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Wrangling a big rig

Bowman truckerstest skills at company rodeo

Bowman truckerstest skills at company rodeo

August 05, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The "one-stop problem" posed by a railroad crossing Saturday at the 2007 D.M. Bowman Driving Championship appeared easy to solve, at least from a spectator's point of view.

But for most of the tractor-trailer drivers competing in the Williamsport-based company's corporate rodeo off Showalter Road, the last of six obstacles in the annual competition for trophies, cash and bragging rights proved to be the most difficult.

This year's grand champion, Vernon Curtis of Huntersville, N.C., defied the odds and received a perfect score of 50, said Scott Bowen, director of Risk Management & Safety for the transportation company.

"That's pretty amazing," Bowen said. "Just try it in your car some time."

"You think you're either closer than you really are, or you think you're further away. There is nothing for a driver to be able to line up, to get the perception."

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Curtis was one of 18 competitors who qualified for Saturday's event. Company terminal winners competed, as well as past grand champions.

"It's just like the Masters - you win, you get invited back," Bowen said.

John Miller of Chambersburg, Pa., still is in pursuit of a grand championship title after a disappointing Saturday outing.

"I'm usually pretty good about backing up here," Miller, 38, said of the "Freight Door" obstacle.

In reverse, drivers were expected to back a box trailer into a chute of bright yellow and orange barricades set up at an angle and not touch them.

To receive a perfect score, the trailer had to stop within 6 inches of the rear wood and metal barricade and within the same distance of the barricades on the driver's blind side.

A driver for Bowman for 17 years, Miller said the angled arrangement of the barricades made the obstacle tough, and the box trailer also forced him to adjust.

"I've been pulling a flatbed for the last few years," said Miller, who won the company's terminal competition in Frederick, Md. Drivers also needed to drive across a metal plate in place of an actual scale, turn left while crossing a scoring zone plate next to a orange and white barrel, and travel through a "serpentine" five-score zone without stopping.

Jim Ward, president and CEO of D.M. Bowman Inc., credited company founder Don Bowman for staging the competition.

"One of the key things we focus on in this driving competition is safety," Ward said. "We've got to be concerned about the general public."

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