21 UPS Freight drivers bound for national championships

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Twenty-one UPS Freight state champions will put their driving skills to the test against the nation’s best professional drivers Aug. 15-19 at the American Trucking Associations’ National Truck Driving Championships in New Orleans. A veteran squad, the UPS Freight 2006 state champions collectively have accumulated 45 state titles throughout their careers and have logged more than 400 years of accident-free driving.

The UPS Freight team includes two 2006 state Grand Champions who recorded the top scores of all competitors in their respective state driving tournaments — Lamont Carpenter of South Carolina and Vernon Smith of Nevada. The team also features Dennis Kendrick of Richmond, Va., who captured his sixth Virginia title in 2006 and second in a row in the three-axle competition.

The team is led by nine-time state winner Ralph Gragg, a pickup and delivery driver for UPS Freight in Charleston, W.Va., who captured the sleeper division in this year’s competition. His brother, Robert, a UPS package operation employee from South Charleston, who captured the West Virginia twin trailer class, will join Ralph in the national tournament.

Both the state and national competitions include difficult driving skills, maneuvering tests, equipment inspections and exams covering safety policies and regulations. More than 400 drivers from across the nation will compete in nine equipment classes. “In every sense of the word, the best drivers in America will be gathering in New Orleans for this competition,” says Phil Warren, vice president for safety for Richmond, Va.-based UPS Freight.