ISELIN, N.J. — No train, no gain. That’s the London family mantra captured in four short words.
“You can’t get lazy,” said Jaylen London, whose father, Carlose, took home Grand Champion at the New Jersey truck safety tournament June 23.
“I just like to motivate him, just make sure he’s working and especially studying,” he said. “Studying is like a big part of this job.”
The junior London joined dozens of spectators on a cloudy afternoon in Central Jersey to root for his father, a driver with XPO Logistics. Carlose excelled in the 4-axle at a makeshift skills course at the APA Hotel Woodbridge, Exit 131A off the Garden State Parkway northbound.
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level advance to the national competition, with a grand champion crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written examination and their driving skills
When: Aug. 15-18
Where: Columbus, Ohio
London surpassed co-workers and peers alike to earn his second blue ribbon distinction since his competitive career at states took off in 2000. The win ensured him a ninth trip to the National Truck Driving Championships, scheduled for Aug. 15-18 in Columbus, Ohio.
“We’re going to try our best,” Jaylen London said about his two-time Grand Champion dad. “Just really proud of him for all of his hard work and accomplishments, and we just gotta keep on working for nationals.”
Carlose London quickly acknowledged his son’s invaluable contributions when interviewed by Transport Topics at the awards ceremony.
“I have to admit. This guy right here, my son, he pushes me. … We put a lot of time on the course, doing a lot of things on the weekends, even if we go for an hour. He texts me, ‘Dad, are you studying?’ the senior London said with a laugh.
“When I feel like it’s enough, he’s like, ‘Let’s do one more thing. Let’s do one more thing.’ So, he’s a big help to me,” he added.
London (left) of XPO Logistics, also the 4-axle champion, with second-place finisher Richard Lopardo (center) of A. Duie Pyle and third-place winner Blair DeBois (right) of UPS Freight.
What does it take to become Grand Champion? Simply, approach deficiencies in your craft. If a struggle is obvious with a specific aspect of the course, tackle it head on. Or, as London put it, “What I like to do is work on stuff I’m weak on … things that I feel that I’m not strong. That’s what I mainly work on.”
At the qualifier, the who’s who of the state’s freight intelligentsia convened on the hotel’s parking lot and luxury banquet hall to recognize the elite drivers who traverse the parkway, the turnpike and points in between. Industry leaders often note New Jersey’s place on the country’s freight map is unrivaled.
New Jersey in Pictures
The course proved challenging for dozens of drivers who came up short on a few drills and missed key faults in the pre-trip inspection prior to executing on the course.
“I think it was an excellent course … very challenging,” London explained.
Heading into nationals, London conceded his inner voice is saying the long hours practicing with his son will pay off with a formidable victory. His best showing at nationals was last year, a ninth-place finish. Not good enough to advance to the final leg of the elite contest.
“Last year, I went in with a lot of confidence, and I screwed up on one problem,” he said. “So this year is the same. I'm going to go out and, you know, just do the best I can in all three areas. You know, we work on our pre-trip, we practice that. We’re studying,” London said. “I think this year, you may be looking at a Grand Champion.”
• Ron Vandermark, UPS Freight, 3-axle
• Scott Hamlin, FedEx Freight, 5-axle
• James Erickson, FedEx Freight, Flatbed
• Artur Lesniowski, FedEx Ground, Sleeper Berth
• Carlos Chavarriaga, FedEx Freight, Straight Truck
• Keith Zujkowski, XPO Logistics, Tanker
• Wilbert Vano, XPO Logistics, Twins
• Stephen Lumpkin, FedEx Express, Step Van
Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, urged her class winners to return home with a national Grand Champion trophy, twice banging her fist on the lectern to punctuate her point. “I’m not going to remind you about my quest for a first-place winner, please.”