Special Coverage of the National Truck Driving Championships

UPS’ Christensens Step Up in the Step Van

Dad Ceth is Illinois Grand Champ; Son Connor is Top Rookie
Connor Christensen (left) and his father Ceth
Connor Christensen (left) and his father Ceth. (Gavin Blisset for Illinois Trucking Association)

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There is more to precision-driving competitions than winning. Perhaps the greatest virtue of truck driving contests is that they often transform into fond memories for most competitors.

COMPLETE NTDC COVERAGE: Qualifiers, stories, photos.

For Ceth Christensen, camaraderie and building a congenial bond is the essence of American Trucking Associations’ National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships.

“One of the great things about this competition — you meet a lot of people,” Christensen, the Illinois Truck Driving Championships’ overall winner, said recently. “Even though they’re [from] opposing companies, they’re still doing the same job and still all have to get there safely over the entire year.”

At the trucking championships in the Land of Lincoln on June 9, Christensen took top honors in the step van. Meanwhile, his son, Connor, was recognized as rookie of the year.

Ceth Christensen card from UPS

Card courtesy of UPS Inc.

Getting to Know You

Name: Ceth Christensen

Age: 51

Company: UPS

Vehicle: Step van

Favorite food: Pizza (sausage and bacon)

Last movie you watched: “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”

Sports Hero: Michael Jordan

Why do you compete at NTDC: “I’m just competitive and I know I have a first place in me. I know that I can do it.”

All-time favorite vacation: Ocean cruises (Caribbean)

Something people don’t know about you: “I’m an excellent golfer.”

“I actually was rooting for him,” the proud father said. “I wanted him to win. You can only get rookie-rookie once. And, you know, I’ve already been to the show, as they say. So I really wanted him to win.” (A rookie-rookie is an individual new to the state and national contests.)

With NTDC kicking off Aug. 16 in Columbus, Ohio, Christensen is confident about his preparation. His training took place during most Saturdays leading up to the safety showcase.

As he put it, “After the state competition, we kind of ramped it up a little bit. So it’s not every Saturday, [but] we try to get all of our … four [UPS] competitors going to nationals from Illinois. So we try to make sure that all four can make a Saturday practice, and we are out there setting up problems for each other.”

Recalling a recent weekend practice session, he explained: “We actually spent 10 … hours on the pavement with pre-trip, driving and a couple written tests. That was on Saturday. And then on Sunday, we were back out there again for about another six hours.”

The step van is a passion that Christensen insists is misunderstood by some tournament observers. The class was included in the national affair less than two decades ago.

“Half of the time, the course is actually more difficult for the step van class because the rear wheels are so close to the cab, the front wheels, your mirrors; you don’t have hardly any time to adjust for problems,” he explained. “A lot of drivers think it’s the easiest class when really it’s one of the toughest.”

And, to excel at nationals, a competitor must appreciate the step van’s nuances as well as the event’s myriad challenges.

“When you do all those little things,” Christensen said, “that’s what gets you into the big picture up on stage.”

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