team knew what to expect. Our team was the only one with a female driver.
So, after all that work, I thought some enjoyment was on tap. I was going to try to get one final radio interview to help promote and get fans out to watch us.
Great idea. Then the crash near Carberry happened on June 15. Two days before we went on track.
I didn’t do a final radio interview. I felt like I had taken a punch to the gut. Devastated.
I still don’t care who’s at fault.
On the 17th, our day started at 7 a.m. with registration. My relaxing day wasn’t really very relaxing. I tried hard to keep my team from stressing too much about how they would perform and tried to keep my mind off the tragedy. Surprisingly, local news stations showed up to highlight what the competition was all about, as there was so much media focus on trucking. They wanted background on the industry. So much for keeping my mind clear!
So much for not writing about the competition as well. Because this is exactly why these competitions matter. Every company that sends their drivers and volunteers, is interested in being better today than yesterday.
If you want to compete, you need to be constantly learning. No matter your years, you need to stay alert every second of every day.
One of the questions for the written part of the competition was: “What makes the most difference in the fuel economy of a truck?” Despite all of the fuel-saving measures and computers, the biggest impact is the driver.
With all the media attention at the event, ‘driver attitude’ kept going through my head. Here’s another answer from a defensive driving question: “Drive to avoid incidents in spite of the actions of others or adverse conditions.”
This spring has been hell on the roads. Fatalities all around. In good conditions. It has been brutal. Impatience is at an all-time high. I’m continually getting passed in unsafe, illegal conditions. Every day there’s someone entering a roadway with not nearly enough space. The attitude out here among many drivers is horrible. Impatient. Distracted. Arrogant. The list goes on.
Focus on mental health
I know what we need to do in trucking.
Expand our classroom retraining to include mental health strategies as well as a driving aspect. I know some companies use training simulators, but nothing beats the real thing. Make a track and do some obstacle training.
Mental health strategies should be designed to help drivers cope with stress and recognize psychological triggers to keep them in a better frame of mind. This should also be taught to office staff.
We need this with regular motorists as well. The driving instruction is pitiful in Canada. Any driver who gets a major ticket should be sent back for retraining – at their cost.
Hire truck drivers who want to get off the highway to do the training, and pay them well. No matter what we do, we need to get it into drivers’ heads that the mental part of driving is more important than anything else.
We can be driving on the best-designed roadway or on a mud track. What keeps us safe is our attitude.
Our team? I’m proud of them. Kate and Len did well as rookies. I wasn’t my usual self, but I did get third in Super-B.
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