Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships

Pre-Trip Prowess Powers Nevada’s Hart to Grand Champion Crown

Defending NTDC Champ Gragg Wilson Comes Up Just Short in Bid to Return
Matt Hart, Paul Enos
Hart (left) with Nevada Trucking Association CEO Paul Enos and the grand champion trophy. (Nevada Trucking Association)

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Matt Hart, a scrappy driver with FedEx Freight, surpassed a competitive field to take home grand champion honors at Nevada’s Truck Driving Championships on April 6.

His victory in the twin trailer vehicle class also punched a ticket to this summer’s national precision driving tournament.

Hart is convinced that his superb best-in-show performance in the Silver State’s pre-trip category was what helped earn him his eighth trip to the National Truck Driving Championships. The FedEx Freight driver for 16 years accrued the most pre-trip points at this month’s state event.

“I felt pretty confident about the pre-trip,” Hart said. A pre-trip vehicle inspection, along with a written exam and maneuvering through an obstacle course, make up a tournament’s three disciplines.

Developing a pre-trip talent requires “a lot of practicing; a lot of getting out there — getting to know your equipment that you’re looking at,” Hart explained. “Because, for our tractors, I know what I’m looking at. You’re just looking for things that seem out of place on the tractor. And, just going over with a good eye — going over the truck.”

Getting to Know ... 

Name: Matt Hart

Matt Hart

Age: 47

From: Elko, Nev.

Class: Twin trailer

Favorite movie: “Spies Like Us”

Music hero: Rob Zombie

Last place visited: Salt Lake City

What makes you laugh: Slapstick comedies

How do you keep motivated at NTDC: “I always drive to try to get up there [in the final round]. … Hopefully one year, maybe this year, I can get one of those top spots.”

Favorite quote: “Listen. Do you smell something?” – Dan Aykroyd’s character, Ray Stantz, in Ghostbusters

Being named grand champion is not new for Hart. In 2016 he took home the state’s blue ribbon.

As he looks at his training for August’s “Super Bowl of Safety,” Hart intends to further perfect his mastery of the pre-trip discipline. His best outcome at nationals was third place in the straight truck class in 2019.

“For nationals, I want to get down my pre-trip within the 10-minute limit, you know,” he observed.

“Get a good routine down. So I know when they call out the time and stuff like that, I know where I’m supposed to be on the truck so I’m not having to forgo a chunk of a trailer to save some points somewhere.”

On the national stage, Hart’s favorite aspect is simply “just the camaraderie with everybody else. Getting to see who made it this year. See who you remember. I mean, just rehash old times.”

While Hart and other top finishers at Nevada’s tournament qualified for nationals, the event’s headliner fell short of a victory in his division. UPS’ Gragg Wilson, the national event’s reigning grand champion, finished second in the tanker truck division. Only first-place finishers in state contests earn trips to the summer classic.

NTDC 2024

2024 National Truck Driving Championships

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. 21-24

Where: Indianapolis

Complete coverage: Qualifiers, schedule, interactive map and more

Hart expressed profound respect for Wilson: “He gave it his best shot and I guess this just wasn’t his year.”

Wilson, reflecting on the state competition, told TT, “Any given Sunday … I got second and that’s why we do it and I’m OK with that. I didn’t bring my ‘A’ game to the table and that’s on me.”

Wilson congratulated Hart on his victory. “He’s a good dude,” Wilson said. “He’ll be someone to reckon with in the nationals. He does a good job.”

First place in the tank truck division went to Anthony Miller of Walmart. Other classification winners who will advance to nationals are:

  • Three-axle: James Cozza, FedEx Freight
  • Four-axle: Mark Livingston, UPS
  • Five-axle: Brandon Hardy, XPO
  • Flatbed: Aaron Sharp, UPS
  • Sleeper berth: Eric Flick, UPS
  • Step van: Robert Fini, FedEx Express
  • Straight truck: Ian Stewart, UPS

The National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships will be held in Indianapolis Aug. 21-24.

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