Semi-truck driver Chris Poynor appears to be your everyday road warrior.
“When I’m out on a normal daily route, I usually have two trailers worth of freight out there,” he said.
So it was no surprise that he entered the twin trailer competition this year at the Washington Trucker’s Association competition in Kent.
And the Richland driver for XPO Logistics did so well that he won the grand championship title over about 100 other drivers at the contest, which was hosted by Boeing. Poynor earned the most points of all the competitors.
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The truckers earned their way to the state competition with their good driving records.
“You cannot be in any type of incident, whether it’s as minor as freight shifting inside your trailer or a full-on crash,” said Poynor, 43.
He will compete at the association’s national championships in Indianapolis on Aug. 10-13, along with two other Richland drivers who won their divisions.
I’m always looking for the opportunity to turn something into a little challenge.
Chris Poynor, Richland driving champion
Poynor grew up in Richland and started driving big rigs more than 21 years ago. For his first 15 years, he mostly picked up and delivered loads, involving several stops and a variety of techniques to avoid accidents.
He credits that experience with his success in the competitions.
“I’m always looking for the opportunity to turn something into a little challenge,” Poynor said.
Of the nine division categories in the competition, he chose the twin trailers contest because he’s used to towing trailers every day.
“Knowing your equipment and maneuvering around objects that may be in a customer’s yard kind of almost helps you out for the competition, and then the competition kind of does it in the other way,” he said.
Poynor continues to make runs between Idaho and Washington, often dipping into Oregon.
“Even though it’s 477 miles, I’ve got it easy,” he said. “I can just drive from here to there, meet with the driver and then come back.”
Like his previous runs as a city driver, which requires more precision, drivers in the nine truck and step van competition must navigate precision courses and avoid hitting objects they encounter.
In one case, drivers must position their truck no further than 18 inches away from a target.
That’s especially challenging, because they’re not driving their own rigs.
“They’re even mixing up trailers and trucks just to make sure you’re a little off,” Poynor said. “It challenges the driver. And it’s the same thing when we go to nationals too.”
Even though he’s younger than me, he has a lot of knowledge that he has learned over the past that he has taken in from other drivers that has helped me along the way.
Robert Dean, Richland truck driver
This is the first year that Poynor’s cousin, Robert Dean, 45, of Richland, will go to Indianapolis with him.
“We’ve been trying to go to nationals for 11 years now since I’ve been doing it,” Dean said. “We finally won.”
Dean, the Washington flatbed division champ who also works for XPO Logistics in Pasco, sees Poynor as a mentor.
“Even though he’s younger than me, he has a lot of knowledge that he has learned over the past that he has taken in from other drivers that has helped me along the way,” Dean said.
When they practice together in Pasco, Dean said they critique each other.
Dean hopes one of them can win a national title this year. Poynor took second place in 2011, and Dean made it to eighth place in 2008.
“All 50 states have nine classes, so all winners go to the nationals,” Dean said. “We’re competing against the best of the best.”
Another Richland driver, Darrell Schelton, 32, won the four-axle division at the state level and will also travel to the national competition for the first time.
Schelton, a FedEx Freight driver who has driven trucks for about eight years, has competed statewide for three years.
“I’ll be getting them eventually,” Schelton said of his friendly competition with Dean and Poyntor.