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PITTSBURGH — For the first time in 20 years, a driver has won top honors at the National Truck Driving Championships two years in a row.
Scott Woodrome of FedEx Freight was crowned Bendix Grand Champion at NTDC for the second consecutive year Aug. 17. The only other time such a feat occurred was when Marty Lawson, a Harley-Davidson Transportation Co. driver from Pennsylvania, won Grand Champion in 1998 and 1999.
DEMYSTIFYING THE SCORING PROCESS: How champions are determined.
The 56-year-old Woodrome, driving in the Twins class and competing at nationals for the 15th consecutive year, acknowledged the rarity of the repeat victory, but said he didn’t let his previous win dominate his mindset during the week. Instead, Woodrome expressed gratitude about the opportunity to compete among a group of dedicated drivers.
EARLIER SATURDAY: Finalists maneuver tricky course.
“Two in a row is a rare thing. These drivers out here are the best drivers in the nation,” said Woodrome, of Middletown, Ohio. “They’re not just the best drivers, but they’re the best people, too. I really just wanted to come back as a competitor.”
Woodrome defeated 426 other skilled drivers during the event, which is known as the “Super Bowl of Safety.” Competitors completed a written test, pre-trip inspection and skills course before learning if they had advanced to the finals, which involved a different, more challenging course.
In the finals, Woodrome and 44 other drivers faced a tricky course that contained six obstacles, or “problems.” Several of the problems demanded quick maneuvering and well-judged turns.
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
As a high school basketball player, Woodrome learned the importance of practicing well. He said the same principle applies to truck driving, and that champions are forged from consistent and focused practice. In addition to demonstrating safety on the job, he said he also carved out time on Saturdays to practice.
“Life still goes on at home, but you have to have a little break and separate yourselves from that,” Woodrome said. “Otherwise they consume your head too much and you can’t focus on what you’re supposed to be doing.”
In order to determine Grand Champion, scorers rank, from high to low, the top drivers in each class based on five criteria: the written test, the pre-trip inspection, the semifinal skills test score divided by the class average, the final skills test score divided by the average score of the five finalists, and the overall raw score.
Paul Brandon of FedEx Freight, Jason Imhoff of Walmart Transportation and Mike White of Walmart celebrate winning their class. White was 2016 national Grand Champion. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
Woodrome said the toughest part of the championships was driving in a class he hadn’t competed in before. (Last year, he won in the Tank Truck division.) He said the unfamiliarity of the Twins class pushed him out of his comfort zone in a positive way and spurred him to work harder.
Joining Woodrome at the competition was his wife, Lorraine. She expressed thanks to the community of fellow drivers and families who have supported her husband on his path.
“It makes it fun to do well, but it is a family,” Lorraine Woodrome said. “We practice with other drivers and family. It’s great.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Pictures of winners in each class.
Adam Stroup, a FedEx Express driver from Omaha, Neb., took Grand Champion honors in the National Step Van Driving Championship, which occurred in tandem with NTDC. Stroup has been to nationals for the past four years.
This year marks Stroup’s first win and first time at the finals at NTDC. Stroup, 41, said he especially enjoyed exploring Pittsburgh with his wife, Jen.
“It just means the world to be considered one of the best with one of the greatest safety programs they put on,” Stroup said.
Recapping the winners in each of the nine classes:
1. Brian Walker, UPS Freight (North Carolina)
2. Jeffrey Slaten, YRC Freight (Florida)
3. John Sanderson, FedEx Express (Oregon)
1. Adam Heim, FedEx Freight (Idaho)
2. David Rohman, FedEx Express (North Carolina)
3. James Plaxco, Old Dominion Freight Line (Oregon)
1. David Hall, ABF Freight (Arkansas)
2. Ina Daly, XPO Logistics (Arizona)
3. Alphonso Lewis, YRC Freight (Alabama)
1. Basher Pierce, FedEx Freight (North Carolina)
2. Scott Osborne, FedEx Freight (Mississippi)
3. Eric Flick, FedEx Freight (Nevada)
1. Paul Brandon, FedEx Freight (Connecticut)
2. George Wells, Shamrock Foods Company (Arizona)
3. Cecil Hicks, FedEx Freight (North Carolina)
1. Scott Woodrome, FedEx Freight (Ohio)
2. David Mogler, FedEx Freight (Colorado)
3. Donald "Shannon" Lynch, UPS (Indiana)
1. Charles "Mike" White, Walmart Transportation (Indiana)
2. Terry Wood, Walmart Transportation (Pennsylvania)
3. Michael Barnes, Walmart Transportation (Virginia)
1. Jason Imhoff, Walmart Transportation (Ohio)
2. Robert Dolan, XPO Logistics (Pennsylvania)
3. Matthew Hart, FedEx Freight (Nevada)
1. Adam Stroup, FedEx Express (Nebraska)
2. Gregory Long, FedEx Express (Virginia)
3. Eric Damon, FedEx Express (Colorado)
Rookie of the Year
John Sanderson, FedEx Express (Oregon)
Vehicle Condition Award
Jason Imhoff, Walmart Transportation (Ohio)
Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence
Robert Dolan, XPO Logistics (Pennsylvania)
Highest Written Exam Award:
Nine-way tie (all perfect scores): Paul Brandon, Miguel Corral, Ina Daly, Brent Glasenapp, Julie Hjelle, Barry Kraemer, Jottyn Santos, Jimmie Wisley and Scott Woodrome.