BRAMPTON, Ont. – It wasn’t just the weather that was causing a number of professional drivers to sweat this weekend – 32 drivers from Toronto and the GTA participated in the Toronto Regional Truck Driving Championships this past weekend and it was the heat of the competition that kept the drivers perspiring.
The annual competition took place at Brampton’s Powerade Centre parking lot. Thirty-two drivers competed in a three-part competition into order to prove they are best driver regionally and to move on the provincial championships that are set for mid-July in Kingston, Ont.
Drivers started the competition on May 28 with a written test at 7:30 a.m., next moved on to a timed pre-trip inspection where they had to identify five defects with an MTO officer watching over them in just eight minutes. Then finally, they got into their truck class of choice and took to the driving obstacle course. Classes included: straight truck; single-single; single-tandem; tandem-tandem; and B-Train.
The drivers were more than excited for their chance to climb up in the truck and show off what they could do in the obstacle course – mostly because most of them have done the course before. One such driver, Daryl Poole who drove in the straight truck category, said he couldn’t even remember if this was his fifteenth or sixteenth time at the regionals.
Poole, a driver for YRC Reimer for 19 years, placed second last year at the same event and first in 2014.
“I always come back and do this for the people. Not only to join the people I work with, but with the others guys that compete,” he said. “There’s such a camaraderie there. It’s like sports – we all play for a different team but at the end of the day we’re all friends and we all have fun.”
Poole went around the course quite quickly, however he did have some trouble when going through the offset alleys, and his truck scraped one side. Despite this, he said the pre-trip is always the most nerve-racking part of the competition.
“The MTO officer is right there watching you and you really want to make sure you don’t make a mistake,” he said.
The MTO officers, along with the organizers and judges of each obstacle, are all volunteers and take hours out of their day, and year, to prepare for the championships and donate their time. Funding from the event comes solely from registration fees collected and sponsors.
Poole said he is proud to be a part of YRC and it means so much that they not only support him participate in the event, but they support the championships itself. Just this year, YRC donated trucks to the competition (each driver has to drive the same truck in the class to even the playing field).
“It means a lot (to have my employers and co-workers here) to root for me,” he said. “It goes to show I’m appreciated. They really show their support by coming out to root for me but also by sponsoring the event.”
Things were looking good for Kevin Bradshaw, who placed first in the regionals last year. He completed the course without any major hiccups – to be expected from a driver who at his first championships just three years ago placed first in the straight truck class. He says he keeps coming back year after year because of the friends he’s made and because of what the championships has done for the industry.
“I think it takes the bad out of trucking,” he said. “People thrive on negativity within the industry. All the good doesn’t get recognized. So this competition brings a different view on the industry that is needed because it is a great industry with great companies and great drivers… I’d like to see this competition get bigger every year because I know this event is great for all of us. ”
Out of the 32 drivers competing, there was just one female driver in the competition – Jennifer Duval – who has been driving with Kriska for more than a decade.
It was Duval’s first time competing, something she said she had to do after watching the skills portion of the competition last year.
“I watched it last year and although I’m a very nervous person, I saw the obstacle course and thought, I could do this – I know I’m a relatively good driver,” she said. “So I signed up just for the experience and to have fun.”
Though Duval said she’d be happy to place in the competition, what she really wants is to show other women that they can compete, too.
“Really, I want to represent women in trucking and basically if men can do it then so can women,” she said. “I think people should be able to be proud of what they do and just be able to get out there and show off their skills…especially women.”
Winners of the Toronto and Central Ontario Regional Truck Driving Championships (taking place on June 11) will head to the Provincials in mid-July. Winners of the provincial competition will go on to represent Ontario in the Nationals this fall.
The Top 3 winners in each class (except for those in which fewer enrolled) from the 2016 Toronto Regional Championships are as follows:
Straight Truck 1st – Daryl Poole – YRC Reimer 2nd – Kevin Bradshaw – Canada Cartage 3rd – Jim Smith – Speedy Transport