Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships
May 16, 2019 12:15 PM, EDT

Tennessee Native Punches First Ticket to Nationals

Tennessee Truck Driving ChampionshipsGary Luster shows off his Grand Champion trophy. (Tennessee Trucking Association)

FedEx Freight driver Gary Luster is looking to capitalize on his first Grand Champion win that he picked up April 27 at the Tennessee Truck Driving Championships.

“I felt like after it was all done, that I was in the running to place, but never expected to place,” Luster said. “When they called my name for first, I was in shock.”

PHOTOS: 2019 Tennessee Truck Driving Championships

Born and raised in east Tennessee, Luster started his career at 16 working at a local trucking shop alongside his father and mentor. “The passion set in, and I have been doing it ever since,” said Luster, who has almost 30 years of driving under his belt.

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

Stationed out of the Kingsport Terminal, Luster started in 1997 as a city driver and worked his way into a road position, where he hauls twins.

Luster and the guys at his terminal put in a good deal of time practicing the course, running through pre-trip problems and studying the “Facts for Drivers” book.

“Everything just went right this year,” Luster said. He competed in Sleeper Berth for the first two years, and this year marked his second competing in 3-Axle.

“It was a real difficult course this year,” Luster said. He scored on four of the six course elements and earned a 90 out of 100 on his pre-trip, finding nine out of the 10 defects. “You can practice and practice, but it’s either your day or it’s not,” Luster said.

TENNESSEE ARCHIVE PAGE: Previews, recaps and more 

Looking ahead to the National Truck Driving Championships in Pittsburgh, Luster definitely sees room for improvement before the Aug. 14-17 event.

“Definitely going to be studying more in the book,” he said. “That was probably my weakest [area].”

Expectations are high, with Luster keeping his eye on the big prize.

“My expectation is to win Grand Champion, but there are 400-some more drivers that are going to be there thinking the same thing,” Luster said.

2019 SCHEDULEState-by-state list.

This will be his first time competing at NTDC. “Just having the opportunity to go and compete is enough, the rest will just be icing on the cake,” Luster said.

Luster’s wife and daughter will be accompanying him in Pittsburgh, cheering him on as he goes for gold representing his terminal and FedEx Freight.

The following drivers also will advance to the national competition from Tennessee:

  • 3-Axle: Gary Luster, FedEx Freight
  • 4-Axle: Michael Brewer, Old Dominion Freight Line
  • 5-Axle: Howell Argo, FedEx Freight
  • Flatbed: Josh Arwood, Old Dominion Freight Line
  • Sleeper Berth: Robert Moxley, Titan Transfer Inc. 
  • Tank Truck: Thomas Vandivort, The Martin-Brower Co.
  • Twins: Ronny Hamill, FedEx Freight
  • Straight Truck: Christopher Sargent, FedEx Freight
  • Step Van: James Sheehan, FedEx Ground