Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships

New NTDC History Book Celebrates Former Champions

Rich History of ATA Truck Driving Tournament Is Explored
Grand champion trophy at NTDC 2023
The grand champion trophy on display at NTDC 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Stay focused. Trust the preparation. Visualize positive outcomes. That is a synopsis from previous champions on what it takes to win at the National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships.

New this year at the “Super Bowl of Safety” souvenir shop (also online, $30) was a book titled “From Roadeo to TDC: A History of the National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships.”

Produced by tournament Executive Director Jacob Pierce of American Trucking Associations, with guidance from organizing committee lifetime member Rick Cates, the tome is a definitive history of the 86-year-old safety tournament. It features 1985 national champion Roger Lanham’s last interview (he died this year) as well as insight from other national champions, such as Charles Linwood Walker, Alphonso Lewis and Dale Duncan.

Lanham, who was from Charleston, W.Va., earned first place in the twin trailers class at the 1985 championships. A driver for Overnite Transportation, he was a competitor when NTDC was still referred to as the National Truck Roadeo.

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

Per an excerpt from the book: “‘My trophy that I got, my mahogany trophy that I have is the last trophy. And it says [Roadeo], and my belt buckle also says [Roadeo],’ Lanham noted, remembering that ... he was the ‘last man standing on the floor in 1985 when the big mahogany trophy you got says ‘Truck Roadeo’ and my belt buckle says: ‘Roadeo’ and ‘National Champion Roadeo.’ ”

Walker, formerly with Overnite Transportation, was a big winner in 1981. The North Carolina professional driver brought his family to watch him compete in the 3-axle class at the Indiana Convention-Exposition Center. Walker surpassed a field of distinguished competitors en route to his best-in-show performance in the 3-axle. In 2019, his son Brian won the 3-axle at NTDC.

Linwood Walker 1981

Linwood Walker, from North Carolina, with his truck. He captured the NTDC grand championship from the 3-axle class in 1981. (Courtesy of the Walker Family) 

“It’s a chance to just compete with the best of the best. Another thing about it, if you win the championship, you know that you’re the best … in the United States,” Walker is quoted as saying in the book. “The championship made me much, much better at that [safety] part of my job. It helped me every day, not just in competition, but every day.”

In 2007, Lewis, from Alabama, representing Roadway, earned national grand champion status. Competing in the 4-axle class, Lewis was the first African-American to win the blue ribbon. From the history book: “In 2007, I did not worry about the big names that were there. I didn’t worry about them. I worried about what I was going out there to do … You cannot be intimidated.”

Alphonso Lewis NTDC 2022

Alphonso Lewis, a former America's Road Team captain, goes through his pre-trip inspection during NTDC 2022 in Indianapolis. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Duncan with Con-Way Freight joined the grand champion two-timers club in 2009. The California standout first won grand champion in 2006. During a wide-ranging interview for the history book, Duncan reflected on the event’s meaning, his career and a potential comeback.

“I can appreciate when drivers try to help out other drivers, you know, get everybody in the game. Give advice, long-term respect,” he said.

NTDC history book

Copies of “From Roadeo to TDC: A History of the National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships” were available at the souvenir stand. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics) 

“I always tried to be a perfectionist. Always tried to learn the regulations. Always try to educate myself on whatever I’m doing. If I wanted to get information on it, I always found the sources for that information to give myself knowledge on whatever interest I had,” Duncan continued. “If I go back, I’ll go back for another grand [champion trophy]. I don’t want to go back and finish second, you know. It’s to go there for all or nothing. I know what it takes to do that, so I want to prepare myself to be ready if I decide to go back again.”

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