UMA driver competition a hit; Stephen Davis takes first place

Two motorcoaches wind through the course during the first annual UMA International Driver Competition
at Expo 2017 in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS – The first-annual UMA International Driver Competition was a major hit at Expo 2017, and several drivers already have committed to participating next year.

Twenty-six drivers representing 16 companies in 21 states and two Canadian provinces competed in the inaugural event, which was held Feb. 28 and involved both written and driving tests.

The grand champion of the competition was Stephen Davis of AT&T Charter Service in Louisburg, N.C.

Stephen Davis 2017 Winner

First runner-up was Ronny Shade of Krapf’s Coaches of West Chester, Pa., who tragically died only two days later (see his obituary on P. ).

Second runner-up was Dennis Luman of Red Carpet Charters in Oklahoma City.

The grand champion and runners-up won $2,500, $1,000 and $500, respectively, plus plaques.

“For far too long, our industry’s best assets, our professional bus and motorcoach drivers, who are the backbone of our businesses and our industry, often go unrecognized,” Brian Scott, chairman of UMA’s Risk Management Committee, said before introducing the winners. “That ends today.”

Scott noted, too, that any drivers who operate crash free year to year can earn an Excellence in Driving certificate and any driver with 12 or more consecutive safe years qualifies for a Master Driver award.


This year, 22 drivers qualified for Excellence in Driving certificates and four as Master Drivers, “which is an absolutely incredible accomplishment,” Scott said.

Edward Bolling of Arrow Stage Lines maneuvers a bus through the course during the first annual UMA International Driver Competition at Expo 2017.

“All of our drivers here tonight represent an astonishing 150 years of combined crash-free driving,” he said. “That is an amazing accomplishment.”

Drivers earning Master Driver certificates were Rory Birge of Happy Trails Charters Inc.; Anthony W. Griffith of A.W. Griffith Transportation Consulting LLC; Dennis Luman of Red Carpet Charters; and Ronny Shade of Krapf’s Coaches.

Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer and assistant administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, lauded the 26 top drivers.

“The work you do truly matters in the lives of millions who rely on your skills, experience, professionalism,” Van Steenburg said. “You’re great drivers, but you also show respect.”

He thanked the drivers’ families for their support and making sure drivers are happy, healthy and well rested, adding that families matter to drivers.

“The ultimate winners are your passengers and the public, the motoring public with whom you share the road. It means a lot,” Van Steenburg said, offering a suggestion to the winners. “The mark of a true champion is one who makes those around you better. I ask each of you to mentor your fellow drivers because when you share your mastery of the trade with others, we all benefit and the future benefits.”

Rory Birge of Happy Trails Charters Inc., one of four drivers in the UMA International Driver Competition to earn a Master Driver certificate, focuses on the road ahead.

All participating drivers were required to have a proven history of safe driving and many had won a championship in a state or regional competition to earn the right to compete in St. Louis.

The competition began with a written examination testing their knowledge of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The drivers then hit the course to complete a series of maneuvers including Diminishing Lane, Backing, 90-Degree Turn, Offset Alley, Parallel Parking, Serpentine, Stop Line, and Onboard Evaluation. Adding to the challenge was the high likelihood they would be driving an unfamiliar vehicle.

“These are some of the best drivers in the country that came here to compete. They are all champions,” said Ken Presley, UMA vice president of industry relations and chief operator officer.

“Eighty drivers initially registered to compete, with 26 qualifying,” Presley said. “We are so proud of all the drivers and the outstanding work they do every day transporting 650 million passenger trips a year safely and securely.”

Next year’s competition will be held during UMA Motorcoach Expo in San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 6-10.

“We hope companies are making plans now to send their top drivers to be recognized and compete,” Presley said.

Participants in the first annual UMA International Driver Competition pose for a group photo before
taking the written examination. They later took driving tests.


Share this post