Not just anyone can compete in the annual Arkansas Trucking Championship. Only the most skilled professionals at the top of their driving game are allowed to participate, such as PAM drivers Clyde Hill, Raymond White, and Glen Johnson, who all represented PAM against this year’s fierce competition on July 12 and 13.
Raymond White, who has driven for PAM for more than 11 years and is closing in on his million mile mark, was thrilled to have his first opportunity to compete in the annual event.
“I am honored and excited to have had the opportunity to represent PAM this year,” says Raymond, who had the chance to eat breakfast with DOT officers who were also competing at the event. “Being able to interact with some of the DOT inspectors was kind of neat. Rather than consider each other ‘enemies,’ we were able to interact in a positive way. They appreciate drivers who do our jobs well and keep the road safe.”
Clyde is a returning contestant who has driven for PAM for more than four years, and logged nearly 380,000 accident-free miles before this year’s contest. He says the support he receives regularly from his PAM managers and fellow drivers gave him the confidence and the superior driving skills to compete with even the most seasoned drivers.
“It felt great to represent PAM,” he says. “I enjoyed the competition, even the hardest part, which was the written test.”
Glen, who has driven for PAM for three years, learned so much from this year’s Arkansas competition that he can’t wait to compete again next year.
“I had a great time and learned a lot,” he says. “It was well worth the experience because the knowledge I gained there was different than the challenges I deal with on a daily basis.”
The Driving Skills Needed to Compete with the Pros
Many of the drivers who competed in the 2019 Arkansas Trucking Championship had as many as 5 million accident-free miles and 30-plus years of experience. All contestants were required to be accident-free at least 12 months prior to the competition and had to log a minimum of 1200 hours annually.
Clyde, Raymond, and Glen completed their DOT law exams, pre-trip inspections, and written driving tests with flying colors, as well as the on-the-road challenges. Each driver had to demonstrate hands-on driving skills, such as completing the Trailer Stop Precision test, where trucks have to quickly stop in a precise, limited amount of space. They also had to pass the Diminishing Alley drive, where it’s necessary to safely guide the truck through a narrow, alley-sized lane.
All three PAM drivers had the opportunity to fine-tune such skills as how to maneuver their vehicles extremely close to surrounding objects and vehicles without making contact. Not surprisingly, a big focus of the competition was on safety.
Fortunately, all PAM drivers are well-versed in safety rules of the road, including the Smith System®. The system is based on the concept that using a “space cushion” is key to safe driving.
PAM drivers study and train regularly to master these key system skill sets, including:
- Maintaining eye lead time by looking ahead a minimum of 15 seconds, which is approximately a city block at 60 mph
- Keeping a seven-second minimum following distance by counting 1,001, 1,002, 1,003, etc., until reaching that landmark
- Avoiding focusing on any one object for more than two seconds to prevent driving distractions
- Anticipating potential hazards to set up a way out, before getting stuck in a bad spot
- Making eye contact with other drivers or even flashing headlights to ensure visibility
Thanks to their Smith System knowledge, hands-on training, and years of on-the-road experience, Clyde, Raymond, and Glen all were able to enjoy competing with other top professionals, without the “jitters” that plague less experienced drivers.
Congratulations to these PAM pros on representing PAM with pride at the 2019 Arkansas Trucking Championship. All three are looking forward to the chance to compete next year!