‘Like an elephant with a bunch of flamingos’; Toquerville man to compete in Ohio for nation’s top truck driver honors

Composite image with courtesy photo of Toquerville resident Lonnie Christensen against a background stock image of a FedEx transport truck, dates and locations not specified, St. George News

TOQUERVILLE — A Southern Utah FedEx driver is scheduled to compete in the upcoming National Truck Driving Championships, scheduled for Aug. 15-18 in Columbus, Ohio.

Toquerville resident Lonnie Christensen, who drives for Hurricane-based Manx Inc., has driven more than 1.3 million accident-free miles as a contracted service provider for FedEx Ground over the past 17 years.

According to organizers, the prestigious annual competition, sponsored by the American Trucking Association, is designed to recognize industry leadership, safety and excellence, and to promote professionalism among truck drivers.

This will be Christensen’s second year at the national competition, having qualified both times by winning at the state level. He took top honors for Utah in the Step Van classification in early June.

Although Christensen will be competing in the Step Van category in Ohio, he told St. George News he also operates several other types of vehicles during the course of his job.

“I do a lot of different types of driving, from something as small as a three-quarter-ton sprinter all the way up to a tractor trailer,” Christensen said. “I spend a little bit of time shuttling back and forth and then also do some of what we call the last-mile delivery, or to the business or the resident’s home.”

“We even have what we call a straight truck, which is a 24-foot box on the back of the chassis. I get a lot of exposure to different pieces of equipment.”

At the competition in Ohio, nearly 450 participants, top category winners from all 50 states, are scheduled to vie for national titles in nine different classes of vehicles, along with the overall title of national grand champion. Drivers accumulate points by taking a written exam, conducting a pre-trip inspection and getting behind the wheel for a driving-skills challenge. All entrants must also have been accident-free for at least one year prior to the competition.

Christensen says he has been diligently studying and practicing for the event.

When asked about what it takes to be a safe driver, Christensen remarked jokingly, “Sometimes I feel like an elephant with a bunch of flamingos around me navigating the area.”

On a more serious note, Christensen said safe driving is a personal value.

“We all have certain values. I don’t believe you wake up in the morning and say today I’m going to exhibit honesty and integrity, or today I’m going to be trustworthy. Safety, to me, is the same way. It’s not something that I’m going to wake up and make that conscious decision about. I know that sounds weird, but it’s something that I’ve (decided) a long time ago, that safety was just going to be the way that I’m going to do things.

“It’s just going to be the way I conduct myself on the road, and not going to be judgment calls that I’m making on the fly. And some of those decisions don’t always necessarily get me to my destination the quickest. But it does get me to the people I love at home every day. And hopefully, it gets other people home to people that they care about every day.”

For more information about the National Truck Driving Competition, visit the Transport Topics website.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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