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UPS, FedEx drivers to square off at 2009 National Truck Driving and Step Van Driving Championships next month

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King of Queens Season Five, Episode 20 (titled Driving Reign) finds Doug Heffernan and his cousin Danny squaring off in an IPS truck race. Hilarity ensues — see the video clip below.

But did you know that the friendly men and women of the United Parcel Service, upon which the fictional International Parcel Service is based, have their very own real-life driving competitions? It’s true!

And somehow UPS correctly assumed that issuing a press release titled “23 UPS and UPS Freight Drivers Going to U.S. Championships” would be interesting to anyone outside of UPS. Well played, UPS, as you’ve indeed piqued my interest.

The venue: The 2009 National Truck Driving and Step Van Driving Championships

The date: August 18-22

The location: Pittsburgh, PA

Apparently this event is not just for UPS drivers, either, as we’ll see some of the heavy hitters from FedEx as well. One thing’s for sure: only the best of the best make it to the NTDSVDC.

And you thought they just delivered gadgets.

(Sorry the video’s in German. You get the idea, though.)

Full press release:

23 UPS and UPS Freight Drivers Going to U.S. Championships

Competition Set for Aug. 18-22 in Pittsburgh

RICHMOND, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Twenty-three state champions, including 10 returning state winners, will represent UPS and UPS Freight at the 2009 National Truck Driving and Step Van Driving Championships in Pittsburgh next month.

Together, the 23 UPS drivers have garnered 67 state championships and more than 450 years of accident-free driving.

“These safety-first drivers, a mix of veteran and relative newcomers to the competition, represent the most skilled professionals in the trucking industry,” said Phil Warren, UPS Freight vice president for community affairs. “For UPS and all competitors, the Nationals — the acknowledged Super Bowl of Safety — represent a showcase of our industry’s top drivers.”

The veteran UPS contingent is led by returning state champion Ralph Gragg of Charleston, W.Va., who is making his 11th trip to the Nationals, and Dennis Kendrick of Richmond who won his third straight and ninth overall Virginia title this year. Kendrick will compete in the 3-axle competition at the August championships while Gragg will test the nation’s best in the 5-axle.

Returning for the third straight year to the Nationals is UPS feeder driver John Foran, who successfully defended the Vermont four-axle championship he first won in 2007.

Other members of the 2009 team include three UPS feeder drivers who will make their second straight trip to the Nationals. They are David Sharp from Nevada and Troy Turtle and Bill Harvey from Oklahoma.

First-time state winners making their Nationals debut will be UPS drivers Jeff Kalinowski and Bill Raff from Illinois and Ron Seltzer from Texas.

Raff will compete in the 3-axle competition while Kalinowski and Seltzer become the first UPS drivers in the Step Van competition that debuted this year in some 23 state championships.

The 23 UPS drivers advancing to the Nationals come from 14 states and captured team titles in the state championships of four states: South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Four South Carolinians, led by Steve Newsome, will wear the company’s colors in Pittsburgh. Newsome won his fifth state championship this year and was named Grand Champion in the state competition with the highest score among all competitors. Joining Newsome from the state are John Cook, also a five-time winner; John Hummel, a two-time state titleholder, and newcomer James Belcher. All four UPS Freight drivers are based in Gaffney, S.C.

Three UPS Freight drivers from Georgia will carry the company’s colors. Al Churchwell of Marietta will appear in his seventh Nationals and will be joined by Mike Britt of Marietta and Tommy Lasalata of North Atlanta.

Other company drivers earning their tickets to Pittsburgh are Rodney Cosper and Duane Holmes, both from UPS Freight’s Birmingham, Ala., service center; Randy Crews, Lynchburg, Va.; Manny Franco, Phoenix, Ariz.; John Lawrence, Jackson, Tenn.; Paul Savill, Ohio, and Jerry Sheble, Fontana, Calif.

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 Pittsburgh in nine equipment classes between Aug. 18 and 22.

UPS Freight, one of the largest less-than-truckload carriers in the United States and a leading truckload service provider, serves customers throughout North America, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information, visit upsfreight.com.

UPS is the world’s largest package delivery company and a global leader in supply chain services, offering an extensive range of options for synchronizing the flow of goods, information and funds. Headquartered in Atlanta, UPS serves more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. UPS stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: UPS), and the company can be found on the Web at http://www.ups.com.

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