Truck driving championships driven by a ‘Friendly Manitoba’

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What do you get when you have a province whose licence plates read “Friendly Manitoba”, a provincial association that is always in touch with its grassroots, a core group of drivers who promote their industry, and sponsors who put up money without fail? You get the Manitoba Truck Driving Championships when other provinces are canceling their version of the event.

Without fail, when drivers were asked why they compete, it was for the camaraderie. Brian Chandler of XPO Logistics said that seeing other drivers getting awards was more rewarding than receiving his own awards. He often brings new drivers to the competition and spends lots of time coaching them. This year he won first in the tandem-tandem class, his co-worker won the single-tandem and his team placed third overall.

Manitoba championship picture
(Photo: David Henry)

Bruce McKechnie of Bison Transport loves watching the other drivers and the challenge of the track. He is a previous winner in multiple classes and this year placed third in the Super-B category.

Very few events are put on specifically for drivers. In fact, what other event is like this?

Is a show-and-shine similar? No, the drivers prepare their trucks. Some may get paid for sitting there but there’s still a lot of work for the driver. It’s tough competition and while there are some friendly rivalries, it’s a different vibe. 

The World’s Largest Convoy for Special Olympics is another good example. Drivers volunteer their time and put effort into raising money. It is a great event that is important for the athletes and for the trucking industry. It is a lot of fun with many impressive people. We need this event to keep growing – no doubt about that.

I don’t want to rank what is more important for our industry. Whether it’s a show-and-shine, convoy, or BBQ at a scale – they’re all important and we have a need for them. 

Again, where else do we get something that’s for the drivers only? The drivers in the competition study for the test, learn the track challenges and brush up on written knowledge. There are always one or two that don’t read the manual beforehand. My first time competing in 1994, my company didn’t even tell me there was any test or manual. It was brutal. I didn’t come back for years because of that. Then they come to the event where everything is prepared for them. 

Manitoba championships picture
(Photo: David Henry)

Every driver is there to beat themselves. They want to do better than last time. Drivers are proud that they can steer a large rig through small areas in the real world and this lets others see that first-hand. Cocky drivers rarely do well at this event because it is tough – almost impossible on the track. The written and defect portions are never easy, either. 

Rick Tachuk reintroduced me to the event and gave me – and the rest of our team at Penner International – a good idea of what to expect. Plus, our veteran competitors took us under their wing to help us learn. 

Where else will you find others helping those they are competing against? We may joke around, but we will also point out tips to help rookies. That was one highlight for me from 1994. An Arnold Bros. driver gave me pointers and on the track, I actually did better than him. This is common.

That’s one of my biggest points. The competition is about skill and improving as a driver. It is about representing yourself, your company and your industry. It is where we, the drivers, are pushed to the front. We have always known that we’re essential, but it took a pandemic for others to realize that. 

The pandemic has been a struggle for all of us, but I think especially for those of us in the driver’s seat. 

This is the time when our industry should be pushing us drivers to the front. Instead, most places are canceling their events. Manny Thandi, a new employee at the MTA offered his opinion that the MTA is in touch with its grassroots. He and his wife, very recent immigrants to Canada, just relocated from the Toronto area to Winnipeg were in awe of the atmosphere. Next January they may not like our atmosphere, but that’s a different matter. 

Danielle Ruttan of the MTA and Darcy Olsen are two of the key organizers and there was no stopping them this year. Danielle said they put the event together in two months and, with their volunteer board, it all came together. They knew that we, the drivers, the industry, needed this to happen. 

How can the industry complain about driver retention if it isn’t doing what it takes to retain drivers? Of course, this is not a fix-all but events like this are important. Why do companies like Arnold Bros., Penner, Steve’s Livestock, Big Freight, and Bison keep nominating their drivers for awards? It makes them look good and gives kudos to the ones who move the freight. Their drivers get mentioned at the gala and the Driver of the Year award is handed out. We need to be there to help honor them. 

The competition is not an expensive way to show off your drivers’ skills. Not when compared to hiring new drivers. It is also a way to send meaningful thanks to the ones who move the freight come hell or high water.

Not only are the skills on display vital, but improving relations with enforcement is a great bonus. Chief inspector Kevin Mantie of the Motor Carrier Enforcement branch for Manitoba thinks that getting together with drivers in a friendly event is a key to fostering good connections with drivers. His goal is to open lines of communication so that drivers and others in trucking feel free to ask questions about enforcement issues.

Corporal Maloney wants to help educate rather than penalize drivers.                                                                            

His officers volunteer their time to come as judges and naturally one event they run is the defects or pre-trip challenge. Try finding the defects they create. They are sneaky!

The post-competition gala had around 200 guests to watch the Driver of the Year finalists, Driver of the Year winner and all the competitor awards given out.

Mark Crielaard, an instructor at Arnold Bros. Academy has volunteered his time every year for many years. For him, this is the best day of the year.

Everyone had a great time.

How many volunteers does it take to run this event? At this event there were 50 volunteers. Everyone with a smile, happy to be there. That’s Manitoba – Friendly Manitoba. 

– David Henry was named Grand Champion at this year’s Manitoba truck driving championships, also securing the Super B category. Other winners included:

  • Single-Tandem: Raith Tymchak, XPO Logistics
  • Tandem-Tandem: Brian Chandler, XPO Logistics
  • Turnpike: Roy Dillon, TransX Group of Companies
  • Rookie of the Year: Yaroslav Mylyan, Alim Freight
  • Hal Bjornson Memorial Award: Roy Dillion, TransX Group
  • Top Team: Bison Transport (Team 2)
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David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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  • Great article, Dave! Very inspiring and uplifting in an industry that is held back. I really appreciate your comments about camaraderie at the Professional Truck Driving Championships.

  • It is always a pleasure to watch the skill-set of the drivers. And their camaraderie is there for all to witness which, in itself is a pleasure to behold. Keep up the good work and, stay clear of the protest drive-throughs, they are not a skill set they are a depravity measurement.