Hawaii Transportation Association’s Truck Driving Championships test Hawaii’s truck drivers’ skill and knowledge. Hawaii’s truck drivers are a crucial part of the business and consumer operations that transpire each day on Oahu and the Neighbor Islands.  Their dedication to service, safety and commitment sometimes can be overlooked.

Chris Fleck
Wednesday - August 03, 2011
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The crowd enjoys the event and applaud the drivers as they complete the course. Lawrence Tabudlo photo .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Hawaii’s truck drivers are a crucial part of the business and consumer operations that transpire each day on Oahu and the Neighbor Islands. Their dedication to service, safety and commitment sometimes can be overlooked. Hundreds of truck drivers in Hawaii, both men and women, serve the common carriers those for hire companies such as Hawaii Transfer Company or Don’s Makiki Trucking Service that haul commercial and residential supplies to their final destination.

Then there are the private trucking company drivers who by day and night whisk and deliver our favorite products and supplies that land on the shelves of the island’s Walmarts, Longs Drugs or Foodlands. Just as the trucking industry is competitive, the truck drivers themselves are given a chance each year to demonstrate that they are the best in their trade, that they understand what trucking truly is and can maneuver their big rigs smoothly and precisely.

That opportunity is the Hawaii Transportation Association Truck Driving Championships.

Russ & Joyce Anguay at the side curb stop problem, measuring to see if the trucks stop within 18 inches

“The Truck Driving Championships is a showcase event for us to give focus and recognize drivers who are out on the road, whose primary focus is safety among all the other traffic, pedestrians and other hazards on the roadway,” says Heide & Cooke CEO

Ross Sasamura. “These drivers all have a job to do, they have to deliver goods, they have to provide services and they have to do it in an environment where people have their own issues or own cares and worries, and they work around it.”

At Leeward Community College recently, the 2011 HTA Truck Driving Championships sometimes called a truck rodeo hosted dozens of participants from many different trucking companies including Y. Hata, The Gas Company, PepsiCo, Y-N Logistics and DTRIC.

The Truck Driving Championships consist of four phases of competition: a written exam, vehicle inspection, a road course and final interview. To qualify for the championships, participants must have a Certified Drivers License (CDL), must be approved by a supervisor, and have to be accident-free for the previous year. This year’s HTA Truck Driving Championships had five separate trucking divisions including Straight Truck, 5-Axle Tractor Trailer, 5Axle Flatbed, Motor Coach and the Boss’ Challenge.

A 5 axle flatbed coming into the parallel park test

The written exam, taken the night before, included a variety of multiple choice questions testing drivers on their knowledge of truck driving as an industry.

“It is not good enough to be a truck driver, you have to know about the industry, the history, the issues going on today, so the drivers do have to be pretty well-versed in that respect,” says HTA managing director Gareth Sakakida.

As the drivers awoke for the next day of the HTA Truck

Driving Championships, they entered the inspection phase of the competition. All vehicles included in the competition had to have a minimum gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds.

“You need the drivers to know what you as inspectors are looking for, how you are looking for that, and what kind of conditions you are looking for,” adds Sakakida.

Gareth Sakakida and Jimmy Zane measuring at the front stop test

During the inspection a number of vehicular defects were planted on each truck and it was the driver’s responsibility to be aware of the defect and be prepared to correct it.

Defects planted by the course masters included air leaks, missing lug nuts, missing truck reflectors or light bulb malfunctions.

“We don’t give these drivers any equipment, so if they are smart they come down with tire gauges or tire thumpers, which help test tire pressure. The smart guys bring some of their own equipment,” says Sakakida who first got involved in the Truck Driving Championships in 1981.

As the competitions continued it was time for the drivers to test their skills behind the wheel. The road course designed by John Nagy and Manny Ramalho both trucking veterans and journeymen was composed of a series of driver skills stations.

Station problems varied from a parallel parking test to a rear stop station, a right turn maneuver, and a grease pit stoppage problem.

Straight truck winner Joel Ramo. Lawrence Tabudlo photo .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Scores for each skill problem were judged on a scale of 0 to 50 and were positively tallied for closeness and accuracy of spacing with each driving problem.

“When you talk about drivers who go many miles without an accident, it is easily said, but hard to do. On the Mainland, drivers might have four feet of clearance on either side, but on Oahu you may have only a foot, and on the outer islands it can be even tighter,” says course master Ramalho a 12-time state champion.

As the road course was completed, drivers then went through the last phase, the final interview.

“Basically the interview is a set of simple questions, but we aren’t looking for simple answers like green means go. We want to determine that the drivers attitude in preparation is sound and safe,” says Sakakida.

After careful determination the 2011 Truck Driving Championship winners were:

Straight Truck division, Joel Ramos, Airgas Gaspro.

5-Axle Tractor Trailer, Wendell Wong, The Gas Company, who also was the 2011 rookie of the year.

5-Axle Tractor Flatbed, Randall Kaiwi, The Gas Company.

Motor Coach, Danny

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