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Bellaire Resident Competing in National Truck Driving Championships

photo by: Photo provided

Dave Schroeder

BELLAIRE – Dave Schroeder’s professional life in commercial truck driving has gone 39 years strong. His love of those big machines grew pretty much from birth.

He remembered watching his father, a commercial driver himself, pull up in front of their house in Canton, Ohio, and his 4-year-old eyes would widen.

“I was in awe of the fact that he drove that truck and it went where he wanted it to go, stopped where he wanted it to stop and turned where he wanted it to turn,” Schroeder said. “I knew at search an early age that’s what I wanted to do for a living.”

That love of those commercial trucks grew into a lifelong vocation and now has Schroeder – who has driven for FedEx for more than 17 years – in Indianapolis, Indiana, for the National Truck Driving Championships. Schroeder, considered one of the nation’s best commercial drivers, will compete with other top-echelon drivers from throughout the country in contests of driving skill and safety knowledge.

The safety aspect of the competition is the most important. Drivers must have a spotless accident record for the entire year prior to the competition. Then they must compete at the state level. Schroeder, 59, is the Ohio state champion in the double-trailer category.

Contestants this week will start with a written exam, then participate in a pre-trip inspection where they have a set amount of time to find 15 defects, five major and 10 minor, on the entire vehicle. That’s a test of how keen a driver’s eyes are to make sure their vehicle is in top working shape.

Then contestants head to the driving course, where they perform feats like keeping a certain distance from barriers as they drive and stopping the truck at a specific point on the course. For a driver like Schroeder, who will compete driving a cab hooked to two 29-foot trailers, that is no easy task. But with nearly four decades of professional experience, the vehicle almost feels like its one with the driver.

“It is an extension of you as a driver,” he said. “And that’s why I’m so proud to be a driver for FedEx, because they hire the best drivers in the industry and your driving record and experience normally shows.

“It takes years of practice and years of driving for that truck to be an extension of you,” he added.

Schroeder’s first competitions come Wednesday. If he advances to the finals, those contests come Friday. This is his first trip to nationals, and he admits he’ll probably be nervous. But he equates those nerves to the minutes before he ran out of the locker room before a football game for his alma mater Toronto High School. There will be jitters, but on the field of play, he’ll tune them out and compete.

He appreciates the opportunity to represent not just his family, but FedEx and the state of Ohio during this week’s competition. He’s honored to work and compete for a company like FedEx, which cares as much about safety as it does.

And he’s honored to work in a profession that he says “moves America forward” and compete for a title that, above all, celebrates safety in the profession.

“Safety is no accident,” Schroeder said. “Safety is practice and purpose put into action. And that’s exactly what we’re doing right here with this competition.”

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