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May 24, 2019 9:30 AM, EDT

Pennsylvania Native Jason Herko Set for Return to Home State as Kentucky Grand Champion

Jason Herko, Grand Champion of the Kentucky Truck Driving Championships out of the 3-Axle division UPS' Jason Herko captured the Grand Champion title for the first time in six years of competing in the Kentucky Truck Driving Championships. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Jason Herko has resided in Kentucky most of his life. As a child, he even lived in Jamaica, with his parents, who were missionaries. But now he’s headed back to his birth state as a Grand Champion for the first time.

“My first reaction when they called my name was shock,” Herko said. “When the shock wore off, it was replaced by a humbling feeling as I looked around the room at all the other drivers who were previous Grand Champions and national champions.”

2019 NTDC

The 2019 National Truck Driving Championships

Qualifiers | Map | Photos | Video

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

Where: Pittsburgh

Herko, who was born in Pennsylvania, captured the ultimate prize after winning the 3-Axle division at the Kentucky Truck Driving Championships, which were held May 17-18 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. He will make his second appearance at the National Truck Driving Championships, which are taking place this year in Pittsburgh. He also won Kentucky’s 3-Axle division in 2018 and appeared at NTDC in Columbus, Ohio, finishing 30th. Herko said the result makes him feel as though he has some unfinished business to take care of in Pittsburgh.

Herko, who has logged 1.2 million accident-free miles, moved with his parents to Kentucky at the age of 2. At 11, they moved to Jamaica because of his parents’ missionary work. Herko says his faith plays a large role in his success as a truck driver.

“Credit to the good Lord for putting the right people in my path,” he said.

PHOTOS: 2019 Kentucky Truck Driving Championships

KENTUCKY ARCHIVE PAGE: Previews, recaps and more

At age 17, Herko came back to Kentucky to attend college. He’s worked for UPS for 24 years and driven trucks for the company since 2000. This was his sixth appearance at the state competition. Herko competed in the 4- and 5-Axle divisions before settling on the 3-Axle class the past two years.

For Herko, “the right people” include family, coworkers and fellow competitors.

“I have to thank my wife and family, who put up with me being gone for practice and preparation. I also have great teammates constantly encouraging and inspiring me and a great support team at UPS.

“I also receive encouragement from other drivers at the state competition. Proverbs 27:17 says, ‘Iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another.’ ”

2019 SCHEDULEState-by-state list.

All competitors moving on to nationals:

  • 3-Axle: Jason Herko, UPS
  • 4-Axle: John Willinger, FedEx Freight
  • 5-Axle: Jamie Dunn, Walmart Transportation
  • Flatbed: Wayne Crowder, FedEx Freight
  • Sleeper Berth: John Wiley, Walmart Transportation
  • Tank Truck: Gerald Wrinkle, Walmart Transportation
  • Twins: Derek Schwienhart, FedEx Freight
  • Straight Truck: James McNulty, FedEx Express
  • Step Van: Dustin Powell, UPS