Competitors Say NTDC Makes Them Better Drivers
John Somers II for Transport TopicsPITTSBURGH — FedEx Ground driver Don Nehring, of Southhaven, Mississippi, pulls his twins rig onto the highway every morning at about 3 o’clock, runs 300 miles out to swap his trailers and 300 miles back every day, five days a week.
But Nehring said that grueling schedule isn’t enough of a test, which is why he is competing at the National Truck Driving Championships for the fourth time.
“It’s a good way for me to judge how I’m doing in the industry when I compete against other drivers. And as I get older, it’s a good judge to whether I should keep driving,” said Nehring, a former member of America’s Road Team, a group of drivers who represent the industry.
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Nehring, 57, is competing in the sleeper-berth division this year at NTDC, which continues through Aug. 16. In the past, he competed in the straight truck and twins divisions.
Another fourth-time competitor was Brian Smeltzer of East Berlin, Pennsylvania, a driver for R.H. Crawford Inc.
“I know it’s made me a better driver out on the road,” said Smeltzer, a two-time state Grand Champion. He competed in flatbeds, but normally drives 53-foot vans.
Smeltzer drove buses for 14 years before he switched to trucks 14 years ago. The competition, he said, tells him what mistakes he makes as a driver.
For Paul Waite of Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania, who drives for Friendly Ice Cream Corp. and is making his third appearance at the nationals, the thrill of the event doesn’t change.
“When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was drive trucks, and when I came to my first competition, I was like in awe to be around these guys . . . and I still feel that today,” said Waite, who will compete in five-axles Aug. 15. “To see guys who are committed to the industry and safety, it’s a boost; it makes you feel good about yourself and what you’re doing.”
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