Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships

NTDC Spotlight: Roland Bolduc, Part 4

Defending Champion Seeks Trucking Trifecta at Safety Showcase
Roland Bolduc with Beans
FedEx Express driver Roland Bolduc finds time to relax with his buddy Beans, a 15-year-old Shih Tzu. Bolduc will compete in the sleeper berth class at NTDC. (Bolduc family photo)

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Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a series chronicling FedEx Express’ Roland Bolduc’s preparation for the National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 16-19. Bolduc, marking his 18th trip to the national contest, won the event in 2017 and 2022. The previous installments can be found here, here and here.

Roland Bolduc is vibrating with excitement. He has wrapped up practices at his Roadeo Research and Development Facility, where he trained alongside colleagues while listening to songs that inspired him.

For months he has trained for the event’s three disciplines — written exam, pre-trip vehicle inspection, driving course — and he is relying on his support network for inspiration. Team Bolduc consists primarily of Shirlene Bolduc, his wife of 37 years; Beans, their 15-year-old Shih Tzu, and the pocket watch that belonged to his late father, “Honest” George Bolduc.

“When I’m on the course, I’ll have it with me,” he told Transport Topics about his father’s watch. “And sometimes I have it in my pocket during the entire week.”

NTDC 2023

The Road to the 2023 National Truck Driving Championships

NTDC Qualifiers |  State Photo Gallery | 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

This week, Bolduc will defend his grand champion title at American Trucking Associations' 86th annual National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships in Columbus, Ohio. Last year’s grand champion, again competing in the sleeper berth truck class, said he believes he’s ready to showcase his skills. And, importantly, reconnect with friends and peers at this family reunion of sorts.

“The NTDC family reunion is awesome, and I look forward to seeing everybody there. You know, figure about 420-something drivers,” Bolduc said. “There’s not enough time in the entire [week] to meet everyone. But you try. I love meeting rookies. More rookies are more people added to the family reunion. And they’re fantastic people; down to earth, salt of the earth people. These champions are professionals at what they do every day.”

Getting to Know You

Roland Bolduc driving jacket


Name: Roland Bolduc

Age: 60

From: East Longmeadow, Mass.

Company: FedEx Express

Vehicle: Sleeper berth

Favorite Food: Seafood

Last TV Show You Watched: “Alone”

Sports Hero: Seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady

What Do You Tell Yourself Before Competition: “Don’t make a fool of yourself.”

When Do You Find Time to Train for NTDC: Saturday mornings at his training temple known as the Roadeo Research and Development Facility.

What Is Something People Don’t Know About You: “I am a certified judge for the Miss America Organization.”

Beaming during his virtual interview with this publication this month, Bolduc had the look of a happy warrior before battle. He was wearing his pre-trip vehicle inspection gear (i.e, knee and elbow pads). His eyes seemed as clear as a new car’s windshield. He repeatedly clarified that he is not training for the national event specifically to win. Rather, he is keeping up with his lifelong passion for safety and precision driving.

“I was extremely fortunate last year, extremely fortunate. And that was nice. That was fun. Do I expect it this year? Heck, no. Will I try my best? I always do, year after year,” he explained. “I’m just trying to remain focused. I have a written exam, a pre-trip and a course to drive. And if I could do good on those three, let the chips fall where they may.”

On Aug. 18, Bolduc is scheduled to tackle the event’s intricate driving course. His game plan combines simplicity and finesse.

“I want to mark down everything that I need to mark down about that course,” he said. “Where my vehicle should be, where my tire should be, where I should be turning, not turning or straightening out.

“And I draw it up, and then I’ll go through that piece of paper for hours. You’ve seen me sit in the hot seat reading a piece of paper. I’m looking at that course and all of its nuances on that piece of paper.”

Admittedly, the pre-trip vehicle inspection challenge continues to vex him.

“My procedure isn’t where it’s supposed to be. I’m not following my own procedure as tight as I should be. And as you can see, I’m working on it. I’ll be ready for the NTDC.”

Roland Bolduc and wife

Roland Bolduc's biggest supporter is Shirlene, his wife of 37 years. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)

Studying the “Facts for Drivers” guidebook, which is used for the tournament’s written exam, was a labor of love.

“I try not to do more than an hour a night,” he said, “because after a while, it all just kind of melts together. So I try to keep my studying to an hour every night.”

At NTDC, Bolduc is known for his disarmingly courteous personality. During competition, he will seek connections with fellow drivers. Ceth Christensen, this year’s grand champion in the step van class from Illinois, thinks fondly of the reigning national champion.

Roland Balduc's father's pocket watch

Roland Bolduc cherishes a pocket watch that used to belong to his late father. "Sometimes I have it in my pocket during the entire week [of NTDC],” he says. (Bolduc family photo)

“Roland is a great competitor. I’ve talked to him,” Christensen said. "He’s not only a great competitor, he’s just, you know, a really nice person, really great person to talk to.

“He takes the time and he’ll talk about anything. He doesn’t just think he’s the grand champion and walks away.”

Reflecting on NTDC qualifiers, Bolduc respects longevity.

“There’s people that have been there a lot longer than I have, been there many years before I stepped foot on the course, and [it’s] amazing to have them on our [FedEx] team, as well.”

Repeatedly throughout his NTDC career, Bolduc has managed to successfully navigate the impossible maneuver. Over the years, his exploits have created an aura of invincibility. Yet, perhaps it is the lead-up to this year’s tournament that provides the deepest insight into the essence of his brilliance.

Connecticut 2023 NTDC delegation

Roland Bolduc (second from left) strikes a pose with the 2023 NTDC delegation from Connecticut. (XPO)

Countless hours preparing for another shot at a national title demonstrate that his laser-focused approach to precision driving remains resolute. Although the course he will encounter this week will present a new set of challenges, he is confident decades of experience will help keep him grounded.

With Shirlene, Beans and “Honest” George’s pocket watch by his side, Bolduc is determined to prove he is capable of extending his champion status in the arena.

Not even time’s relentless thwack can shake his competitive spirit.

Other Connecticut winners:

Grand champion: Anthony Spero, ABF Freight

3-Axle: James Dixon, A. Duie Pyle

4-Axle: Tom Griffin Sr., XPO

5-Axle: John Greene, FedEx Freight

Flatbed: John Brown, Independent

Step Van: John Sanchez, FedEx Express

Straight Truck: Derrick Caro, XPO

Tank Truck: Anthony Spero, ABF Freight

Twins: Ernie Budlowski, XPO

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