Longview sanitation driver Cris Hudson has been behind the wheel of a big truck all of her adult life, and she’s not about to switch gears now.
Her ability to maneuver large trucks up and down Longview roads is taking her all the way to Lexington, Ky. in September, where she will represent Texas in the International Road-E-O competition.
Before reaching nationals, Hudson placed second in the annual “Road-E-O” state competition, sponsored by The Texas Solid Waste Association of North America.
She will be the first from the city’s sanitation department to represent Longview at nationals.
At the state level, 53-year-old Hudson showcased her ability to not only maneuver, but park and observe safety skills.
“We are very proud of her. She certainly showed the city of Longview, the employees, that we can compete with a large city,” Dwayne Archer, sanitation division manager, said.
Though her trip to nationals began in Longview, where she took first place in the city’s driving competition, Hudson started driving 18-wheelers when she was 18.
Her familiarity with long haul and over the road driving eventually landed her a job with the city’s sanitation department two years ago as a garbage truck driver.
During those early years on the road, she was one of only a handful of women drivers.
Now, there are seven or eight in her department alone.
“Working for the city, you have to be aware of everyone around you, including the crew,” she said. “The driver has to make sure they are on the truck, and make sure they don’t get pinned into something like a mailbox or telephone pole.”
At the state level, she competed against 24 drivers from across Texas. There was only a slight difference of two percentage points between Hudson and the first place driver.
To prepare for the national competition on Sept. 15-16, Hudson said she is studying rules and regulations and practicing on city streets.
During the timed competition, she is required to parallel park, drive through seven different obstacles, back into a dock area without hitting cones or barriers, pass a written test, an air break test and a pre-trip test.
“I would say the competition is going to be very difficult,” she said.
If the competition trials are not hard enough, the competition is made more difficult because drivers are using another city’s garbage trucks.
“She did really well in everything at state competition, so we are expecting her to do well again at nationals,” Archer said. “She’s already made us proud.”