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Hundreds of top truck drivers soon will descend on Pittsburgh for the 82nd annual National Truck Driving Championships.
NTDC, which will be held in tandem with the National Step Van Driving Championships, starts rolling Aug. 14. The event, known industrywide as the “Super Bowl of Safety,” will culminate with the crowning of the Bendix Grand Champion on Aug. 17.
In order to earn the Grand Champion title, a participant must excel on a written exam based on the “Facts for Drivers” textbook, a pre-trip inspection and a driving course.
The 427 drivers competing at the national tournament placed first in their class at their state qualifier, all of which were held earlier this summer and spring.
Jacob Pierce, executive director of American Trucking Associations’ Safety Management Council and Transportation Security Council, said his focus in the final days leading up to the event is keeping on-site programs, registration packets and driver paperwork organized and updated.
“The hardest part is making sure [the 427 drivers] are right,” Pierce, who has been involved with NTDC since 2013, told Transport Topics. “It’s just a lot going on all the time. We try to fit in as much as we can in four days.”
Drivers will complete their written exam and walk-through of the course Aug. 14, the first day of the competition. Four classes will hit the course for the skills test and pre-trip inspection Aug. 15. Five others will compete Aug. 16. The finals, which will feature a different course than the previous days’ skills test, will take place Aug. 17.
That’s one of the greatest things about this program. It makes you sharper, it makes you more detail-oriented so that our trucks are safe.
Scott Woodrome, 2018 NTDC Grand Champion
Last year’s Grand Champion, Ohio’s Scott Woodrome of FedEx Freight, said the pre-trip inspection is the most challenging portion of the competition. During this exercise, drivers have to identify the defects on a truck in a fixed window of time. The challenge is to be thorough yet quick.
“There are 10 lug nuts on one wheel, five wheels on one side. That’s 100 lug nuts you have to twist to make sure each one is secure,” Woodrome said. “That’s one of the greatest things about this program. It makes you sharper, it makes you more detail-oriented so that our trucks are safe.”
Woodrome won top honors in the Twins class at Ohio’s truck driving competition in May. This year will mark his 14th consecutive trip to nationals. He attributed his consistency as an excellent driver to constant practice, meticulous attention to detail and seriousness about his profession.
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. 14-17
For NTDC Committee Chairman Dean Yockey, the event will be a coincidental homecoming. Yockey, who also serves as manager of training and development for Pitt Ohio, grew up in Gibsonia, which is just north of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh previously served as NTDC host in 2009 and 2014. Pierce said the city’s industrial history and proximity to many trucking companies make it a good location for the event. Yockey, who formally joined the NTDC committee 10 years ago after attending the event for three years, said drivers can look forward to a challenging course when they flock to his home city.
“It’s always a really great event there,” Yockey said. “It seems like a lot of the drivers like it.”
Woodrome encouraged first-time participants to avoid getting too caught up in comparing themselves to their competitors. Instead, he said drivers should view the event as a way to perfect their craft and improve the general public’s image of the professional truck driver. Woodrome said NTDC provides a precious opportunity for everyday people to observe the qualities that many truck drivers value: safety and professionalism.
“There’s a chance to do so much more than just get a trophy and place in your class. There are so many other great things that come out of this event,” Woodrome said. “When you see other people take this seriously, it makes you take pride in your job and how important safety is.”