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FedEx Freight driver Heladio “Lalo” Fernandez has a national title to his name — 2010 3-Axle champion — and four Oregon state titles but had never been named the state’s Grand Champion. That changed June 8.
Fernandez, who has been with the Memphis, Tenn.-based company for 13 years, claimed his first Grand Champion honor at Oregon’s trucking event, which was held in Portland. He won first place in the Tank Truck division, and now with five state titles and an upcoming fifth appearance at the National Truck Driving Championships, he’s been recognized as a FedEx Ace to boot.
OREGON ARCHIVE PAGE: Previews, recaps and more
“It was a great honor [to be named Grand Champion], and I feel like I had finally achieved something to show for everyone who has been so supportive of me — my wife, my family, my Portland team and Portland management,” Fernandez said.
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
Fernandez was born in Mexico and raised in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. He actually in lives Washington state, about 25 miles from Portland, in a small town called Battle Ground, which lies just north of Vancouver, Wash. Fernandez has compiled 2.6 million accident-free miles over 27 years of truck driving.
Fernandez and his wife, Shirley, have five children and five grandchildren, and Fernandez says he likes to play pool and serve at his church in his free time.
“My wife is my biggest supporter and is always there to cheer me on at the state and national level,” he said. “It feels good to make her happy.”
Fernandez’s focus now turns to NTDC, which is being held this year in Pittsburgh. Fernandez may have won a national title in 2010 out of the 3-Axle class, but he’s shown his versatility over the years by competing in and winning trophies in several categories.
“I did achieve second place in Sleeper in 2017, so I’ve been on the cusp of [another national title],” Fernandez said. “A national championship is always the goal, but most importantly, we go out there and try to do our best.”
He said he also enjoys just hanging out with coworkers and showing new competitors the ropes.
“I look forward to seeing the people I’ve gotten to know throughout the years, including the FedEx staff and support staff,” Fernandez said. “I consider them my NTDC family. We have a few rookies coming from Portland this year, so I’m looking forward to sharing the experience with them. Our Portland team is great at looking out for each other, and we always like to pay it forward.”
2019 SCHEDULE: State-by-state list.
All competitors moving on to nationals:
- 3-Axle: John Sanderson, FedEx Express
- 4-Axle: James Plaxco, Old Dominion Freight Line
- 5-Axle: Kirby Ferber, FedEx Freight
- Flatbed: Bradley Lester, FedEx Freight
- Sleeper Berth: Manuel Cruz, FedEx Freight
- Tank Truck: Heladio Fernandez, FedEx Freight
- Twins: Curt Davis, FedEx Freight
- Straight Truck: Brandon Scott, Charlie's Produce
- Step Van: Lang Tran, FedEx Freight