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Pro Trucker on the road to nationals | Klaas
Try driving a heavy semi-truck along busy Interstate 5 to deliver cargo daily on a tight schedule.
It is a tough, challenging job, but one Auburn man embraces it.
"It's something not everyone can do, and it can be overwhelming at times," said Scott Hendrickson, a professional driver, who has logged more than 38,000 miles in five years with Con-way Freight, based out of its Tacoma service center. "I understand that I work for a company, but I like being my own boss on the road for seven hours (each day). ... It's just me, my truck and the road.
I enjoy that freedom.
"It's definitely challenging, and I guess that's why I do it."
Hendrickson's skills behind the wheel are exceptional. The has a clean, accident-free record. He also is one of the state's best when it comes to competing against the clock on a closed course.
Hendrickson, 30, recently captured first place in the 18-wheel, 5-Axle Flatbed Division at the Washington Truck Driving Championships in Kent. He is one of three drivers from his company and one of nine pilots from the state competing at the National Truck Driving Championships in Orlando, Fla., Aug. 11-13.
Conquering the Kent course was Hendrickson's biggest win in three years of competition. He looks to finish well against hundreds of other drivers at Florida.
"The first time I competed (at nationals) two years ago, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't do all that well," Hendrickson said. "But I'm more prepared this time around. ... I've found it to be easier this year, and that might be attributed to the fact I'm more geared up for it. Maybe I'm more mature and relaxed."
The three-part national competition requires drivers to complete a multiple-choice exam that tests their common knowledge of the trucking industry. Drivers and their trucks are then judged on a pre-trip inspection for any possible defects or safety concerns.
Finally, drivers are put on a U-shaped obstacle course, mined with six problem areas. Those situations include maneuvering the truck around a corner lined with cones, or stopping near a designated line. Those drivers who drive close to the line without encroaching it and steer around the obstacles without hitting a cone are rewarded.
Drivers must complete the course in 10 minutes.
"If I do everything the same way I did at the state competition, I should be fine," Hendrickson said. "I'm hoping to have a good day. I'm going to soak it all in and enjoy it."
For Hendrickson, the trip is a paid vacation, with the company picking up the expenses. It is a reward for a driver who understands his role and responsibilities on the road.
The man knows how to move swiftly and cleanly behind the big wheel.
"I worked in retail, but was bored," said Hendrickson, who grew up in the Bellingham area before finding a home in Auburn 5½ years ago. He and his wife are raising a son. "I wanted to do something different, something not everyone can do."