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FedEx drivers to show off skills

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kevin Asbury and James Priddy know how to drive trucks. They reached a combined 5.6 million accident-free lifetime miles this year.

The two FedEx drivers who pride themselves on safety captured their respective class title at the West Virginia state truck driving championship in June, which qualified them for the national truck driving championship in Salt Lake City.

The competition began Tuesday and runs through Saturday.

Asbury, 46, won the three-axle class title, while Priddy, 46, captured the Step Van class title.

Both have traveled to the nationals to compete and hope to finally bring home a national title. The 76th annual national championship will feature 422 drivers representing all 50 states.

"The main thing is focusing every day on what we do best, which is safety," said Asbury. "Ultimately we want to be the best we can be."

Competitors first complete a 40-question written exam that covers content from a yearly "facts for drivers" book about the trucking industry, safety and first aid.

The book, which is given to drivers each year, helps them know how many times to check their mirrors, how often to stop and check tire pressure and how to perform a proper pre-trip vehicle inspection. Drivers can earn up to 100 points on the written exam.

After the written portion, drivers must go through a "pre-trip" inspection. Mechanics from the U.S. Department of Transportation modify drivers' trucks to have deficiencies such as loose lug nuts, missing windshield wipers or other safety concerns.

Drivers must inspect their trucks and locate and properly repair the problems in a given time frame, which varies by class. This stage is also worth 100 points.

During one week he was on vacation, Priddy was either reading his book or listening to it on audio for two to three hours each day.

"Normal people on the road, a lot of them, just do not know what we go through to be a safe driver," Priddy said. "You have to constantly keep in your mind different things like following distance, staying out of packs of vehicles and things like that so I'm not caught up in an accident which could make it a whole lot more horrendous."

At this point in the competition, drivers do what they do best, and drive. Three hundred points are up for grabs at this stage. The driving course consists of six "problems" that drivers must maneuver through and remedy.

Asbury said he learns something new every day and hopes that will help during the course.

"When I get in my truck, I expect the unexpected," Asbury said. "You just never know what is going to happen."

For instance, if he sees an animal on the side of the road, he expects it to be in his way, and prepares for it before hand.

Heather Hunter, a communications specialist for FedEx, said drivers like Priddy and Asbury push both veteran and young drivers to be better. Priddy has been driving with FedEx for more than 13 years and Asbury has been with the company for 17 years.

"They make it a huge part of their life," she said. "It's a big thing for FedEx. We love our drivers."

In July, FedEx rallied all 131 corporate drivers competing in the national championship for a boot camp and camaraderie.

"We partner the veterans with the rookies so they can teach what they know and share experiences in their day-to-day work," Hunter said. "Then they internally compete."

All the drivers work together and try to better themselves, Asbury said.

"When you get there, you're all champions," Priddy said.

He's most looking forward to "knowing that if you win or do real good there, you did it against the best in the country."

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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