J.D. Smith driver wins Toronto trucking competition

BRAMPTON, Ont. — Bruce Leonard of J.D. Smith Transport was named grand champion at the Toronto Regional Truck Driving Championships (TRTDC) May 27.

Leonard topped the hotly contested tandem-tandem category. The grand champion award is given to the driver who scores the highest point margin above the average in his or her category. About 33 drivers took part in the driving championships, held at the Powerade Centre in Brampton, Ont.

A driver slides his International between barriers at the Toronto Regional Truck Driving Championships.

Competing drivers completed a knowledge test, a pre-trip inspection under the watch of a Ministry of Transportation enforcement officer, and then tackled the obstacle course. Five categories were contested: straight truck; single-single; single-tandem; tandem-tandem; and B-trains. The top four drivers from each category will advance to compete in the provincial championships July 7-9 back at the Powerade Centre in Brampton. The national championships – to have been hosted by the Manitoba Trucking Association in September – have been canceled, as have several provincial competitions outside Ontario.

Murray Hutchinson, chairman of the TRTDC, said he was pleased with the turnout, but there committee still hopes to expand participation.

“A lot of people still don’t know that this happens every year,” he said. “We are looking to get more committee members, so we can get more companies involved.”

Hutchinson said the cancellation of the nationals and some other provincial competitions won’t affect the regional and provincial driving championships in Ontario.

“Whether the nationals are there or not, we’re still competing regionally and provincially,” he said. “The camaraderie between the companies here today will always be there, and it’s the same at the provincial level, so I don’t think it will affect us in the long run.”

Ryan Tremblay of Kriska Transportation says getting used to the automated transmission was tricky.

Rob Jackson was course marshall at the TRTDC and is chair of the Ontario Truck Driving Championships. He said the provincial committee is looking to expand the competition to draw more interest from across a broader spectrum of the industry.

“Like tire installers,” he said of a possible addition to the program. “The biggest problem we have on the road right now is wheels, so why not bring them in to compete and enhance their levels?”

The provincials are moving “full steam ahead,” Jackson said, and the committee is working hard to attract sponsors, which foot the bill.

“Raising funds is always the big challenge,” he said. “The equipment, the course, the inspection officers, the drivers – that’s the easy part.”

As for the TRTDC course, Jackson admitted “It’s laid out pretty tight. We throw different curves in every year to keep them thinking.”

Ryan Tremblay, a driver with Kriska Transportation based out of its Mississauga terminal, made it to the provincials in each of the last two years.

“I felt pretty good,” he said after his run. “I messed up one area. Backing up was the hardest, it’s all in your setup.”

He noted one of the biggest challenges is quickly getting oriented to a new, unfamiliar truck.

“It’s definitely tricky, especially when it’s an automatic,” he said. “I’m used to driving a manual. The throttle response (in the auto) is very jerky.”

A driver looks for planted defects during the pre-trip inspection portion of the competition.

Rennie Barran of Speedy Transport faced some extra pressure, as the first to hit the course in the tandem-tandem category. He has competed for five years and says the nerves still get to him when it’s time to get behind the wheel.

“It’s very nerve-wracking,” he said. “Every year I come here, it feels like it’s the first time. You talk the talk, but when it comes to sitting down in the truck, your nerves take over.”

He said the back-up maneuver was the toughest.

“When you don’t hit that one properly, it affects everything else you do,” he said. “You kind of beat yourself up as you go through the rest of the course.”

Barran said no special preparation is needed, as his daily job gives him plenty of practice. And he agrees with Tremblay that the automated trannies used this year actually complicated matters.

“The automatics throw us off, because the majority of our trucks are standard,” he said. “But as a truck driver, you need to figure it out.”

Jack Fielding of Bison Transport felt good about his run as well. “I think I did pretty good,” he said, noting the alley dock obstacle presented the biggest challenge. Even so, what it comes down to, Fielding said, is “Are you on your game that day or not?”

Winners included: Straight truck, Kevin Bradshaw, Canada Cartage; single-single, Shawn Pietracupa, XPO Logistics; single-tandem, Danny Wink, Speedy Transport; tandem-tandem, Leonard, J.D. Smith Transport; B-train, Dan Congdon, YRC Reimer.

James Taylor of Transam Carriers was named Rookie of the Year and YRC Reimer won the team award.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Congratulations Bruce , do the same at the provincials show them young bucks how to do it .