Though this is not the first time the threesome have thrown themselves into the annual competitions, beating stiff competition to come out on top in their classes is something to be proud of for Shawn Matheson, Joe Kuntz and Wayne Burnett who spend most of their careers staying safe on the road.
“My previous employer got me into it, with safety and how good it is to promote stuff like this and I’ve been addicted ever since,” said Shawn Matheson in a phone interview. Matheson was this year’s first place winner in the tandem class and has been employed at Home Hardware for over five years.
In addition to the win Matheson also bagged the title of Grand Champion at the national level of the competition.
“My score was so much bigger than the class average,” he said while explaining his additional win.
“The friendships you gain from it…we’re lucky here at Home Hardware in that we’re more or less a team… the red shirts,” said Matheson of his co-workers. In the seven years the driver has been competing, this was his third time winning at the national level of the competition having won second place twice before.
In order to get to the Nationals the three drivers had to win regional and provincial competitions. The top three in every class continue on to the provincials where five different team members from each province compete. In the provincial Kuntz explains, only one winner from each class could go on to nationals meaning that Matheson, Kuntz and Burnett beat out all of their competitors in order to work their way to the coveted final events at nationals; no easy task. Classes refer to the different categories of contests at the events.
“The very first thing before you even apply is you have to make sure you have a clean safety record for the previous year. There are a number of criteria, 12 or 13 different criteria that you have to follow in order to even qualify for it,” he explained adding that he has been driving for 41 years.
“Years and years ago I had always been interested in trucks and competitions and how skillful drivers are,” he said of how he started in the competition. A man told him once that if he was interested in trucks he shouldn’t just go to watch, but enter the competitions himself to see what he could do.
“That was just before the central Ontario truck driving championships began in 1985, the following year that this guy told me this I said you know what? I’m going to try this out and see how it works,” he added.
This year Kuntz won first in the straight truck class, a personal best for the competition veteran.
There is no prize money for winners even at the national level of the competition, but the drivers found other rewards during their trip.
Burnett, second place winner in the single-single class also recalled an aspect of adventure on their trip when the teams would visit the sights in New Brunswick when they weren’t competing, adding that the experience was a great way to bond and support their team.
“They just spread all the money out and everybody has a really good time the whole weekend. When we were in Moncton there was a really good meal,” Kuntz said. “Oh boy, it was a long time coming. We were pretty ecstatic; we were up in cloud nine for a couple of days.”