COLUMBUS, Ohio — Drivers navigated a punishing course during the finals of the National Truck Driving Championships Aug. 18.
The competition culminated on a course that was different from the one drivers maneuvered through during the previous two days of the event. The only similarity was that, like the preliminary course, the finals course still included six challenges, or “problems.”
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The challenges laid out on the finals course required drivers to weave through a series of plastic pillars, complete a rear stop on a small patch of tape, execute a turn without touching a plastic pillar and maneuver through a channel of tennis balls and strips of tape.
FedEx Freight driver Scott Woodrome is here competing in NTDC for the 13th time, and he said this is one of the toughest courses he’s encountered. Woodrome, who drove in the Tanker class, won Grand Champion at the Ohio Trucking Association’s rodeo in May. Woodrome says he enjoys the home turf advantage because it makes traveling to nationals much easier.
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level have advanced to the national competition, where a Grand Champion will be crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written examination and their driving skills
When: Aug. 15-18
Where: Columbus, Ohio
“This course is really tough,” Woodrome said. “It’s pretty challenging.”
Many drivers, including FedEx Freight’s Eric Flick of Nevada in the Flatbed class and Pennsylvania Grand Champion Terry Wood of Walmart Transportation in Sleeper Berth, found the back stop challenge hardest. The second problem on the course, the back stop has drivers reverse and stop evenly over a strip of tape. Gregory Long, a FedEx Express step van driver from Virginia, said this was the toughest obstacle presented on the course.
“It’s kind of one of those things where you have to have a real good feel [and] practice it all the time. It’s something that I’ve seen once, so if I score on that, I’m going to be pretty happy,” Long said. “It’s good to be over. I can get some sleep now. It’s just a relief. That course is so, so quick it’s unbelievable. You really didn’t have time to think too much ahead.”
The last problem, a double front stop that required drivers to park directly over a strip of tape, was a stumbling block for many. As soon as drivers disembarked their trucks, they strode to the front of the vehicle to see where they ended up in relation to the tape. Some tossed their heads back in exasperation when they saw how they parked, and another clapped his hands together in disappointment. Brandon Hardy, an XPO Logistics driver from Nevada who competed in 5-Axle, said this problem was the hardest.
Walmart Transportation's Terry Wood navigates the challenging championship course. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
A number of contestants left the course with tight-lipped reserve. They alternately summed up their performances with succinct reviews, such as “good,” “terrible,” “exciting” and “very tough.”
It took more than three hours for the 46 finalists to run through the course, and the event was prolonged further by two run-off tie-breakers in the Twins and 3-Axle classes.
FedEx Freight’s David Mogler of Colorado and Frito-Lay’s Brian Singelais of Massachusetts went head to head in 3-Axle. Two FedEx Freight drivers, Darrell Shelton of Washington and Matthew Hart of Nevada, vied in Twins.
Both Mogler and Hart said driving the course wasn’t easier the second time, while Singelais said he was a little bit calmer. Shelton said it was “awesome” he got a second chance on the course.
“It was easier,” Shelton said. “I’m just happy to get another chance at it.”
Victors of each class and a Grand Champion will be announced at an awards banquet during the evening on Aug. 18.