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American Trucking Associations’ National Truck Driving Championships committee has issued rule changes and recommendations for the upcoming competition season in consideration of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
ATA President Chris Spear announced April 6 that NTDC, which was scheduled to take place Aug. 19-22 in Indianapolis, had been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak. The event, called the “Super Bowl of Safety” by many industry members, challenges drivers with a written test, a pre-trip inspection and a skills course.
For the 2021 season, the NTDC committee has approved the use of ATA’s 2020 Facts for Drivers book as the official study guide and the 2020 Truck Driving Championships Rules and Procedures as the official rulebook. The written test contains questions based on material from Facts for Drivers.
Additionally, the NTDC committee has agreed to consider 2020 a “retirement year.” This term pertains to an existing rule that says a contestant who has participated in the same class of competition in two consecutive NTDCs may not compete in that class of competition at the following two championships. Rules also dictate that a contestant who has competed in ATA’s National Step Van Driving Championships two years in a row may not compete in that competition the following year.
As part of the committee’s update, all drivers who would’ve retired from a class of competition at the 2020 NTDC will have it counted toward their retirement records. For example, a driver who competed in the 3-Axle class at NTDC in 2017 and 2018 would not be eligible to compete in that class in 2019 and the canceled 2020 event. However, that person would be eligible to compete in the 3-Axle class at NTDC in 2021.
“Overall, the NTDC committee is trying to remain flexible in qualifying drivers for 2021 [truck driving championships] and NTDC while maintaining the integrity of the event,” said Jacob Pierce, executive director of ATA’s Safety Management Council and Transportation Security Council. “The committee understands that COVID-19 has impacted each driver differently, and we don’t want to punish any driver for things out of their control.”
In terms of rules regarding length of employment, the NTDC committee recommends state associations follow the NTDC 2021 calendar for their individual truck driving championships. Current rules dictate that a driver eligible for state competitions and NTDC must be continuously employed by the entering employer for at least 12 months prior to entry in each event. As an update, the committee recommends that state trucking associations permit drivers who have been employed by their entering employer since Aug. 23, 2020, or earlier to compete in their competitions.
Most states have decided to cancel their individual truck driving championships for 2020. Some continue to wrestle with the decision, while others are considering options for programs to honor their drivers.
The committee’s rule changes and recommendations apply only to the 2021 truck driving championships season; all rules formerly in place will be reinstated after the season is over. Next year’s NTDC is scheduled to take place in Minneapolis.
“The goal of the [truck driving championship] program is to honor professional drivers, showcase their skills and promote safety,” Pierce said. “This year, more than any other, is when we need to show our appreciation and thanks. The committee will continue to evaluate the situation and make appropriate changes to the recommendations if necessary.”
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