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August 10, 2017 1:30 PM, EDT
Drivers Celebrate Safety as NTDC Kicks Into High Gear
ATA Chief Promotes Infrastructure at 'Super Bowl of Safety'
ATA President Chris Spear John Sommers II for Transport Topics

ORLANDO, Fla. — Hundreds of drivers set to compete in the National Truck Driving Championships were asked to first pledge a commitment to safety, honesty and respect.

While more than 400 drivers test their knowledge and skills against each other, they ultimately belong to the same industry, NTDC’s organizers emphasized on Aug. 9 prior to the kickoff of the event.

That oath helped Henry Bruster, a driver with UPS Freight competing in the 3-axle category, secure his place among a fraternity of professional drivers who seek to ensure goods are delivered at households and businesses safely every day.

“I loved the oath. I like the camaraderie. Everybody came together at that one point. It wasn’t about company; it was about industry,” Bruster, a two-time competitor in the national event, told Transport Topics on Aug. 10, a day before his class would compete.

His wife, Tiffany, was among the throngs of family members and friends there for support.

“It’s a pleasure to be here to support him and the other drivers,” said Tiffany Bruster, sporting antennas on her head with the UPS logo.

Complete 2017 NTDC Coverage

LISTS OF DRIVERS: By company | By state | Finalists

PHOTO GALLERY: All of the pageantry from Orlando | Winners

VIDEO: Day One | Day Two | Championship Day |  Bumper Cam | Sights and Sounds | ELD update

NAIC: Inspectors test their mettle | Houston's Rommel Garcia wins title

A contest to also gauge step van drivers coincides with NTDC, which is sponsored by American Trucking Associations.

ATA President Chris Spear thanked drivers for their focus on safety and contributions to freight delivery during a “Breakfast of Champions” prior to the start of the skills competition on Aug. 10.

Then, the anxiety set in for some drivers when they were asked to maneuver their vehicles in the convention center here, under the bright lights and gaze of dozens of judges evaluating their every move. Still, drivers tried to remain upbeat through the early portions of the four-day contest.

“I like the way the course looks today. Looks like there’s going to be plenty of room,” said Dean Goodnight with USF Reddaway Inc. This year marked his fifth trip to the nationals.

“We woke up today brother, that’s the best start you could have,” Rodney Cosper of UPS Freight in Alabama said.

Goodnight and Cosper were scheduled to face-off in the sleeper berth class.

The 428 competitors in driving championship, colloquially termed the “Super Bowl of Safety,” took a written exam on Aug. 9 and began driving a course to test their skills in classes that included 4- and 5-axles, twin trailers and flatbed.

Spear told the crowd that earlier this year, ATA’s leadership was at the White House to meet with President Donald Trump and that ATA continues to meet with policymakers on Capitol Hill to ensure upcoming regulations do not hinder the industry.

The Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress are expected to take up infrastructure funding legislation this fall. Repairs to old roads and bridges would help reduce congestion and improve safety.

“Infrastructure is an important point to make. We will be advocating on your behalf to ensure that we have the best and safest roads and bridges the United States has ever seen,” Spear said. “We believe we get our fair share for roads and bridges [and] there’ll be plenty left over for all the other modes.”