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Local FedEx drivers driven to win

Three of the company's Hagers-town-based drivers placed in the Maryland Truck Driving Championship in Timonium. One will compet

Three of the company's Hagers-town-based drivers placed in the Maryland Truck Driving Championship in Timonium. One will compet

July 01, 2007|By TAMELA BAKER

HALFWAY - There's no question that the nation's truck drivers keep the American economy, well, moving.

But maneuvering those mammoth vehicles takes some skill.

So when Dave Beaver of Sharpsburg won top honors for the "Twins" class at the Maryland Truck Driving Championship June 9 in Timonium, Md., it was, literally, a pretty big deal.

"Twins" include a cab and a double-trailer, which makes them nearly twice as long as a regular tractor-trailer rig. And twice as challenging.

Beaver, a driver for FedEx Corp. in Hagerstown, was one of three Hagerstown-based FedEx drivers to place in the competition. He'll compete in the national competition in August in Minneapolis.

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Sponsored by the American Trucking Association, the competition promotes safety on the road.

Driving is only part of the competition - there's also a written exam, a personal interview and a "pre-trip inspection," in which drivers are judged on how thoroughly they inspect the truck.

In Beaver's class, there was a 10-minute time limit.

"There's a lot of study" involved, Beaver said, and not just with books. Truckers play CDs of study materials while driving their trucks, he said.

Kind of gives a whole new meaning to "distance learning."

"After the first of the year we really get into it, but you're really studying all year," Beaver said. "There's a lot of statistics, common knowledge, a lot of safety" questions.

Drivers must be accident-free for the year to participate, he said.

This is Beaver's third year of competition, but the first year he's placed.

Michael Bennett of Martinsburg, W.Va., placed third in the Three-Axle class. It was his fifth year to compete. Last year, he placed fourth. "I knew I was getting close," Bennett said.

Bobby Simpson, a FedEx Ground contractor based in Hagerstown, placed third in the Five-Axle Sleeper class.

Beaver and Bennett are longtime truckers. Beaver's been driving for 18 years, seven of which have been for FedEx. Bennett's been driving nine years, nearly eight of them for FedEx.

Beaver said he didn't think much about whether he would place in the competition until "another driver watched me go through the course, and he came up and congratulated me and said I did better than anybody else he'd seen."

Beyond an individual driver's scores in each part of the competition, "it's also how everybody else does," Bennett said.

Had he performed a little better around one more obstacle on the field test, he said, he'd have won his class. "I missed it by an inch. But there's always next year."

Beaver's wife Vickie also drives for FedEx. Although she scored more points than Dave in the competition, she was driving in a different class.

No matter. She's going to Minneapolis with Dave. And while he's competing, she plans to spend some time shopping at the Mall of America.

But first comes FedEx's own competition.

The "Chairman's Challenge," scheduled for later this month in Indianapolis, is a training session for all of FedEx's state champion winners, designed to help them prepare for the national contest.

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