Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships

Spero, Colantuone, Hicks Take It to the Next Level

Champs From New England Tri-State Event Bound for Nationals
Anthony Spero (left), John Blair
Connecticut grand champion Anthony Spero of ABF Freight (left) shares a smile with Motor Transport Association of Connecticut President John Blair, who also was a tournament coordinator. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)

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WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — On a crisp, sunny day in north central Connecticut, a veteran truck driver once again mastered a precision driving course.

As of last year, he is the recipient of the industry’s award for professional excellence and the winner of a couple of national titles.

Anthony Spero, “Tony” to his friends, “Spero” when competing, earned top honors at the New England Tri-State Truck Driving Championships on June 10.

His best-in-show performance, punctuated by recording the state tournament’s overall high score on the driving course, earned him another trip to American Trucking Associations' National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships on Aug. 16-19 in Columbus, Ohio.

NTDC 2023

The Road to the 2023 National Truck Driving Championships

State ScheduleNTDC Qualifiers | Map of State Champions | Photo Gallery

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

Since the 1990s, Spero has conquered precision driving events in the Constitution State, as well as the national level. Before a hometown crowd last month, last year’s Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award winner with ABF Freight did not disappoint while operating a tanker truck.

The Connecticut grand champion — a central figure in the region’s trucking community — held back tears as colleagues, peers and friends greeted him with a standing ovation for earning another blue ribbon performance.

“That was great,” he told Transport Topics shortly after his victory. “It’s been a little emotional for me.

“It’s great to see all the rookies coming in here. We got new blood into this. All the older guys like me are leaving, so we’re trying to get our new blood. I remember we got a rookie from ABF [Freight] with me. He did good. Just came up short, and he said, ‘I’m coming back next year to redeem myself,’ and I’ll be there.”

Roland Bolduc (left), Anthony Spero

Anthony Spero (right) with longtime friend and two-time NTDC champion Roland Bolduc. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics) 

Looking ahead, Spero said the bulk of his training will take place on the weekends. The objective is to arrive ready to compete at the national contest, where he’ll face off against drivers in his class, as well as his friendly in-state rival Roland Bolduc with FedEx Express. Bolduc, who qualified for this year’s national tournament in the sleeper berth class, won nationals in 2022 and 2017. Bolduc and Spero are longtime friends.

“I’m going to hit it hard, just like I practiced for [states],” Spero told TT shortly after his winning drive. “I’m just going to take a couple of weeks off, relax, then hit it hard in a couple of weeks.”

William Colantuone (right)

Massachusetts grand champ William Colantuone  (right) with tournament coordinator Chris Maxwell. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)

The New England Tri-State qualifier also featured drivers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Taking home the grand champion trophy in the Bay State was William Colantuone with FedEx Express. Competing in the straight truck division, Colantuone said the accolade was humbling and it sparked incredulity.

“This is very overwhelming. I have never even had my name associated with anything like this,” Colantuone told TT. “This is my first grand champion. I’ve been competing since 2011.”

As he readies for his seventh appearance at the national contest, Colantuone offered a glimpse of his training philosophy.

Joe Hicks (right)

XPO driver and Rhode Island champ Joe Hicks (right) is congratulated after his performance in the 3-axle division. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)

“It’s a competition about yourself, and all of these folks out here put a lot of time and effort into this whole competition. Every one of these people deserve this award, but this isn’t mine. This is for every one of these people who showed up today. This is an honor.”

Rhode Island’s Joe Hicks with XPO earned the Ocean State’s grand champion trophy. Driving in the 3-axle truck, Hicks again punched his ticket to next month’s summer classic. In 2010, Hicks won the rookie of the year honors at nationals. On his rookie drive, he also drove the 3-axle. After his win, Hicks explained “practice and preparation” were foundational for a successful showing.

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