It’s not often in life you can say someone is truly the best or even one of the best at what they do, but one truck inspector can easily lay claim to such accolades following a competition sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) and the top award sponsored by HELP Inc., the provider of PrePass.

Following two days of tough competition in six North American Standard Inspection categories, Jeremy Usener of the Texas Department of Public Safety was presented with the Jimmy K. Ammons Grand Champion Award during CVSA’s North American Inspectors Championship (NAIC) in late summer.

The award is the highest NAIC honor for roadside inspectors. It is named after a close friend of the CVSA who exemplified training, education and uniformity of commercial motor vehicle enforcement programs, according to the group.

“We sponsor the Jimmy K. Ammons Award because it not only recognizes the hard work of the winner, but salutes all truck inspection officers who know highway safety is the top priority for commercial vehicle enforcement agencies and their safe trucking industry partners,” said Karen Rasmussen, CEO of HELP Inc.

Fifty-two commercial motor vehicle (CMV) inspectors representing jurisdictions throughout North America gathered in Columbus, Ohio in late August for the only event on the continent dedicated to testing, recognizing and awarding commercial motor vehicle inspector excellence.

All of the inspection categories are timed events, including the competing inspectors’ ability to quickly  identify safety violations on the vehicle  pre-arranged by the judges. At the conclusion of the competition, the total scores for each competitor in those categories result in the naming of  the Grand Champion. Judges for NAIC often include off-duty officers and industry safety professionals, including regional directors from HELP Inc. HELP’s Paul Sullivan and Greg Kindle served as judges for the 2018 competition.

Usener, stationed in Colorado City, first won the Texas competition held in Corpus Christi in July to advance to the international competition. This year marks the third time he competed at NAIC, and PrePass caught up with him in late 2018 to ask him about his secret to winning the most recent contest.

Jeremy Usener
Jeremy Usener with the Jimmy K. Ammons Grand Champion Award during CVSA’s North American Inspectors Championship (NAIC) in late summer.

“I spent many hours  studying the regulations and other documents so that I was familiar with as much of it as possible, “Usener said. “I spent a lot of time reviewing the mistakes that I had made in the previous competitions and the violations that were on the competition elements that I had recalled from the previous competitions.”

Usener said the toughest parts of the competition were the Level 1 inspection and the hazardous materials scenarios.

“The hazardous materials scenarios are the hardest to prepare for because of the endless violations or defects that could be created for those. You just have to be able to navigate through your regulation books very quickly in order to identify the violations,” Usener said. “The Level 1 inspection scenario is tough because there are a lot of things to inspect on the driver portion and the vehicle portion. You can easily run out of time.”

Usener also won in the individual category of The North American Standard Hazardous Materials/Dangerous Goods and Cargo Tank/Bulk Packagings Inspection. He took third place in The North American Standard Level V Passenger Carrier Vehicle Inspection competition.

Usener and eight other Texas truck inspectors also took home the Team Award recognizing excellence among inspector teams from  various states and one Canadian province.

“Most of us were complete strangers before the competition. After breaking the ice, we became a tight group and were willing to help each other along during the competition,” Usener said. “I felt that each of us had intentions of winning at least something during the competition so I think that drove us harder to win. Even the people in my group who had never been to NAIC before were feeding off of a couple of us veterans and I think that helped with our confidence.”

NAIC was created to recognize state and provincial inspectors and officers, the backbone of the commercial vehicle safety program in North America, through training and education. This information is then shared with inspectors back home, raising the bar for the whole profession and ensuring that motor carriers and commercial drivers enjoy uniform inspection standards and procedures wherever they travel, interstate or internationally.

“You learn a lot when you compete there and it improves my job performance,” Usener said.“I took back the advanced training and the inside knowledge and apply it on the job. I also try to share that information with my colleagues and my trucking industry contacts.”

The 2019 NAIC is scheduled for Aug. 13-17 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Photos courtesy of CVSA.