COLUMBUS, Ohio — Winning it all at last year’s National Truck Driving Championships helped elevate Roland Bolduc’s exposure.
The Massachusetts-based driver for FedEx Express already was the industry’s local ambassador. Yet, earning the title of Grand Champion coupled with Travel America-Petro commemorating their center in Branford, Conn., in his honor a few months ago truly cemented his status industrywide.
In the Constitution State, off Exit 56 on Interstate 95, there is the TA New Haven/Roland Bolduc Branford Travel Center, CT #171. That’s where Bolduc stops for his coffee. There aren’t too many truckers with a building named after them; certainly not at this year’s national championships, which kick off at the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Aug. 15.
“It’s kind of shocking every time I walk up to it and see it,” Bolduc told Transport Topics two days before nationals. “In my head, I’m like, ‘Wow, how did this happen?’ ”
Bolduc is expecting peers and fans at the tournament to bring up the travel center. And it is precisely that added attention that is prompting a sense of cautiousness.
While there may be advantages to being a former Grand Champion, such as experience, “That advantage can get you in trouble,” he explained.
“I know being Grand Champion, walking into this venue is going to have distractions. The one thing I try to do is avoid distraction. It’s going to be a busy week, but I’m looking forward to it.”
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. 15-18
Where: Columbus, Ohio
After more than a decade competing at the national level, Bolduc has structured a strict training system. However, as a driver in the highly competitive 5-axle class matching up against the safest drivers around the country, his aim is to not allow himself to feel overconfident.
“The competition is fierce every year. You could have 50% rookies in there, it’s still going to be fierce ’cause you’re still bringing in the states’ best. Whether they’ve been there once, twice, 10 times or never. Always be leery, the best of the best are showing up at the ‘Super Bowl of Safety.’ ”
In the 5-axle category, Bolduc will bump heads with Illinois’ Edward Mikan of UPS, New Jersey’s Scott Hamlin of FedEx Freight, Ohio’s Richie Bowman of Pitt Ohio, Rhode Island’s Karen Tierney of FedEx Express and Indiana’s Dawn Cochran of Old Dominion Freight Line, among others.
The winners in the 5-axle and the eight other classes will be announced Aug. 18.
Despite the tournament’s competitive nature, Bolduc concedes he ultimately is a fan of his colleagues and fellow competitors whose dedication, he said, is admirable.
“They’re all out there driving safe. They’re all focused,” Bolduc said. “That really fuels me. It makes me very happy there’s this many drivers in the United States that are focused and how many that compete on an annual basis at their state competition. I love it. Not only does it provide safety on the highways and roadways, but it provides competitors for my sport. That’s the way I look at it.”