NTDC Ties Record for Most Female Competitors
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INDIANAPOLIS — At the final round of the National Truck Driving Championships on Aug. 19, as she waited her turn on the course, Ina Daly sat between two former national grand champions.
Competing in the tank truck division, Daly was the only woman to advance to this year’s finals. The soft-spoken XPO Logistics driver from Arizona — and owner of several overall state competition crowns — entered 42nd in the finals field of 45 drivers. She ultimately finished outside of the top three in her class, but Daly understands what it takes to win on the national stage; in 2013, she was the first woman to claim a national class title, winning the tank truck trophy.
Indiana’s Dawn Cochran with Old Dominion competed in the 5-axle division. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
Daly was among 11 women out of 408 competitors at NTDC this year, tying a record set in 2014 for the most women to compete at the 85-year-old event.
For Daly, competing alongside those women illustrated the advancements she and her peers have made over the years. At a time when fleets are actively recruiting truckers, she views now as an ideal time for women join the industry. Plus, competing in state competitions and NTDC offers them a chance to test their skills and forge connections with colleagues, she said.
In 2013, Daly became the first woman to win a national class title. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
“It creates a whole bigger safety culture within the industry, because we learn a lot here,” she explained. “We go back to our homes and we share that with other truck drivers we know — and they share it with others. It’s a good return on investment.”
Joyce Bain claimed the grand championship at Maryland’s tournament qualifier this year. Competing in the sleeper berth class, she echoed Daly’s perspective.
“It was nice to be back,” Bain told TT. “Because once you get here, you always want to come back.”
She added, “It’s a great experience. Everybody should try it. This is your goal.”
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
“It’s a blast,” added Teri Spencer with A&A Express out of South Dakota, who competed in the straight truck class. “Meeting some of the guys who’ve been here before and making new friends.”
Other female competitors this year were Massachusetts grand champion Karen Tierney, a FedEx Express driver competing in the 3-axle; Indiana’s Dawn Cochran with Old Dominion competing in the 5-axle; Maine’s Haleigh Fickett with R.H. Foster competing in tanker; Connecticut’s Karen Roderick from FedEx Ground and Florida’s Becky Nelson with FedEx Express, both competing in straight truck; and three competing in the step van category: Florida’s Michelle Poirier and Nebraska’s Jenni VonBonn, both from FedEx Express, and Virginia’s Julie Williams, a FedEx Ground driver.
“It was a lot of fun,” Fickett told TT about her first NTDC experience. “Driving inside is a big challenge. It was an awesome challenge to take on, but it was definitely overwhelming.”
She added, “So exciting to be a part of a group of this many professional drivers that have all proven to be as good or far better than I am. It’s an amazing experience, to be able to interact with them all, for sure. It’s been a great week and I hope to be back for it next year.”
“We are thrilled to see so many more women competing at the national level, especially since they already showed their skills at the state level,” said Ellen Voie, president of Women In Trucking, a proponent of women’s contributions to the industry. “As more women enter the industry we expect to see more women competing, and winning in the future. We applaud participation and look forward to celebrating their successes!”
“The trucking industry continues to shake past stereotypes about who can be a truck driver, and nowhere was that more evident than at the National Truck Driving Championships,” said American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear.
Bain does the pre-trip inspection during the competition. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
“Women play an instrumental role in driving our economy, always have. And as the number of professional women truck drivers grows, so too does the number of women competing at NTDC. We congratulate them all on their achievements and look forward to seeing them all return to NTDC in 2023.”
Last month, ATA launched the Women In Motion initiative to amplify women’s contributions industrywide, as well as promote opportunities for women in the freight workforce. ATA has determined the industry is short about 80,000 commercial drivers.
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