Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships

Ina Daly Honored at NTDC for Career Accomplishments

XPO Driver Wins Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award
Ina Daly at NTDC
XPO tank truck driver Ina Daly of Arizona is flanked by R.B. Stewart Petroleum Products executive Terry Tesch (left) and NTDC Chairman Rodney Myers as she receives the Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — In her 40-plus years as a professional truck driver, XPO’s Ina Daly has more than 3.8 million safe miles behind the wheel. The national tank truck champion in 2013, she has competed at the National Truck Driving Championships 16 times and has made 28 trips to the Arizona Truck Driving Championships 28 time.

For that, and more, the Avondale, Ariz., native she was named the recipient of the Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award on Aug. 19.

Daly, a three-time state grand champion, has gone 35 years without an accident. Prior to that, the only blemish was a fender bender with a car in her blind spot that bumped her truck and scraped the car.

Daly is passionate about safety.

Ina Daly at NTDC

XPO's Ina Daly navigates the course during her run in the tank truck division. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics) 

“Safety isn’t just about us getting home at the end of the day, it’s also about making sure the cars and other trucks around me get home safely,” Daly said. “The things we do, on the road, without people noticing is what safety is all about. That’s the professionalism I try to bring to the road.

“Sometimes we are saving someone’s life and they don’t even notice it, by the way we drive. We are a lot like the captain on a football team, controlling the situation on the road the best we can.”

Daly's latest accolade recognizes the competitor who best exemplifies the characteristics of a professional truck driver, based on driving record, skills, knowledge, attitude toward safety and personality.

NTDC 2023

2023 National Truck Driving Championships

Competition GalleryAwards Gallery | Qualifiers | Map of State Champions

Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level who have advanced to the national competition, where a Grand Champion will be crowned

What: Contestants are judged on a written exam, pre-trip inspection and driving skills

When: Aug. 16-19

Where: Columbus, Ohio

“It is very much an honor. I think of the people who have won that award in the past — Dick Gillespie, Tony Spero last year — and to be considered in the same category as them is so humbling. It is such an honor,” she told Transport Topics. “I am the first woman to win that award, and that is special. I’ve had a great career; it’s pretty amazing. There were a lot of people at NTDC who deserved that award, and I’m just blessed.”

XPO officials told TT that Daly is a star driver in the company who goes about her business in a professional manner and always can be depended on.

“We’re thrilled that Ina has received the prestigious Neill Darmstadter Award from the ATA,” CEO Mario Harik said. “She has exemplified excellence in the trucking industry for nearly four decades and is always willing to share her knowledge, skills and encouragement. Our team is proud to work alongside Ina every day.”

The day after she got home from the national competition, Daly was back on her route along Interstate 10 from Phoenix to Southern California, near Palm Springs, and then back to her home base.

Daly points to a decision she made 40 years ago when she earned her associate’s degree and had a scholarship waiting to attend the University of Arizona and likely earn a degree in agriculture. She took a summer job at freight carrier Con-way to earn some additional money and within a few months she was driving a truck. She decided this was her calling, eventually deciding after a year to stay with Con-way, which was acquired by XPO in 2015.

I found my love of trucks beat out my love of teaching agriculture.

XPO tank truck driver Ina Daly

“Well, I found my love of trucks beat out my love of teaching agriculture in whatever state that would have put me. It also paid better.

“So I never went to Tucson. It’s fitting that my daughter became the teacher,” she told TT in April when she qualified for NTDC 2023.

Daly said the competition at the Greater Columbus Convention Center was some of the strongest she has ever faced and that she was disappointed with her performance. Daly also said she learned some lessons that she will be beneficial in the coming years.

“This was a difficult course, and I picked up a penalty. I think that would have made a difference,” Daly said. “I need to take better notes on the walk-through, because I’m guessing the 50-point penalty might have been from a cone that was on the passenger’s side, and I might have hit it.

“My approach at problem No. 2 needs to be improved on. I oversteered and tried to correct it. I’ll practice a lot more in tight spots and positioning the tractor and having the trailer following.”

As one of the leaders in the industry and a role model to women who are now pursuing careers in trucking, the soft-spoken Daly says she intends to keep competing at the state and national level, but her daily focus is always the same.

“I’m back to work immediately. My No. 1 priority is to stay safe,” she said. “In order to enter the state or national competition, you have to be accident-free for a year. It’s not easy to stay safe right now. Sometimes other people are doing bad things around you that can involve you.”

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