Competition drives trucker to make safety top priority

Tyler Rogers, a truck driver with Federal Express Freight who works out of Grand Junction, expects to test his skills at the National Truck Driving Championships set for Aug. 11 to 15 in St. Louis. Rogers, a two-time state champion in the flatbed class, said he’s gained from the competition a new perspective about safety. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Tyler Rogers, a truck driver with Federal Express Freight who works out of Grand Junction, expects to test his skills at the National Truck Driving Championships set for Aug. 11 to 15 in St. Louis. Rogers, a two-time state champion in the flatbed class, said he’s gained from the competition a new perspective about safety. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Tyler Rogers has won two state truck driving championships and soon will vie again for national honors.

But along with his titles, Rogers said he’s gained from the competition a new perspective about safety. “It just changes everything about the way you handle traffic and the way you look at traffic.”

It’s a situational awareness that’s helped the Grand Junction man log more than 600,000 accident-free miles. To put that distance into perspective, if Rogers were piloting a spacecraft rather than driving a truck, he’d have completed one round trip to the moon and would be headed back to earth on the return leg of a second trip.

Rogers was among three Federal Express Freight drivers who work out of Grand Junction who placed in the top three at the Colorado State Truck Driving Championship earlier this summer. Rogers captured the flatbed title for a second year, in the process earning a trip back to the National Truck Driving Championships set for Aug. 11 to 15 in St. Louis.

The competition includes a written examination of federal safety regulations, a pre-trip truck inspection and series of challenges testing various driving skills.

Rogers said he finished 25th in his class at the national championship last year — what he considered a good showing for his first time at the event. But now that he knows what to expect, he believes he’ll fare better this year.

One of the chief objectives of the truck driving championship, though, is to promote safety. Rogers said the competition achieves that goal. “It makes every day safer.”

Rogers said there’s a “list” of things he takes into account behind the wheel, including everything from speed control to leaving appropriate gaps between his truck and other vehicles. The idea, he said, is to maintain the ability at avoid problems should they arise.

Other motorists can help, Rogers said, by keeping a safe distance from trucks — passing them quickly and then proceeding well ahead of trucks before cutting back in front of them.

His best advice? “Give trucks room. Stay away from them.”

Rogers said the other important  safety consideration for truck drivers is getting plenty of rest when they’re off duty. “You do it right. You don’t take shortcuts.”

Rogers earned his commercial driver’s license in 2001. He’s been driving trucks for eight years — the last five with Federal Express Freight. He drives a truck towing two trailers between Grand Junction and Denver, making the round trip overnight.

The job can be challenging sometimes, Rogers said, especially in winter driving conditions.

But the job also has benefits in providing for his family and allowing him to be home every day. “What I have now is perfect.”

And there are other perks as well, he said, among them the constantly changing view from his office window. He cited as one example a full moon rising above Loveland Pass in the middle of winter.

As for the upcoming National Truck Driving Championships, Rogers said he participated in a practice session in Denver.  But every day on the job also constitutes an opportunity to practice the things he’s learned from the competition. “It’s always with you.”