The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

June 7, 2014

Trucking on to the championship

By Samantha Pidde Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Ten years ago, Aaron Mendoza, 28, never expected that he would be a semi-truck driver some day.

After almost eight years, it’s something he really loves.

“The places I’ve seen, the experiences I’ve had driving trucks,” Aaron said.

Having lived in the Clinton area since he was 5, Aaron even worked as a carrier for the Clinton Herald from age 14 to 16. After graduating from high school, he got a job at the Pepsi warehouse and eventually asked about training on the trucks.

“Before I knew it, I was a driver,” Aaron said.

He now works as a line haul driver for FedEx in East Moline, Illinois, operating double or “twin” trailers. Aaron and his family traveled Thursday and Friday to the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona, for him to compete in the 2014 Iowa Truck Driving Championships.

The championship is an event put on by the Iowa Motor Truck Association that “showcases the professionalism that exists among Iowa’s finest drivers,” according to the IMTA website www.iowamotortruck.com. The IMTA formed in 1942 with the goal of providing Iowa’s trucking industry with a voice at the Iowa State Capitol.

The championship has been held for more than 40 years. More than 100 drivers, who have maintained an accident-free driving record for at least one year prior to the competition, participate in the competition each year. This year was Aaron’s second to compete in the event.

Aaron had heard about the competition from a co-worker and thought it sounded interesting. The competition includes a written test covering general knowledge, an oral interview and an obstacle course. It also includes a pre-trip inspection test.

“They make a truck and put deficiencies on it and you have to go around and find the deficiencies,” Aaron said.

Aaron’s wife, Mindy, and his two daughters, Kayleen, 5 and Kalissa, 2, went to cheer him on during the competition. He loves attending the event, finding it bot entertaining and educational.

“It’s a learning experience. You learn from your mistakes,” Aaron said. “It’s really a fun time. It really is.”

While he never expected to become a truck driver, Aaron plans to continue with FedEx (where he has already spent almost three years) for years to come. His goal is to achieve 25 years of safe driving some day, so he can receive a semi-truck with his name on it.

“I plan on retiring from FedEx. I’m not going anywhere. I love that place,” Aaron said.

While he does not travel too far for his FedEx job, driving semi-trucks has given him an opportunity to travel throughout the years.

“I’ve been all over the Midwest,” Aaron said. “I’ve never been out West over the mountains, but I’ll get there some day.”

Samantha Pidde can be contacted at samanthapidde@clintonherald.com.