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One point makes a difference at the 2011 Maryland State Truck Driving Championships

July 31, 2011|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Charles Smetzer, a 48-year-old truck driver for ABF Freight System Inc., was the grand champion in the 2011 Maryland State Truck Driving Championships and finished first in the three-axle van category.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

One point.

That's all that separated two Washington County residents at the 2011 Maryland State Truck Driving Championships in mid-June.

Chuck Smetzer of Hagerstown was named grand champion of the competition, edging Otho Kretzer of Boonsboro.

The competition at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium was the closest in history, according to the Maryland Motor Truck Association.

"Beating (Kretzer) makes the win that much sweeter because of how good he is," Smetzer said. "I enjoy competing, but after years of doing this, I've become more competitive and I want to win now."

Smetzer, a 48-year-old truck driver for ABF Freight System Inc., finished first in the three-axle van category. Kretzer, also 48 and a driver for Con-way Inc., finished first in the five-axle van category. Both will both compete in the National Truck Driving Championships in Orlando in August.

"(Kretzer) and I represent a lot of good drivers in Washington County," Smetzer said. "It'll be quite an honor to go to the national championship and be treated like a star."

Kretzer said just being able to compete was an honor.

"I like to win, but I'm just proud to make the competition," he said. "We've got good drivers in Washington County, but there are also good drivers in a lot of places. So to win, you just have to be lucky enough."

The Maryland State Truck Driving Championships is an annual competition among professional drivers who are separated into 11 classes depending on the type of truck they drive.

Competitors take a written test that is scored based on the number of correct answers. Then, they must navigate a course, making proper turns and driving at appropriate speeds.

Judges award points based on how well the drivers complete the course.

Eight of the class winners at the state level and the winners of the auto transporters class at the regional truck driving championships are eligible to compete in the National Truck Driving Championships, hosted by the American Trucking Association.  

This was Smetzer's second win in his class and Kretzer's fourth. Smetzer finished fourth at the national event in 2009 in the three-axle van category, while Kretzer finished fifth in the sleepers category at the national event in 2005.

"I've been studying and rehearsing a lot for the national competition this year," Smetzer said. "I want to win, so I am preparing myself for anything that might be on the course."

To compete at the state level, drivers cannot have had an accident for at least one year before the competition and must be employed with the company they are representing for at least 11 months.

The competition gives an incentive for drivers to drive safely, according to Craig Talbott, vice president of safety for MMTA.

"The competition is all about safety," Talbott said. "All the problems and challenges in the competition relate to safety."

Kretzer said that just competing in the event is a testament to being a safe driver.

"I'm proud to be in the competition because I can say I have been a safe driver for the past year, not having any accidents," he said.

Talbott said the competition is a good chance for truck drivers to show their family and friends what their job entails.

"The competition is a family event with one big cookout, and up to 500 people show up," Talbott said. "These are all pretty good drivers and they get to show their skills at the event."

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The winners in the Maryland State Truck Driving Championships were:

Straight truck: Dave Winebrenner, Pitt Ohio                                       
Three-axle van: Charles Smetzer, ABF Freight System
Four-axle van: Larry Hall, UPS
Five-axle van: Otho Kretzer, Con-way
Five-axle flatbed: John Miller, D. M. Bowman
Five-axle tank: Bill Sparr, Frito Lay
Sleepers: Robert Warfield, Domino's Pizza
Twins: Louis Petrovia, Con-way
Mixers: Ronald Topper, Aggregate Industries
Dump truck: Samuel Brown, Chaney Enterprises
Step van: Mike Woltz, FedEx Express
Pre-trip inspection: Felix Guinto, UPS
Rookie of the Year: Robert Warfield, Domino's Pizza
Team champion: Con-way
Grand champion: Charles Smetzer, ABF Freight System

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