Sova takes home top awards in inspectionsIt’s easy to find John Sova, trooper with the North Dakota Highway Patrol in Jamestown. Most days he’s at one of the rest stops outside of Jamestown inspecting commercial trucks for federal violations.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
It’s easy to find John Sova, trooper with the North Dakota Highway Patrol in Jamestown. Most days he’s at one of the rest stops outside of Jamestown inspecting commercial trucks for federal violations.
It’s not a glamorous job and it can look like mundane work, but Sova is the best there is. He was recently honored for being the best commercial vehicle inspector on the North American continent.
Sova brought home two first-place awards, a second-place award, the award for high points in the U.S. and the grand champion award from the North American Inspectors Championship in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month.
At the event held by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Sova looked at different commercial vehicles trying to find violations in a limited amount of time.
“He really did a tremendous job,” said Stephen Keppler, executive director of CVSA. “Clearly he prepared well and obviously performed extremely well. He almost did a clean sweep.”
Keppler said the competition is put on every year to show people that the commercial trucking industry has a myriad of guidelines and enforcement of those guidelines is no easy task. It also saves lives.
Over the past five years CVSA has seen a 35 percent decrease in fatalities related to commercial trucks and motor coaches, he said.
“What these individuals do on a daily basis is having a direct impact on those lives being saved,” Keppler said.
Keppler said there are 4 million commercial vehicle inspections annually across North America. Sova said it’s keeping the roadways safe.
“It’s protecting the lives of everybody going down the road,” Sova said.
The commercial trucking industry is extremely regulated and there are a variety of inspections law enforcement officials can complete on different vehicles, Sova said.
The areas where Sova took home the awards are the full inspection of the rig and the driver’s information to make sure everything is up to federal motor carriers’ safety regulations, hazardous materials inspection and motor coach inspection.
In the 19 years the competition has seen Sova has had the best showing.
“Overall it was the best combined effort at the competition — it felt good,” he said.
Sova competed against 53 other inspectors from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, who each won the right to compete at the international level.
The biggest challenge was defeating the representative from Ontario, Canada. That group has won the last two grand champion titles. Canada as a nation has brought home four of the last five.
“The big thing this year was to bring the award back to the U.S.,” he said.
Sgt. Brian Bonness with the North Dakota Highway Patrol in Bismarck competed in 2002 and 2003 and agrees that it’s a different game up in the Great White North.
“The Canadians, they take it extremely seriously and they do extremely well,” Bonness said.
Competitors deal with a great deal of stress because they have to find the violations, document them and know the exceptions to the violations. This amounts to volumes of material to learn.
“The time pressure is on you because they plant a lot of violations in there,” Bonness said.
Sova said he felt the pressure at times.
When Sova’s checking a commercial vehicle at the rest areas just west of Jamestown, he said there won’t be as many violations. That type of inspection takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.
“There are so many violations that they throw in there that if I was going to do that truck roadside, it’s take me two hours,” he said.
Violations can be as simple as a burned out light or as complex as a specification plate on the wrong side of a tank because of the year the tank was produced.
“Unless you’ve been around it and you know what you’re looking for, a lot of guys will blow right by it,” Sova said of the inspection process.
Hi dedication and willingness to share his knowledge have made Sova an asset to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Bonness said.
“When we work together we learn a lot from each other, and the guys that work with John learn a lot from him,” he said.
The event was held in conjunction with American Trucking Associations’ National Truck Driving Championship. This works well because keeping roads safe is a combined effort, Sova said.
“Me as an inspector, I can only do so much,” he said. “Basically it’s a combined effort.”
He said he was humbled to receive a standing ovation from the trucking crowd of nearly 1,800 people. He then was a little embarrassed when his wife leaked out the word that his 40th birthday was the next day and the same group sang him “Happy Birthday.”
“You can’t ask for a better birthday present than that,” he said of the experience.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at email@example.com