Wheel Genius

The best truck driver in the State of Hawaii comes from Haiku, Maui. Melvin Andrade Jr. won the straight truck competition in 2008.

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Paul Wood

maui truck driverLittle-known fact: the best truck driver in the State of Hawai‘i comes from Ha‘iku, Maui. Last August Melvin Andrade Jr.—native to and still resident of West Kuiaha Road, 1975 graduate of Maui High School—won the “straight truck” competition at the 2008 Hawai‘i Truck Driving Championships on O‘ahu. Because Melvin’s score was higher than those in all eight competing categories (including “twins,” “tank truck,” and “5-axle sleeper & auto transporter”), he became grand champion and traveled to Houston to represent the Aloha State in the nationals, competing with hundreds of FedEx drivers, big-rig jockeys, and long-distance haulers from all over the country. He didn’t place in nationals, but, being from Hawai‘i, he was a star, with his macadamia-nut giveaways and tropical candies. Truckers like to collect state pins, but Melvin only had the budget to bring twenty. So he started a contest: “Name the state fish and pronounce it correctly, I give you a pin.”

Our state fish being humuhumunukunukuapua‘a, Melvin’s contest provided some levity in an otherwise tense national competition. After puzzling through a written test based on a dense 500-page manual, Melvin took control of a brand-new twenty-four-foot truck. He had six minutes for “pre-trip” inspection to find planted flaws (a missing wiper blade, a discharged fire extinguisher, a hand-tight lug nut . . .). Then he put that truck through six intricate maneuvers in as many minutes, windows up, relying solely on mirror skills. To pull this off takes a good memory, a good game plan, and a lot of visualizing. (Melvin also employs a clever pre-trip measuring trick, but I promised not to tell.) Of course, thirty-two years of accident-free professional driving for the Gas Company doesn’t hurt. And there’s the matter of attitude. “I’m from Maui. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. The Maui people—for some reason, they always shine.”

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