Driving can be very difficult under the best of circumstances — congested traffic, demanding schedules and tight spaces to maneuver. But suppose you are responsible for delivering a product that only lasts for 90 minutes, in a vehicle that can weigh 60,000 pounds and has a very high center of gravity plus severe limitations on speed, braking and turning. If you add to that the fact that your heavy cargo is constantly spinning around, that would make you one of about 3,000 Georgia concrete truck drivers working to deliver this versatile and essential building material.
The top 1 percent of Georgia's concrete delivery professionals recently put their skills to a challenging test for the bragging rights to be called the "Best in Georgia."
The 25 professional drivers who took part in the Georgia Concrete Driver Skills Competition went through a rigorous four-hour competition at a neutral setting in Tucker, Ga., an Atlanta suburb. More than 200 spectators, judges, family members, sponsors, and other industry professionals attended the event to cheer them on, enjoy a barbecue lunch provided by the pit professionals from Lehigh Cement and watch the competition. Spectators were able to view the competition from a parking deck overlooking the course.
All contestants took a written examination, were graded on a comprehensive pre-trip vehicle inspection, and drove their choice of front or rear discharge concrete trucks provided by the McNeilus Co. The driving course presented 10 separate challenges, including such things as tight turns, forward and backwards serpentine courses, precision movements, and others. Drivers were timed and scored as they completed the course.
At the conclusion of the competition, results were tallied and all competitors were given a certificate as finalists in the competition. The top five finishers in this elite group of drivers were then called forward to receive cash prizes and a trophy.
Excitement built as the five top finishers were named in ascending order. Fifth-place honors went to Alehandro Torres, Florida Rock.
Finishing fourth was Chat Willoughby of Turner Concrete.
Third place went to Thurmond Clark, Tucker Concrete.
Finishing in second place was Carmen Vera of Ready Mix USA.
Finally, the first-place trophy was awarded to Kenny Ainsworth of Lafarge.
As the top two finishers, Ainsworth and Vera will go on to the national competition in Phoenix, Ariz., sponsored by the National Ready Mix Concrete Association.
The Georgia Driving Championship event was sponsored by the Georgia Concrete & Products Association (GC&PA), the trade association that represents the Georgia ready mix concrete industry.