Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships

Road to NTDC Spotlight: Roland Bolduc, Part 3

Trip to Nationals Has a Familiar Feel for FedEx Express Driver
Roland Bolduc (right), John Blair
Roland Bolduc holds the sleeper berth trophy, which was presented to him by Motor Transport Association of Connecticut President John Blair. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)

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 third of a four-part series. Read the first installment here and the second installment here.

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — On a reasonably warm, sun-soaked morning in early June, Roland Bolduc arrived at his state’s truck driving championships ready for elite-level competition.

His goal was simple: qualify for the National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships.

To do that, Bolduc needed a win in the sleeper berth class.

The tournament, which featured drivers from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, served as a qualifier for the national summer classic.

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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

Surrounded by a formidable field of colleagues and peers, Bolduc’s virtuosic performance on what he described as a “fast course” mostly was flawless. Early into his drive, he missed a mark on the first maneuver.

Still, his drive — one of the three disciplines at the precision-driving contest — helped him surpass fellow drivers en route to a win at the New England Tri-State Truck Driving Championships on June 10.

Top scorers in their respective vehicle classes qualified for nationals in Columbus, Ohio, in mid-August.

The veteran FedEx Express driver is unique in that he is the national tournament’s reigning grand champion. Bolduc took home the event’s blue ribbon in 2022 and in 2017. This year, he is readying for another best-in-show at what the industry refers to as the “Super Bowl of Safety.”

Recapping his performance at states, the affable expert believed he had excelled in the pre-trip vehicle inspection test. On the examination of the industry’s rules and regulations, he acknowledged there was healthy room for improvement.

Roland Bolduc

Roland Bolduc takes a moment to reflect after his turn on the course at the New England Tri-State Truck Driving Championships. "Score 300 points: That's always the game plan," he says. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)

Then there was the driving part: “[I] feel good about what I did. I missed one of the problems, and I’m still kicking myself for that problem.”

“Score 300 points: That’s always the game plan. But on the first problem, I was about an inch off and so that 1 inch, I feel, cost me 50 points — 1 inch,” he explained. “So I’ll fine-tune it. Like I said, you don’t peak here. You peak at the nationals. You just come close to peaking here.”

Specific to the written exam, which is based on American Trucking Associations’ “Facts for Drivers” guidebook, he said, “It was a good test. The guys who designed the test were a couple of veterans. They did an outstanding job. And verbatim from the book, you know, they found a way to be kind of creative, but still staying within the guidelines of the book. And that’s important.

“You’re not mixing words. You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand it. So they did a very good job by writing the test.”

Bolduc, reflecting on the event’s camaraderie, said he appreciated seeing “everybody coming together.” He also insisted the program needs growth.

“Being a tri-state, having 90 drivers, having a lot of rookies, having a lot of rookies and enlarging our family: We need more drivers. We need the sport bigger and better and larger.”

It mattered little to Bolduc that he competed as 2022’s national grand champion. For him, precision driving tournaments are forward-looking experiences.

Roland Bolduc (left), Anthony Spero

Cameraderie is never in short supply at truck driving championships. Here, Bolduc shares a laugh with good friend and ABF Freight driver Anthony Spero. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics) 

“You won grand champion last year. What does that get you this year? Nothing,” he said. “It doesn’t get you a free coffee. It gets you nothing. And that’s the way you got to look at it.

“Like I said, don’t take it for granted that you’re in a competition and someone’s going to hand you a trophy at the end of the day. You can’t take that for granted. You have to earn it every time.”

Unsurprisingly, Anthony Spero with ABF Freight, competing in the tanker class, won Connecticut’s best-in-show. Spero, last year’s recipient of the Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award at nationals, was the tri-state tournament’s top scorer.

Bolduc and Spero are good friends.

“You know, the truck driving championships means a lot to these drivers who have been around for quite a while. … And to honor Tony Spero, who wants to retire this year — I’ll believe it when I see it — but he’s going to retire this year. For him to get the Jim Hosey high score award was phenomenal. And the grand champion: It’s just icing on the cake for [Spero’s] career.”

Roland Bolduc and RRDF team

Roland Bolduc with training team members (from left) John Greene of FedEx Freight, Richard Sweeney of XPO, and Evelyn Vincenzo and James Dixon, both of A. Duie Pyle. (Photo courtesy of Roland Bolduc)

Bolduc credited his win at states to his weekends at the Roadeo Research and Development Facility (RRDF). Most Saturdays, the national champion trains at the facility near his home in Massachusetts with colleagues. The forum is the epicenter of training for Bolduc’s crew. The RRDF team of prodigies consists of John Greene of FedEx Freight, Richard Sweeney of XPO, Evelyn Vincenzo of A. Duie Pyle, Karen Tierney of FedEx Express, John Brown of Scotts Miracle-Gro and James Dixon of A. Duie Pyle.

Saturday practices start slow, but they pick up speed. The venue is designed to enhance mental toughness, muscle-memory and confidence.

Roland Bolduc sleeper cab

FedEx Express driver Roland Bolduc takes in the view from his sleeper cab. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)

“Carpenters use something called a punch list when they have to finish the job that they’re working on. And that’s kind of what I created: a punch list,” Bolduc said. “What do I need to work on? I want to work on my timing, on my pre-trip a little bit more. I want to work on backing up to an alley — build my own confidence.”

Success at the national contest also requires concentration. Fine-tuning a laser-focus mindset is a priority for Bolduc. As he put it, “There’s a whole timing thing that goes on in your head. It takes you a certain amount of time to run the course. You know, you get 10 minutes to run the course,” he explained. “[Training] refreshes your memory; it re-boosts muscle memory. So when you’re practicing, you’re tuning that part of your brain as well. … getting your timing down is pretty critical.”

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