Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships
August 17, 2018 4:15 PM, EDT

Second-Day Drivers Use Extra Time to Study Course

Tim Ayotte adjust the mirror for a driver.Tim Ayotte adjust the mirror for a driver before he drives during the second day of competition. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Although competing on the second day of the National Truck Driving Championships allows drivers 24 additional hours to stir up nerves about the course, it also gives them extra time to analyze every turn, stop, cone and duck.

PHOTO GALLERY: Scenes From NTDC 2018 

Drivers in the step van, 5-axle, twin trailers, sleeper berth and straight truck classes took to the course Aug. 17, the second full day of the driving competition. Six challenges, or “problems,” are set up throughout the course. These exercises prompt drivers to execute a turn while avoiding a rubber duck, maneuver through a row of tennis balls, reverse into a makeshift loading dock, continuously drive along a strip of tape and park evenly on top of a marked zone.

Drivers wait for their turn on Day 2.

Drivers wait for their turn on Day 2. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Robert Fini, a FedEx Express driver from Nevada who competed in the step van category, prefers competing on the second day so he can see how other drivers move through the course on the first day.

“It’s better because you can come out and view and see how other drivers approach, even though they’re different vehicles,” Fini said. “You can see how other people take an approach, how they line up and do the course.”

Scott Hamlin, a rookie FedEx Freight driver in the 5-axle class, agrees with Fini. Hamlin’s victory in the New Jersey truck driving rodeo marked his first time competing in the state-level championship. Although drivers do not pick which day they compete, he said he still would pick the second day if given the choice.

Hamlin said he spent the first day of the competition studying how his fellow champions navigated the problems.

“I think you get a little bit more of a scope of the things going on,” Hamlin said. “For me, it’s a little bit more to take all in, because I haven’t done it before. So the second day, you get a little more of what’s going on. When you get in that truck, the whole world changes.”

Drivers take to the course.

Drivers take to the course. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Lance Anderson, a Washington-based driver for Columbia Distributing, was another rookie who took on the course Aug. 17. He competed in the straight truck category and said the second problem — which tasks drivers with moving forward along a straight line that mimics a curb — was toughest for him.

Anderson attended the previous day to watch the competition, but he said he didn’t “soak anything in” because straight trucks, the vehicle he was set to drive, were not on the course that day. Trucks in the 3-axle, 4-axle, tanker and flatbed classes competed Aug. 16.

FedEx Freight’s William Adkins, a West Virginia-based driver who competed in the sleeper berth category, said he prefers competing on the first day. This is Adkins’ fourth trip to NTDC. He hasn’t claimed top honors at the national competition, but he won grand champion at the West Virginia rodeo in 2017.

“I’d rather get it over with,” Adkins said. “I always have a problem on the back-in, but I think I did all right this time.”

NTDC 2018 logo

The 2018 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. 15-18

Where: Columbus, Ohio

Bryan Krol, a Pennsylvania-based driver from the Martin Brower Co., said the extra day didn’t make a big difference in his performance during the 5-axle competition. When Transport Topics caught up with Krol at the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association’s truck driving championship June 9, he said his toughest obstacle was reversing into the loading dock. That same challenge proved difficult for Krol on Aug. 17.

“[The extra day] didn’t help me at all,” Krol said. “I wish I did better with that back-stop. I’ve got to work on that.”

The top contenders advance to the finals Aug. 18. Winners will be announced during a banquet later that day.