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David Hawk is taking his driving skills from Pelham to Pittsburgh.
The FedEx Freight driver racked up 365 points in winning the 3-Axle competition and clinching Grand Champion honors in the Alabama Truck Driving Championships May 31-June 1 at the Pelham Civic Complex. Hawk cleared his closest challenger by 50 points in securing his trip to the National Truck Driving Championships in August.
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level have advanced to the national competition, where a Grand Champion will be crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written examination and their driving skills
When: Aug. 14-17
"This was my first year in 3-axle," Hawk said. "I won Straight Truck the previous two years."
His state-level victories earned him trips to the NTDC in Orlando, Fla., in 2017 and Columbus, Ohio, last year. Not a bad way to see the country for someone "who doesn't get out of Alabama much unless it's driving for FedEx," he said.
For Hawk, winning was a matter of commitment.
"I worked really hard and put a lot of practice into it," he said, adding that the competitive edge can be razor thin. "Even in a new class, we're all within inches of each other."
As much effort is put into the "back room" portion of the competition, when drivers are given written exams and perform pre-trip inspections, as is devoted to navigating the rig around the driving course.
Learning is a vital aspect of competing at the NTDC level, too, Hawk said.
"Enjoy it. Absorb it," Hawk said of the biggest takeaways one can have from NTDC. "You get a lot of information at nationals you can bring back to state."
Two-time defending Alabama Grand Champion Mark Knight of AAA Cooper Transportation punched his return trip to the NTDC after prevailing in the Twins class. He took first place in 5-Axle last year.
ALABAMA ARCHIVE PAGE: Previews, recaps and more
Hawk’s victory paced a parade of five winners by FedEx Freight. AAA Cooper Transportation had two winning drivers, and UPS Freight and YRC Freight one each.
5-Axle winner Alphonso Lewis, a driver for YRC Freight and former America's Road Team captain, is no stranger to the winner’s circle, or the big stage — he was 2007 NTDC Grand Champion. America's Road Team is a program operated by American Trucking Associations.
Some 97 drivers, aided by more than 60 volunteers, were cheered on in the two-day event that showcased the finest truck drivers in Alabama.
2019 NTDC will be held in Pittsburgh August 14-17.
Class winners advancing to nationals:
- 3-Axle: David Hawk, FedEx Freight
- 4-Axle: Cecil “Charlie” Salter, FedEx Freight
- 5-Axle: Alphonso Lewis, YRC Freight
- Flatbed: Rodney Cosper, UPS Freight
- Sleeper Berth: Gary Nuckholls, AAA Cooper Transportation
- Tank Truck: Kenneth Lockhart, FedEx Freight
- Twins: Mark Knight, AAA Cooper Transportation
- Straight Truck: William Brandon, FedEx Freight
- Step Van: Robert Moore, FedEx Freight