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April 7, 2020 5:15 PM, EDT

NTDC Canceled Because of Coronavirus Concerns

The 2021 Event Is Scheduled to Be Held in Minneapolis
2019 NTDC participants take the written examCompetitors dive into their written exams at the 2019 National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships, which were held in Pittsburgh. This year's event was to be held in Indianapolis. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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American Trucking Associations’ National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships have been canceled due to coronavirus-related concerns. But states remain free to make independent decisions about their own events.

ATA President Chris Spear in an April 6 letter informed professional truck drivers, ATA members and state trucking association executives of the decision to cancel the national event, which was scheduled to take place Aug. 19-22 in Indianapolis and is often called the “Super Bowl of Safety.”

“Our industry’s creed and the very spirit of these competitions is ‘safety first,’ and this decision reflects that,” Spear wrote. “It’s made out of an abundance of caution on behalf of the professional drivers competing at the state level, along with the state associations, companies and family members who organize, host and cheer on the competitors.”

Spear also noted that, because most drivers are unable to practice and compete at the state level during the pandemic, the decision maintains the integrity of a “national” championship.

NTDC is an opportunity for hundreds of the most skilled truck drivers in the country — representing different states and different classes of vehicle — to compete against one another. During the event, drivers must complete a written test, a pre-trip inspection and a skills course.

The event draws crowds of supporters, many of whom are friends and family members of the competing drivers. Spear said ATA’s decision marks the first time since World War II that the event has been canceled.

ATA’s decision was released in the days following several state trucking associations’ announcements that they would be canceling their championships. The state championships determine the qualifiers who advance to NTDC.

Judges watch truck reversing

Judges watch a tank truck reversing in Pittsburgh last year. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Arizona, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut canceled their state truck driving championships over coronavirus-related concerns within the last week. However, states are still free to hold their truck driving championships if they so choose. ATA has not asked state trucking associations to follow its lead and cancel their competitions.

Several states that had previously announced they would postpone their competitions — including Mississippi, California, Georgia and North Carolina — are in the deliberation process to decide whether to cancel or proceed with their events. Kentucky and Wisconsin are considering scaled-down state championships later this year.

RELATED: State Championships Schedule

Tennessee, Nevada, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and New Mexico, which had initially postponed their events, have decided to cancel. Delaware and Pennsylvania have also canceled, and Maine has postponed its event indefinitely. 

New Mexico Trucking Association Managing Director Johnny Johnson expressed disappointment over the decision regarding NTDC, and said his association plans to hold a driver appreciation program at some point this year.

“I have been a strong supporter of the [state] TDCs and NTDC for many, many years and it comes with great disappointment that it had to come to this, but these are truly uncharted waters for America and the industry as a whole,” Johnson said. “Our industry has always been and will always be safety first.”

Similarly, Ohio is considering options to honor truck drivers’ hard work this year. Ohio Trucking Association President Tom Balzer said he and his team members know how much the drivers look forward to competing in the state event. Scott Woodrome of FedEx Freight, the reigning NTDC Grand Champion two years running, hails from Ohio. 

“The ability to participate in the nationals is not everyone’s goal, nor is it contingent that a state trucking association have a national championship to justify our existence,” Balzer said.

Virginia’s event is still postponed until further notice. Virginia Trucking Association President Dale Bennett said his group plans to send a notice to members to gauge interest in keeping the competition on the books. He said VTA will need to assess options and limitations, such as paring down the event if fewer drivers are available.

“If the membership wants it and supports doing it, I see no reason why not to proceed with it provided that we are in a better place with COVID-19,” Bennett said.

In his letter, Spear said ATA will look forward to holding the event next year in Minneapolis.

“Thank you for every mile you run and every delivery you make,” Spear wrote. “You make your families, our industry and entire country proud.”

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