It takes people and equipment to put together ATA's National Truck Driving Championships each year, and on both sides there are some unusual linkups. Some drivers compete in vehicle classes they don't normally work in, and some tractors pull trailers they don't normally touch.
A prime example of the driver anomaly is this year's Grand Champion, Carl Krites, from Con-way Freight out of Wapakoneta, Ohio. He was the top overall competitor among the 417 drivers. And although he normally pulls van trailers, he won in the Tank Truck class, using a daycab tractor and a tank semitrailer.
In fact, the other two winners in the Tank class were also van drivers. Another Con-way Freight driver, Dale Duncan out of Spring Valley, Calif., placed third in Tanks, while second place was won by Leo Flack, from A. Duie Pyle in West Chester, Pa.
Drivers can compete in any class they want to, officials explained. Van drivers might find fewer competitors in the Tank class or perhaps in the Flatbed Class. There, the three finishers were from FedEx Ground, Wal-Mart Transportation and FedEx National LTL, all van operators. First-, second- and third-place drivers were John Smith Jr., Mooreville, Miss., Ray Barlow, Niles, Mich., and Scott Woodrome, Middletown, Ohio.
Also, if a driver wins two years in a row in one class, he must move to another class if he wishes to continue in the competition.
About 60 trailers, 50 tractors and 10 straight trucks and step vans came together last week for the championships in Columbus, Ohio. Unusual equipment lash ups are inevitable when equipment - all of it new or near-new - comes from different companies.
While strolling across the floor during a lull in the competition, I noticed a Keenan Advantage tank trailer hitched to a daycab tractor owned by Talon Logistics, the transport arm of Giant Eagle grocery stores, while another Talon tractor was hooked to a flatbed trailer.
During competition, a Southeastern Freight Lines tractor pulled a set of UPS Freight doubles around the course. That's par for the championships.