Road to NTDC Spotlight: Roland Bolduc
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Editor’s note: Transport Topics conducted several interviews with two-time NTDC grand champion Roland Bolduc of FedEx Express to gain his insights on what it takes to be an elite commercial transportation driver. This is the first of a series.
Roland Bolduc, the reigning National Truck Driving Championships grand champion, is training around the clock with a goal of returning to the winner’s circle at this summer’s showcase of the country’s finest commercial drivers.
STATE-BY-STATE SCHEDULE: 2023 TDC competition
Since January, the Massachusetts-based commercial driver with FedEx Express told Transport Topics he has been gearing up for the state and national competitions. Intense practices consisting of driving complex courses and studying the industry’s rules and regulations dominate his routine.
He described typical practice runs as, “Difficult. Hard turns, hard things to do. Hard problems on that course; just not easy.” The purpose is to prepare his body and mind to perform at an elite level during competition.
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
“Safety is a frame of mind,” he emphasized. “We try to perfect knowing where every tire is. Every square-inch of the vehicle. So there is tweaking all of the time. You’re never good enough to go back and win again. If you win, all of the stars aligned, and you did what you needed to do.
“But I got to have the mindset of I got to keep working at this. I gotta keep working hard on this,” Bolduc explained. “You can’t sit back on your laurels.”
Specific to being the event’s current grand champion, he noted, “You’re always aware of that. I mean it’s such a fantastic feeling. It really is, to be honored like that at the national level. But if you want to see something that’s going to hurt you. That is it. That is it. To win the top spot and you know going into the next competition, that people know that — and you need to put that aside. You can’t bring it with you.
Keys to Success
In 2022, Roland Bolduc said success could be attained by adhering to these five steps. He went on to win his second NTDC championship.
3. Difficulty (Don't take the easy way out)
“No matter what you’ve done in the past, you can’t take anything with you, because your points don’t carry over. You’re starting from scratch and slates are clean. Just because you won last year means absolutely nothing this year.”
In February, Bolduc said he devoted several days to amplifying reliable techniques, such as identifying visual cues on the driving course. The event’s top drivers often remark about relying on specific visual cues when they tackle the course.
As Bolduc put it, “Visual cues are 100% what you need to be looking for.”
“The walk-through on any course is the most important thing that you’re going to do in any competition. These visual cues are everything to me. So when I do a course walk-through, I’m not looking at the course fixture. … I’m looking two problems ahead.”
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The state and national competitions present myriad distractions. Blocking out such distractions from one’s mind is key to successful performances at tournaments.
“All you have to do is close your eyes and go over your pre-trip. I go over my procedure for my pre-trip when I want to tighten up my focus,” Bolduc explained. “How far into this pre-trip before your mind wanders and goes elsewhere? Because it will. And that’s how you focus. That’s how I train to focus. … The voices in your head, you got to block out. Everything has to be blocked out, and you’ll be able to concentrate at the nationals.”
This year’s truck driving championship is scheduled for Aug. 16-19 in Columbus, Ohio. The top performers in nine vehicle classes from every state will vie for blue ribbon honors at the commercial transportation industry’s “Super Bowl of Safety.” Competitors are tested on their driving acumen, pre-trip vehicle inspection acuity, and appreciation and recollection of the industry’s rules, guidelines and procedures.