One woman dares to enter big rig driving event

Standing in an empty parking lot checkered with a pylon obstacle course, the young-looking Jessi Ruf could easily be mistaken as a teenager about to take the driver licence road test.

Jessi Ruf of Edmonton was the only woman to compete in the 2010 Professional Truck Driving Championships held at Westerner Park Saturday. It was the second year Ruf competed in the annual provincial skills challenge.

Jessi Ruf of Edmonton was the only woman to compete in the 2010 Professional Truck Driving Championships held at Westerner Park Saturday. It was the second year Ruf competed in the annual provincial skills challenge.

Standing in an empty parking lot checkered with a pylon obstacle course, the young-looking Jessi Ruf could easily be mistaken as a teenager about to take the driver licence road test.

But the 25-year-old mother of two from Edmonton who stands only 5-2 and weighs a 100-pounds was waiting to prove that, yes, her small frame can control a 16-metre tractor trailer truck weighing upwards of 4,000-pounds.

Riding in big rigs since she was old enough buckle her own seat belt, Ruf followed her father and brothers into the professional truck driving industry six years ago.

And on Saturday, she was the lone female to compete in the 2010 Professional Truck Driving Championships held at Westerner Park in Red Deer.

“It’s to see what you can and cannot actually do, what you need to improve on,” said Ruf, who was competing in the annual event for the second year in a row.

She was representing her company Rosenau Transport Ltd. in the tandem-tandem category at the skills showcase.

“What I can learn here, I can apply everyday when I work. Here, they make (the course) really, really tight. So if I get in a sticky situation and it’s tight inside the city, I can use what I found out here to apply there.”

While her ultimate goal was just to have fun, Ruf admitted she was striving to redeem herself in one area.

Despite being classified as one of the company’s best at backing up, Ruf said her run through the course last year would have been perfect had she not flopped at reversing the truck.

She was determined not to let it happen again this year.

“That’s my goal this year and I’m going to get it,” Ruf said.

Also enjoying the challenge course was Terry Francis from Calgary, a career driver for the past 27 years who was representing his company Overland West Freight Lines in the single-tandem category.

“It’s just a good day out,” he said of the provincial championship that he’s attended for the past eight years.

“I know I’m good at what I do, I just like to show it off,” he said with a laugh.

“Until you’re up and in the course, you don’t realize it is the same stuff you come across almost everyday.”

Ultimately, Francis was hoping to place in the top spot so he could make a return trip to the National Professional Truck Driving Championship.

He competed in the annual event when it was held in Quebec City in 2006 and would like the opportunity to compete again this year when the competition is held in Winnipeg, the city Francis was born in.

Bud Rice, of the host company the Alberta Motor Transport Association, explained that the drivers who finish first in all six of the different categories — step van, straight truck, single-single, single-tandem, tandem-tandem and B-train — secure themselves an all-expense paid trip to compete in the nationals that take place September 16 to 19.

The Professional Truck Driving Championships is open to all career truck drivers across the province who hold a valid Alberta commercial drivers licence and has been collision-free for one year.

The knowledge and skills of each participant are tested in three areas: a written exam, a vehicle inspection and a challenging road course that sees drivers safely maneuver the mammoth vehicles through pylons that spare only an inch or two of room.

Approximately 56 professional drivers competed in the event this year.

ptrotter@bprda.wpengine.com

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