Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships

Old Dominion Freight Line's Afonseca to Make NTDC Debut

Rhode Island Grand Champion Emerges From Straight Truck Class
Donaldo Alfonseca (right), Chris Maxwell
Old Dominion Freight Line's Donaldo Afonseca (right), with Rhode Island Trucking Association CEO Chris Maxwell, made the big leap to nationals by winning the grand championship out of the straight truck class. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)

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WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The National Truck Driving Championships has never been just about safety. The prestigious showcase for truckers’ talents also promotes solidarity and tradition. Camaraderie is a term quickly used to describe the nearly 90-year-old industry event.

Each year, hundreds of virtuoso qualifiers from around the country aim to put on inspiring performances. Most of the top competitors and eventual winners at this “Super Bowl of Safety” are repeat qualifiers. That’s why a special place is held for the first-time national qualifiers. Notwithstanding these drivers’ backgrounds and level of expertise, the NTDC first-timers are referred to as rookies.

Donaldo Afonseca, representing Old Dominion Freight Line in the straight truck vehicle class, will be among the group of rookies scheduled to compete at the national stage in August.

On June 8, Afonseca surpassed colleagues and peers to earn grand champion honors at Rhode Island’s truck driving championship. The blue ribbon recognition marked a major leap for Afonseca after last year’s “Rookie of the Year” honors in the Ocean State.

NTDC 2024

2024 National Truck Driving Championships

Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level who have advanced to the national competition, where a Grand Champion will be crowned

What: Contestants are judged on a written exam, pre-trip inspection and driving skills

When: Aug. 21-24

Where: Indianapolis

After his victory, the serene precision driver acknowledged a sense of bliss and awe.

“I feel good, I feel good. This is awesome, man. Well, I trained hard for it. I was, you know, I was here last year. I got ‘Rookie of the Year.’ And, so this year I want to try it again,” Afonseca told Transport Topics shortly after his grand champion distinction.

“I kind of love the competition. I love the environment. I love the family of [truckers] coming in to compete and not just compete with each other; it’s just compete [with] the product — the trucks,” he said. “We love driving trucks, you know. We’re comfortable driving trucks. We have to be more respectful on the road. And this [tournament] shows how good we are.”

What is the key to a strong performance?

“Just study; just keep practicing …get a couple of people and other drivers with you, and just keep practicing maneuvers. Study [for] the test.”


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The state and national trucking contests feature nine vehicle classes. Competitors are evaluated on three disciplines: an exam of industry regulations, a pre-trip vehicle inspection and maneuvering the vehicle on an intricate course.

As he sets his sights on debuting at nationals, Afonseca, a commercial driver for more than two decades, acknowledged he will need to raise his competitive game.

“It’s definitely going to be nerve-racking,” he said. “It’s definitely more serious. It’s going to be — people that go there, they know a lot. So I have to be on my game. I have to study twice as much as I did this time. So, [it] will be very exciting.”

Other Rhode Island winners:

3-Axle — James Bergin, FedEx Freight

4-Axle — Joseph Hicks, XPO

5-Axle — Eric Cornell, A. Duie Pyle

Twins — Raymond Nightingale, XPO

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