COLUMBUS, Ohio — Course preparations are well underway for the 81st National Truck Driving Championships.
(John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
Although the competition officially begins Aug. 15, members of the NTDC Committee and a large band of volunteers have been setting up the course and moving equipment since Aug. 13. The equipment includes the 36 trucks that competitors will drive throughout the event, plus chairs for the judges, reams of tape and stacks of red, white and blue cones.
PHOTO GALLERY: Columbus gets ready for NTDC
Six challenges, or “problems,” will be set up throughout the sprawling exhibit hall of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. It’s midmorning when volunteers start cycling trucks through the course to gauge whether the equipment can comfortably clear the massive pillars dispersed throughout the space. NTDC Committee Chairman Samuel Faucette said that every truck will be tested before measurements are finalized.
“Our first challenge is having enough room to set up all the stages. It’s a great facility,” Faucette said. “The biggest thing is to make sure each piece of equipment can navigate the course before the competition.”
Some 424 truck drivers from across the country will vie this week to be crowned Grand Champion.
The drivers competing won their truck class at their state championships earlier this summer.
Brian Lagana, executive director of American Trucking Associations’ Safety Management Council and Transportation Security Council, said one important change that has characterized the past few national championships is the addition of Mondays to the convention center contracts, giving the committee and volunteers an extra day to ready the space.
Driver Truck Categories
3-axle Tank Truck
Step van Flatbed
Straight truck Sleeper
Judges and contestants alike will attend a series of briefings and walk through the course Aug. 15. Competitors also will complete a written exam. The skills test, in which drivers have to navigate the course, begins Aug. 16 and continues through Aug. 17. The finalists from each class will be announced Aug. 18.
The morning of Aug. 14, volunteers are hustling back and forth across the exhibit hall floor, lining tape, adjusting equipment, zipping around on golf carts and placing cones. Lagana said there are 150 volunteers this year, a record for the competition.
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
The volunteers are an assortment of safety professionals for trucking companies, retired drivers, industry enthusiasts and past championship participants. Faucette mentioned that, sometimes, a driver who fails to qualify for NTDC will attend the event as a volunteer. Faucette described a lot of them as “repeat volunteers” and said NTDC could not function without them.
“They understand the process,” Faucette said. “They have a deep appreciation for the drivers that do come.”
Faucette estimated that the event runners should be ready by early afternoon, provided the equipment arrives on time.
Lagana credited the committee, the volunteers and his fellow ATA representatives with making event preparation run smoothly and said preparation is going “incredibly well” so far. This is Lagana’s fourth time helping to run NTDC, and he said a lot of ATA’s work occurs in the 11 months leading up to the competition.
“Once on-site, the volunteers and committee members really take it from there,” Lagana said. “We’re kind of there to support them.”