Driver competitions can be an effective and yet fun way to train and evaluate motorcoach drivers’ general regulation knowledge, road safety and skills.
In addition to a written exam, the friendly competitions involve a behind-the-wheel test, in which drivers navigate an obstacle course and execute maneuvers such as the “Serpentine,” “Offset Street” and “Rear Dual Clearance.”
Dale Krapf of the Krapf Group realizes the value of these competitions as a way to conduct a skills test without making it feel like a test. That’s why he and his company gifted the United Motorcoach Association with a trailer filled with orange barrels, cones and other tools needed to host a driver competition.
Available for driver competitions
The gift was first used at the 2019 UMA EXPO in Nashville but then was mothballed during the pandemic. Most recently, it was used by the Midwest Bus and Motorcoach Association (MBMCA) at their annual meeting in Elkhart, Indiana.
UMA plans to use it for the national competition held annually at EXPO but will loan it out to state and regional associations to host their own competitions. The MBMCA held a driver competition as part of its annual meeting last month. Along with a plaque and cash prize, the winner, Andy Anderson of Cardinal Transportation in Columbus, Ohio, will go on to compete at the UMA competition.
“I think it’s also a bit of a reward to highlight the professional motorcoach driver career and the tremendous responsibility they shoulder when they represent their companies at these events,” said Ken Presley, UMA’s Legislative & Regulatory Affairs & Industry Relations/COO. “Everyone in a company can take pride in the fact that one of their professional drivers is there representing them.”
Associations that want to use the trailer need only to get in touch with UMA.
“Everything right down to a stopwatch and a piece of sidewalk chalk is in the back of that trailer,” said Mark Szyperski of On Your Mark Transportation LLC, whose firm has assisted in running the UMA National Driver Competition since its inception. “You pull it up, you empty it out, and you are off and running.”
First UMA Driver Competition
When the UMA held its first driver competition in St. Louis, organizers were challenged to pull together everything needed for the competition.
“We spent literally weeks, not knowing up until the last minute whether we were going to have all the cones and barrels and supplies we needed to do it,” Szyperski said.
Krapf’s donation was a well-thought-out gift.
“The Krapfs knew what they were doing, right down to the tennis balls on the PVC pipe for the buses to drive through on the offset. It’s amazing to have that set up so that you don’t damage any equipment, and it’s a setup that’s really official. Everything is the same. It’s repeatable and it gets drivers ready for the nationals,” Szyperski said.
Adds Presley: “The Krapfs very likely hold the largest passenger carrier driver competition in the nation and know the tremendous value the company derives from the event. They have perfected the process and equipment over the years and have it down to a science. To share their expertise and donate the equipment is not only generous, but it also demonstrates the company’s commitment to the industry.”
Experience with safety competitions
The Krapf Group has always been a firm believer in the annual safety competitions, says Krapf, whose family business has school, transit and motorcoach fleets.
The West Chester, Pennsylvania-headquartered company has been involved in safety competitions for many years at the state and national level with the UMA and the National School Transportation Association.
“When I became president of UMA a few years back, one of the things I wanted to get accomplished was for us to start a safety competition on the motorcoach side. Sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is,” Krapf said.
He had his company’s shop put together the needed equipment and he personally purchased the new trailer to store and transport the items. Krapf says he hopes regional associations will make use of the gift to hold their own safety competitions.
“We want to make sure that the equipment is available and, that way, the competition is standardized,” said Krapf. “We have the same thing for our own company. We have a big trailer with all the equipment, and we use it in different locations. My brother, Dallas, has been instrumental in the success of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association Driver Safety Competition for the last four decades and my mentor in this regard.”