UMA Expo driver competition attracting industry’s best

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

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

“We have seen a flurry of submissions and are looking forward to another exciting group of drivers, including some of our competitors from last year,” said Ken Presley, vice president of industry relations and COO of the United Motorcoach Association, the competition’s sponsor.

One of those returning drivers is Anthony W. Griffith, a New York transit driver and transportation consultant.

“Absolutely, I am already registered,” Griffith said of the 2018 competition, which will be held during UMA Motorcoach Expo 2018 in San Antonio Jan. 6-10.

Griffith is no stranger to motorcoach driving competitions. He won his first one in the 1990s and in October he won his latest one — the New York Public Transit Association Bus and Maintenance Roadeo – for the second straight year in a row.

“Everybody is teasing me about it,” he said.  “They say, ‘You only won because I wasn’t there.’”

In the 2017 UMA International Driver Competition, held in February during Expo in St. Louis, 26 drivers representing 16 companies in 21 states and two Canadian provinces competed.

The competition involved both written and driving tests, as it will in 2018.

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

First runner-up was Ronny Shade of Krapf’s Coaches of West Chester, Pa., who tragically died only two days later. 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.

Griffith said the competition was close. “Everybody who didn’t win came in fourth,” he joked.

Besides the three winners in the 2017 competition, 22 drivers qualified for Excellence in Driving certificates and four as Master Drivers.

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

This year several drivers who won their state or regional association competitions are expected to compete at Expo. All participating drivers are required to have a proven history of safe driving.

The competition will include a written examination testing driver’s knowledge of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The drivers then will take the wheel of buses 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 is the high likelihood they will be driving an unfamiliar vehicle.

“These are some of the best drivers in the country,” Presley said, adding that in 2017, 80 drivers initially registered to compete, with 26 qualifying.

“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,” he said. “Several companies plan to send their top drivers this year to be recognized and compete.”

Griffith said the UMA International Driver Competition is special because the course is difficult and the drivers come from around the country and Canada.

“Along with allowing you to associate with some of the best drivers in North America, the competition allows drivers to compare their skills with some of the best,” he said. “It’s truly an honor to compete with these guys.

“See you in San Antonio!”

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