Today I was honored to serve as the announcer for the Annual Truck Driving Competition held by the A. Duie Pyle Trucking Company at its New Jersey terminal. In prior years, I have served as a judge for this event, but this year when I was asked to be the announcer, I gladly accepted. I suppose it is the ham in me, born of so many years behind a microphone, while either piloting a set of drums or playing a guitar.
The event is one in which the company’s truck drivers (“professional class”) and other company employees who are not regular drivers, but who like to drive trucks (“amateur class”) have an opportunity to demonstrate their driving skills. It is not a wild, death-defying competition, bur rather it consists of a series of tasks that require driving precision and adherence to all the safety rules.
Indeed, an important part of the competition (specifically for the “professional class”) is the mandatory “pre-trip” inspection that each driver must conduct to demonstrate his ability to identify potential safety-related problems on one of the trucks.
Following the pre-trip inspection, the drivers take to the course where they are required, among other things, to drive through a set of narrow cones, to make precise turns with the front tire hitting a specific mark, to stop precisely at a certain point, and to back up to a loading dock as close as possible without hitting it. The drivers earn points for each task, but a violation of a safety rule (e.g. taking one hand off the wheel, or putting even an elbow out of the window) will mean zero points for that event.
There is a similar competition for forklift operators, in which they demonstrate their ability to safely move pallets and navigate within a confined area.
The winners in each class move on to a statewide competition, and if they’re successful there, they compete at the national level.
The company encourages all employees to attend the event and to bring families, which they do. There are special activities all day for the employees’ children. In addition, there is a wonderful array of good Jersey food, barbecued on site, souvenirs, and free pumpkins for the children to take home.
In the days when it is easy to be cynical about big business, this privately owned company has the right idea. I am told that the company pays its employees well, provides them with the best in equipment, and insists on safety at all times. Perhaps more importantly, the company’s attitude toward its employees fosters a sense of family, which is more than amply demonstrated by the enthusiastic support of the annual Truck Driving Competition by the employees who compete and those who come to be spectators and to enjoy the day.
What the Company gets in return are employees who obviously take pride in their work and who are proud of their considerable skills (I don’t think I could successfully drive my car through that course!). One does not need an advanced degree in economics to see the value in having skilled employees with a strong work ethic and pride in their performance.
I hope they invite me again next year.