Rodeo Drivers Ride To Win In The Great Truck Roundup

Competitors Focus On Steering, Not Steers

September 17, 1990|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

There were no wild horses to ride, no cows to lasso and no clowns to run out to distract a raging bull.

The dirt was asphalt, the stalls were parking spaces and men and wearing T-shirts and baseball caps outnumbered cowboys wearing 10-gallon hats 200 to none. This wasn't your everyday rodeo.

This was for trucks. Waste disposal trucks. And the rodeo -- staged Saturday -- was a competition for the drivers who had to maneuver their rigs through a confusing array of cones and guard rails and tennis balls.

Trucks of all sizes spent the entire day going through the course at a satellite parking lot of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The drivers came from five states and were vying for a chance to compete at the national truck rodeo in Houston in November.

"It is a national employee recognition program that emphasizes safety and skill levels of our employees," said Jeff Nadeau, director of operations for Browning-Ferris Industries, an international waste and disposal company that produces the event.

The competitors, 200 in all, were judged on how well they drove through the course; points were deducted for each cone hit or missed. They also had to back into makeshift alleys and scored points depending on how close they came to the wall.

"I didn't mind the course this time," said Norman Edleblute, who is from Frederick. "I don't know how I did. I think I might have done pretty good." This was Edleblute's second year in the competition, and he, like everyone else, thought the hardest event was maneuvering around some tennis balls.

The balls were set up in a straight line and drivers had to drive over them so they went between the double-tires on the truck. The driver can't see under his rear wheels, so he has to know how his truck operates. There only is an inch of leeway allowed on each side of the balls, and most drivers knocked most off their pedestals.

"I think I knocked a few of them off," Edleblute said.

Ken Norton Jr., from Harford County, sat on the sidelines watching the trucks go through the course. His turn was coming up shortly, and he was worried about the tennis balls. "But I'm looking forward to a good run-through," he said.

Each of the 40 offices of Browning-Ferris in the Atlantic region sent drivers to the competition, which isn't easy to enter. In order to compete, drivers must have a clean driving record while working with the company and must have avoided a preventable accident in the last year.

Prior to the driving competition, each participant had to complete a driving test; how well he did was included in the final results. The trucks used in the competition ranged from a 30-foot dump truck to a 34-foot front-end loader, used to empty out large trash bins. Drivers of tractor-trailer trucks also competed -- those trucks are used to haul medical waste and to transfer compacted garbage from transfer stations to landfills.

Nadeau said the contests, which boasts a $1,000 first prize and $2,000 for the winner in Houston, is a tremendous morale booster for the company's employees. "We want the drivers to feel special," he said.

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