I watched Kelly weave her way through the serpentine, not with ease but with a competence that impressed me.
Every year there’s usually a rookie or two in the Manitoba Truck Driving Championships. This year there was 9. Almost a third of the field was made up of rookies. Unless they’ve had great instruction and read the rules package very closely, it’s tough being a rookie. The course is designed to make inches cost you your shot at a podium finish. It can be quite daunting to see the course for the first time. We are led on a walk through before competition but it looks very different from behind the windshield.
I try to take time to talk to some of the rookies before the day starts as well as during it to try and help them. Those that I’ve talked to I watch with great interest to see how they perform under pressure.
I didn’t meet Kelly M. before she was on the track but I knew that she was a rookie and she had a great mentor who was competing in my class. I had a couple minutes to watch so I got to see her in the serpentine. The serpentine is made of 3 barrels in a row. You drive past all barrels and then reverse through them, weaving in and out. You have to back up far enough so when you go forward again you can weave through them again, just on the opposite side. Sound easy? Not so much! Why was I impressed with Kelly? Firstly, she was a rookie. Backing up and weaving around obstacles is not part of your daily recommended routine. Secondly, she wasn’t in her own truck (you never drive your own, trucks are supplied and everyone in your class uses the same truck, or a twin to it). Thirdly, she was driving a straight truck (a city type truck with a box on the back, only 2 axles total, no hitches) which reacts very differently from her normal semi. Fourthly, it was a tight course and a judge told me later that no one made it through without some sort of issue.
I wasn’t able to see her on the rest of the course but I had a good feeling that she would perform well. At lunch time I looked for her and told her that I was impressed with her serpentine. She was surprised, thinking that she hadn’t done that well but I assured her that she had.
After the competition we go to a semi-formal banquet where awards for first to third in each class, grand champion, team winners, as well as other industry awards are given out.
I wasn’t surprised that Kelly won third place in Straight Truck Class.
Let me emphasize how huge this was. Kelly, a rookie, woman driver won third place! This is the FIRST time in Manitoba history that a woman has made it into the top three in ANY class.
To say I was excited was an understatement. I was so happy for her.
She is a huge credit to her employer, Bison Transport. She’s exactly who we need more of in our industry.