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In mid-August, hundreds of commercial drivers will temporarily depart from their state hubs to participate in the National Truck Driving Championships. FedEx Freight’s Jackie Reed from Mississippi will be one of those drivers.
This year’s Magnolia State grand champion, competing in the 3-axle class, credits his dedication to safety and a little bit of luck for his state-level victory. His first-place finish, a requisite to qualify for nationals, was the culmination of many hours perfecting his skills, as well as enduring “fierce” competition from colleagues.
“I’m very fortunate to have come out of there with a win, to be honest with you,” Reed recently told Transport Topics.
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 examination and driving skills
When: Aug. 16-19
In the weeks after the Mississippi driving tournament, the FedEx Freight driver with more than three decades on the job said he’s been braving the summer heat to get himself ready for his second trip to the big show. He qualified for nationals in 2019 in the 3-axle.
“I like the 3-axle just because it’s smaller,” he emphasized. “I enjoy it … it’s easy to make deliveries off of.”
Reed stressed his focus is on building positive momentum prior to the main tournament, scheduled for Aug. 16-19 in Indianapolis. He dedicates time to reviewing the Facts for Drivers guidebook, which is the basis for the national tournament’s written exam. He also diligently inspects his truck to prepare for the pre-trip aspect of national competition.
“Everybody always seems to say, ‘Pay attention to the small things. Don’t overlook the small stuff,’ ” he explained. “That’s just mainly what I’m focusing on is the small stuff; don’t leave a stone unturned, more or less, you know, just trying to pay attention to what I’m doing.”
Mainly what I’m focusing on is the small stuff; don’t leave a stone unturned,
FedEx Freight driver Jackie Reed, Mississippi trucking grand champion
As for the safe-driving skills portion at nationals, consisting of an ornate obstacle course, Reed pointed to his daily route at work as an ideal venue for safety practice runs. “The skills test is just part of every day when you’re out there on the highway,” Reed observed. “It’s a rodeo every day out there.”
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He admitted his competitive tendencies are an attribute at the state and national events. He credits a childhood spent racing his brothers to the mailbox, and challenging themselves on other fronts, for his competitive spirit.
“I like competing, myself,” as he put it. But Reed’s competitive drive — albeit a powerful tonic that fuels his performances — is eclipsed by his graciousness. He said he considered himself fortunate to qualify for a spot in the national spotlight. After all, NTDC is a venue featuring hundreds of drivers he admires. During the next few weeks, Reed affirmed he would like his peers to stay safe and healthy as they prepare to perform at a high level.
“Good luck,” he said. “They’re on top of their game in whatever they do, and I do like that everybody is well-prepared when we get to the national level and it’s a different ballgame.”
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