Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships
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August 14, 2019 7:00 PM, EDT

Skilled Drivers’ Early Impressions: Written Exam ‘Easy,’ Course ‘Doable’

Drivers taking written exam at NTDC Drivers mull their answers on the 40-question written exam at NTDC. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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PITTSBURGH — The first competitive leg of the National Truck Driving Championships — the written exam — set the Super Bowl of Safety in motion Aug. 14.

The written test, based on American Trucking Associations’ Facts for Drivers Book, has 40 questions, worth two points apiece, making 80 points the highest score possible.

XPO Logistics truck driver Ina Daly of Arizona

Daly by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

A few drivers reported the written test was relatively easy. Ina Daly, an XPO Logistics driver who is competing in the 5-Axle division, started studying in March and said the exam was easier than usual (this year marks her 14th trip to the national competition). Daly won Grand Champion at Arizona’s truck driving rodeo in April.

However, Daly said she was slightly disappointed that the test was easier because she usually relies on her written exam score to give her a boost over her competitors.

PHOTO GALLERY: Images from exam, walk-through and more.

“I was prepared for a lot harder test. That’s usually a strong point for me,” Daly said. “Anybody can have a good day driving, but your backroom scores, you really have to prepare for. I think written actually takes a lot more study time involved.”

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

Participants also had the opportunity to walk through the skills course that they would be competing on over two days. The skills test challenges drivers with six obstacles, or “problems,” each of which are worth up to 50 points. Drivers can earn different point values based on how precisely they execute a problem. The highest possible score on the skills test is 300 points.

Among the six problems are double scoring pads, which require a driver to guide his or her right steer tire evenly over two pads in a continuous motion. Competitors also must execute two turns while rounding a rubber duck and drive in a continuous motion along a straight line.

All classes except Twins will back into a dummy loading dock. Twins drivers instead will have to stop their right dolly tires over a designated “drop area.”

Driver Chris Morrison of Hogan Transportation

Morrison by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

The final obstacle is the floating front stop, which tasks a driver with stopping the bumper directly on top of a scoring zone. Several drivers, including Missouri’s Christopher Morrison of Hogan Transportation Inc. and Kentucky’s Gerald Wrinkle of Walmart Transportation, said they anticipate this problem will be the most difficult.

Arkansas’ Joseph Wash, a FedEx Freight driver competing in the 3-axle class, said the course looked challenging but open, offering drivers plenty of room to maneuver. He said the hardest part of the competition will be climbing into a truck he’s not familiar with. (The event planner intentionally places drivers in equipment they don’t regularly use so as not to give them an advantage.)

William “Hollywood” Plevney, a C.R. England driver from Utah competing in the 5-Axle class, agreed with Wash. Plevney, whose nickname comes from his background as a Los Angeles Police Department officer, said the course looks “pretty doable.”

Drivers doing a walk-through of the NTDC course

Competitors take a walking tour of the course they'll be competing on Aug. 15 and 16. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

“The difficult part is the trucks. You’re in a truck that you’re totally unfamiliar with,” Plevney said. “You only have a limited time to take a look at it and prepare yourself for it.”

Four classes will hit the course for the skills test and pre-trip inspection Aug. 15. The classes competing Aug. 15 are Straight Truck, 5-Axle, Sleeper Berth and Twins. The remaining five will compete Aug. 16.