KITCHENER, Ont. — The competition was strong at this year’s Central Ontario Regional Truck Driving Championships, with no one company dominating the event.
Erb Transport, FedEx Freight, Challenger Motor Freight, Home Hardware Stores and Flanagan Food Service had drivers winning the various categories. Home Hardware, which always fields an impressive roster, won the Team Award while Challenger’s John Weston was named Grand Champion. Weston also won the tandem-tandem category.
The highest points total of the day was earned by FedEx Freight’s Ricardo Santos. His colleague John Gilliland won the Rookie award and William Wolfe of Home Hardware won the Safety award.
The competition was held under mostly sunny skies but gusting winds made the course setup a challenge. Tom Boehler of Erb Transport was course marshall and he said the Conestoga College parking lot was ideal, even if a little tight.
“Our biggest challenge is the cloverleaf. It’s 133 feet square so one light standard will be an obstacle barrier they have to go around. We don’t have a lot of choice sometimes,” Boehler said. “We try to create a really nice flow for the drivers to follow. This is a good venue. Conestoga’s been great to us.”
This was the CORTDC’s fifth year at this location. Boehler has been course marshall for about 16 years and prior to that, he competed in the championships for about 10.
Dennis Shantz, safety director for Home Hardware, was the committee chair this year. He said the committee was pleased with the turnout – 43 drivers registered, up sharply from the 32 who competed last year. Home Hardware itself entered 10 drivers, it’s largest field to date.
Shantz said there’s a benefit to the companies who support their drivers’ participation.
“As a company, if you’re fortunate enough to do well, you get some very good recognition,” he said. “I think there’s a big value to it. I think it promotes safety. You’re talking about the best drivers out there on the road. You do have to qualify; you have to have a good driving record and a clean abstract. The companies that have drivers in it are safety-oriented.”
Home Hardware driver Joe Kuntz
At Home Hardware, preparations for the competition begin weeks in advance. Drivers set up their own obstacle courses in the company’s yard and help each other practice.
“They started practicing close to a month ago,” said Shantz. “They put together some obstacles they made out of ABS piping in our yard. When they come off a run they’ll get a group of them together and practice in the yard till seven or eight at night. Last night, they were practicing till 8:30 or so. They help each other out and set it up for different classes.”
The preparation paid off, with Home Hardware winning the Team Award.
Joe Kuntz was one of Home Hardware’s competitors. Last year he won the single-single division in the provincials and was also Grand Champion. This year, he was relegated to third place in his category, showing how difficult it is to repeat.
“The course was tougher,” he noted. “The approach to the ally dock was tricky, but it’s the same for everyone.”
One of the biggest challenges, he noted, is quickly getting accustomed to an unfamiliar truck. But again, he pointed out it’s the same for everyone – no one is at a disadvantage. His advice to new competitors is to pay attention during the walk-through and pace off the distance between obstacles. He encourages all drivers to get involved.
“Give it a shot,” he said. “Nobody’s going to laugh at you if you knock something over. You won’t break anything. Give it a shot and you’ll learn something and the next year you’ll learn from your mistakes.”
Kuntz has been driving for Home Hardware for seven years, running linehaul in Ontario and Quebec.
This year’s winners were:
Stew Jutzi, Erb Transport
Ian Weidemann, Home Hardware Stores
Satnam Singh Saini, FedEx Freight Canada
Domingo Restituyo, FedEx Freight
Ricardo Santos, FedEx Freight
Clary Ward, XPO Logistics
Joe Kuntz, Home Hardware
John Gilliland, FedEx Freight
William Wolfe, Home Hardware
Andrew Demerchant, Flanagan Food Service
Jeff Lambkin, Erb Transport
Bryon Winfield, Home Hardware
John Weston, Challenger Motor Freight
Shawn Matheson, Home Hardware
Tom Griffiths, Home Hardware
Gary Schumacher, Gay Lea Foods
Gregory Hecktus, Flanagan Food Service
Wayne Burnett, Home Hardware
Peter Raschke, Linamar Transportation
Dylan Burnett, Home Hardware
Home Hardware – William Wolfe, Joe Kuntz and Shawn Matheson
Home Hardware driver Joe Kuntz
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies