FedEx driver wins second state championship
When Bob Cochran arrives at the front door with a package, seldom do people know their mail is being delivered by a two-time truck driving champion.
In May, Cochran defended his title at the Maine state truck driving championships in Hermon where he finished first for the second consecutive year.
Cochran works for FedEx Express and has been driving the Boothbay route for five years in a smaller vehicle, called a sprinter truck. At the championships, not only did Cochran receive the highest score in all three categories, he did it while driving a larger sized step van, a vehicle he said he hardly drives.
In the 15 years Cochran has donned the purple and orange logo, he has had a perfect driving record. He said maneuvering through Boothbay Harbor's winding narrow roads has contributed to his success as a driver.
“Look what I have to drive around down here,” Cochran said. “Wall Point, Blowhorn Road. This place sharpens my skills. No question.”
Cochran is very familiar with the Boothbay region because he lived on Kenneyfield Drive from the age of two until he was 10. He currently resides in Winthrop.
He carries with him a 2013 edition of Facts For Drivers, a manual considered to be Holy Bible of the American Trucking Association.
At the state championships, drivers must take a 40-question written exam, in which answers come right out of the textbook, Cochran said.
Next is the pre-trip inspection when officials plant defects on the vehicle, and competitors have six minutes to identify loosened lug nuts, flat tires and other malfunctions.
Then comes the true test of skills, where drivers must maneuver around obstacles and make a series of precision stops set up in several different scenarios.
“I was nervous until I got behind the wheel, and then I was in the zone,” Cochran said.
Cochran is calm and collected in person. He refers to himself as a “fly under the radar type-of-guy,” but at this year's state championship, drivers were gunning for him.
“This guy got up in my face, and was trying to intimidate me,” Cochran said.
The rival driver was wearing a badge with the number 101 stitched on his shirt. He covered a one with his finger and pointed at Cochran.
“He said, 'Bob what does that say?' I said number one. And he said, 'Yeah, that's going to be me this year.'
“I just started laughing,” Cochran said. “I don't get into that stuff. I just went up there to do the best I could.”
Cochran once again bested his rival, and now looks forward to Salt Lake City in August to compete at the National Truck Driving Championships, commonly called the “Superbowl of Safety.” Although drivers from many different companies compete, FedEx pulls out all the stops, Cochran said.
“Fed Ex rolls out the red carpet. It's amazing. There are dinners, awards and bands every night,” Cochran said.
If Cochran wins first place in his national division, FedEx will cut him a check worth 1,000 percent of his gross weekly income.
“I can't imagine getting that, but it would be pretty sweet,” Cochran said.
Cochran said he plans to take his very special friend, Maura Daly, along for the adventure. Daly summers in Boothbay Harbor and performs at the Boothbay Playhouse.
FedEx puts a lot of emphasis on safe driving. In July, state champions who work for FedEx voluntarily participate in a two day training course called the Chairman's Challenge Competition and Celebration, better known as the “4C.”
Out of the 450 drivers competing in last year's national championship, 137 represented FedEx's four branches. Cochran finished ninth out of 45 drivers in his division.
“When I left there last year I just thought, you know, I'd really like to do this again,” Cochran said.
And he will. But in the meantime, packages will continued to be delivered on Cochran's daily route through the Boothbay peninsula.
In his 15 years of safe driving, Cochran said he really enjoys what he does, while living life by one simple mantra: “A good day starts with a good attitude.”