Two more past champs look for glory

Truck News

Driver name: Stew Jutzi

Region: Central Ontario

Company: Erb Group of Companies

Class: straight truck

Past experience: Jutzi first competed in the Central Ontario Regional event in 1993. Since then he has entered approximately 15 times. He has a strong record with five victories at the Regional level and two wins at the Provincial level. Jutzi also took home the straight truck crown from the 2011 National Championships.

Background: Driving for Erb, Jutzi makes the run from the company’s Baden terminal to Windsor, Ont. three times per week, hauling refrigerated food products to grocery stores and delis. He uses is his time on the road to practice his competition skills.

“You can see me practising the stop line any time. I love it when a light turns red. If I’m first in line, and I get out and see if I am close enough to the stop line. And I have done that in the middle of Windsor. But the light has to have just turned red. If it has been red for a while I don’t get out. It’s not safe,” Jutzi said.

Jutzi also makes sure he brushes up on the rules and regulations for the written test.

Stew Jutzi and his wife Cindy at the Canadian National Truck Driving Championships in 2011.
Stew Jutzi and his wife Cindy at the Canadian National Truck Driving Championships in 2011.

“When you’ve done a something for a long time, sometimes you forget things. And yes, laws do change. There are new regulations coming in for hours of service all the time. I was just studying yesterday and the one question, I had to think about it, and I actually got the wrong answer. But I’ve looked back and now I know I can do that with my hours of service. Not that I want to: 14 hours a day is long enough. I don’t want to work 16, but technically I could.

“I’ve said in the past I think everybody should do a written test—maybe not every year, but every two or three, because you can forget a lot of things. I study and do a written test twice a year. I think that has helps me be a better driver.”

Despite being a seasoned competitor, Jutzi still gets nervous before each event. And to calm his nerves he has ritual he performs before each competition.

“I find it very stressful. My father-in-law gave me a trick years ago—to drink a glass of milk before. It calms the nerves a bit. After 21 years, I stop and get a milk on the way to the competition. I don’t know if it’s the secret to winning, but it’s the secret to getting through the competition,” he said.

What he thinks about the Championships:
Jutzi’s favourite part of any competition is the driving. He finds the pre-trip inspection the most challenging aspect.

“There was only one year I actually did well at the pre-trip. I’m not sure why. I get nervous talking. When you get these Ministry workers in their uniforms, I know I’m not doing anything wrong, but they make me nervous.”

He says the driving championships have a positive role to play in promoting the industry.

“I’d like to think that it proves to everyday citizens we actually take pride in what we do in the driving. I think to show them we are safe, and we try to be safe, it is not a bad thing for the industry.”

Personally, he also credits the competition for improving his skills behind the wheel.

“I think it has made me a better driver. There is one guy I’ve competed against at the Regionals until last year when he won at the nationals and moved up a class. For 18 years, I think he and I sort of made each other better. So seriously, think I have become a better driver—I think about things more.”

Driver name: Rennie Barran

Region: Toronto

Company: Speedy Transport Group Inc.

Class: tandem-tandem

Past experience: Barran competed in his first truck driving championship event in 2013. He won the rookie titles at both the Regional qualifier and the Provincial championship, and also had a strong showing at the Nationals.

Background: Barran admits that entering the competition last year wasn’t really his choice. He was strongly encouraged by Speedy’s vice-president of transportation Andre Poirier to participate. He also says that he wasn’t sure he really belonged in the competition.

“You always have this doubt in your mind, are you good enough to compete in this kind of competition. Because I was talking to a lot of guys who compete, and they compete every year, and they have been doing it for 15 or 20 years. And it becomes ‘can I be good enough to compete with these guys? These guys have experience. They have everything I have but more.’ You just have this thing in your mind asking, ‘am I going to look foolish?’”

Rennie Barran-Speedy
Rennie Barran poses beside the sign reserving his parking space.

Once he wrapped his mind around the idea of competing, Barran started to enjoy himself.

“In the beginning I just did it for fun, even if people were watching me. I said even if I don’t do that well this year, I’ll know how to do it next year. And before I knew it, I had a first.”

Barran didn’t bother with any special preparations. He didn’t need any.

“I’ve been driving for about 12 years now. When you’re in a truck for 12 years, you’re supposed to know your basics and how to check it. Every five years you have to do a test for air brakes and licence, and it stays in your mind. Plus you do it every day. You do your pre-trips every day. It is pretty much common sense,” he said.

“It was all easy for me. I’m not being conceited, but it’s something I do every day. I take my 53’ trailer and put it into straight truck delivery areas and really tight spots. So it’s a daily thing for me and for Speedy drivers, we’ll do this every day. We’ll complain about it, but we’ll still do it.”

While Barran still intends to try to take it easy and enjoy the Regional qualifier, he knows things will be a little bit different than they were in 2013.

“This year is going to be 100% more pressure on me because I’m going to put more pressure on myself to do better. Last year it was more about fun. Now I’ve got to keep my title. It is going to be scary this year. I’ve been thinking about it for months. I want to keep the parking spot. It’s great in the wintertime.”

After he won at the Provincial competition, Speedy gave Barran his own partking spot close to the front door, and a shirt that said “2013 Ontario Truck Driving Champion” which he proudly wears when making deliveries to customers. Barran said the shirt is a conversation starter and has led to a number of people asking him about the Championships.

What he thinks about the Championships: Barran said that any driver who is even considering entering should absolutely do so.

“I would definitely recommend they do it. It’s a great experience, not only for the knowledge they have but also the knowledge they can learn or they can give to other people. It is a great atmosphere for the family. You are just competing on a friendly basis, if that’s how you want to do it. If you want to compete on a serious basis, then I don’t know how fun it would be. From my experience I just did it for the fun. Bring your driving experience is pretty much what I did.”

Besides proving his skills, he said the event is a great way to meet fellow drivers and to learn about other trucking companies.

“It’s just truck driver to truck driver. We exchange what we’ve been through in our years.”

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