Twenty-three state champions, including 10 returning state winners, will represent UPS and UPS Freight at the 2009 National Truck Driving and Step Van Driving Championships in Pittsburgh next month.
Together, the 23 UPS drivers have garnered 67 state championships and more than 450 years of accident-free driving.
"These safety-first drivers, a mix of veteran and relative newcomers to the competition, represent the most skilled professionals in the trucking industry,” said Phil Warren, UPS Freight vice president for community affairs. "For UPS and all competitors, the Nationals -- the acknowledged Super Bowl of Safety -- represent a showcase of our industry’s top drivers.”
The veteran UPS contingent is led by returning state champion Ralph Gragg of Charleston, W.Va., who is making his 11th trip to the Nationals, and Dennis Kendrick of Richmond who won his third straight and ninth overall Virginia title this year. Kendrick will compete in the 3-axle competition at the August championships while Gragg will test the nation’s best in the 5-axle.
Returning for the third straight year to the Nationals is UPS feeder driver John Foran, who successfully defended the Vermont four-axle championship he first won in 2007.
Other members of the 2009 team include three UPS feeder drivers who will make their second straight trip to the Nationals. They are David Sharp from Nevada and Troy Turtle and Bill Harvey from Oklahoma.
First-time state winners making their Nationals debut will be UPS drivers Jeff Kalinowski and Bill Raff from Illinois and Ron Seltzer from Texas.
Raff will compete in the 3-axle competition while Kalinowski and Seltzer become the first UPS drivers in the Step Van competition that debuted this year in some 23 state championships.
The 23 UPS drivers advancing to the Nationals come from 14 states and captured team titles in the state championships of four states: South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
Four South Carolinians, led by Steve Newsome, will wear the company’s colors in Pittsburgh. Newsome won his fifth state championship this year and was named Grand Champion in the state competition with the highest score among all competitors. Joining Newsome from the state are John Cook, also a five-time winner; John Hummel, a two-time state titleholder, and newcomer James Belcher. All four UPS Freight drivers are based in Gaffney, S.C.
Three UPS Freight drivers from Georgia will carry the company’s colors. Al Churchwell of Marietta will appear in his seventh Nationals and will be joined by Mike Britt of Marietta and Tommy Lasalata of North Atlanta.
Other company drivers earning their tickets to Pittsburgh are Rodney Cosper and Duane Holmes, both from UPS Freight’s Birmingham, Ala., service center; Randy Crews, Lynchburg, Va.; Manny Franco, Phoenix, Ariz.; John Lawrence, Jackson, Tenn.; Paul Savill, Ohio, and Jerry Sheble, Fontana, Calif.
Both the state and national competitions include difficult driving skills, maneuvering tests, equipment inspections and exams covering safety policies and regulations. More than 400 drivers from across the nation will compete in Pittsburgh in nine equipment classes between Aug. 18 and 22.