Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships
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August 17, 2018 5:15 PM, EDT

Course Trips Up Second Round of Competitors at NTDC

NTDC Drivers work their way through the pre-trip inspection portion of the championships. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — While the diminishing front stop problem on the course of the 81st National Truck Driving Championships tested most of the country’s elite drivers on the tournament’s second day of competition, a few drivers appeared to figure it out.

PHOTO GALLERY: Scenes From NTDC 2018 

Among them was Nebraska’s Toby Kort of FedEx Freight, who looked at ease in the 5-axle truck as he accomplished the challenge that required stopping the vehicle over a specific mark. He also seemed to do well in the reverse parking job, and the straight line maneuver problem to avoid a row of tennis balls on the ground.

“For me, the front stop was interesting,” Kort told Transport Topics on Aug. 17 after his run. The strategy, he said, was simple: “To get lucky on that one [reverse] stop dock. I thought, if you did that, or this [diminishing front stop] here, you’d have a chance.”

Like Kort, California’s Dawn Kerr of FedEx Express, also in the 5-axle, said she thought her drive went according to plan.

Kerr

Kerr (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

“I’m always really nervous before I go, but as soon as I close the door, I’m kind of in my office,” Kerr said. “The easiest part for me is the one I don’t think I got. You know, you prepare for the one that you think it’s going to be hard. And I think I did OK on that. And the one that I thought was going to be easy, I might’ve been overconfident. We’ll see how it goes.”

Kort and Kerr, however, joined a small group of competitors that seemed comfortable on the course on the day that featured the country’s top drivers in the 5-axle, twin trailers, step van, sleeper berth and straight trucks.

The reverse dock stop, and the slow left driver side curb were tricky, said David Giacobbe of J.B. Hunt out of Arkansas, competing in the 5-axle. Kirby Ferber of FedEx Freight in Oregon, who took part in the 5-axle class, agreed putting the truck in reverse and stopping it before avoiding a barrier was the toughest problem.

“It’s an exhilarating experience. That’s for sure,” Ferber said. “Even though I back up in the docks all the time, stopping before hitting that gate, that is definitely a challenge.”

Clint Martin of Domino’s Pizza in Connecticut, driving a sleeper berth, described the course as “rough.”

NTDC 2018 logo

The 2018 National Truck Driving Championships

Qualifiers | Map | Photos | Video

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

As for speed, the course exceeded his expectations.

“It was smooth. It went faster than I thought it was going to go,” Martin said.

FedEx Freight’s Miguel Corral of Illinois in twin trailers was impressed with the straight line problem marked by the rows of tennis balls: “That was something new to me. I haven’t done that one. That was the first time, so it was good.”

In the step van division, hometown favorite Aaron Snyder of FedEx Ground said he is vying for the rookie of the year award, and other accolades, noting simply, “I like a good challenge.”

After her drive, Old Dominion Freight Line’s Dawn Cochran of Indiana, in the 5-axle class, said she was glad the course portion of the competition was finished. She acknowledged lacking a sense of how she had performed.

“It’s a tough competition, you know. Any given day, people score low, people score high. It’s hard to tell, you know. I don’t take for granted what everybody is capable of. I just hope I did enough to get; I’d love to be in the run-off.”

Henderson

Henderson (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

New Jersey’s Artur Lesniowski of FedEx Ground competed in the sleeper class, and Stephanie Henderson of Idaho, a driver with Standlee Hay Trucking, was in the 5-axle. They echoed Cochran’s sentiment.

“I just want it to get over it,” Lesniowski said.

“It’s good to be done,” Henderson added. “The best part of the course? When it’s done.”

On Aug. 16, most competitors in the 3-axle, 4-axle, tanker, and flatbed trucks who took to the course described the course to TT as challenging.

The top five drivers in the nine truck classes advance to the semifinals Aug. 18. Their scores are determined by their performance on a pre-trip inspection of the truck in their class, as well as a written exam based on the “Facts for Drivers” manual. The overall winners are announced later that day.