WASHINGTON, DC — August 23, 2005 — Food industry truck drivers from across North America will take part in the 19th Annual Truck Driving Championship, October 21-23 in Orlando, Florida. The competition, highlighting the skills and knowledge of food industry drivers, takes place in conjunction with the 2005 Productivity Convention & EXPO and is sponsored the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA).

“Driver safety is a critical element of food distribution operations” said Terry Vissers, corporate safety and compliance manager, Spartan Stores, Inc., and a co-chair of the 2005 Truck Driving Championship. "We are pleased to support this event and to recognize those drivers who exemplify the best in safety practices. This is the premier event within the food distribution industry where truck driving excellence is recognized."

“We know how important the driver is to our customers because they tell us every day,” said co-chair Dick Hairston, director of operations and transportation at Ben E. Keith Foods. “Driver safety is our number-one priority and this whole competition is based on safe driving ability and driver knowledge. Nothing could be more important, and that’s why we send our drivers each year. This championship is the one place that gives food industry drivers recognition on the national level for all the hard work they do for us.”

The championship includes a three-part competition — a written examination, vehicle safety inspection and driving course challenge — with drivers from foodservice distributor, wholesale grocer, self-distributing retailer and food manufacturer companies. To enter the event, drivers must have won a local or company sponsored competition.

The written examination consists of questions that measure a driver’s knowledge of safety and operating procedures, first aid, fire-fighting techniques and the trucking industry in general. During the second phase of the competition, each driver conducts a vehicle inspection to uncover planted equipment defects and safety hazards that could affect vehicle readiness. Drivers are scored based on the number of defects identified. In the final field course portion of the competition, drivers are scored on their ability to evaluate and handle a series of driving course problems that simulate everyday operating conditions.

Three classes of trucks are used in the competition, including 22-foot straight trucks, 28-foot tractor/trailers, and 48-foot tractor/trailers. Each participating division or company location may enter up to three contestants, with one driver per category. No driver may compete in more than one category.

Winners of the Truck Driving Championship will be recognized and honored at an awards banquet on Sunday evening, October 23. Prizes include cash and trophies.

Full competition and registration information, as well as information on how to conduct a company competition, are available at www.productivityconvention.com.