A man no older than 40 dons a fresh-pressed white-collar shirt, sleeves landing just above the elbow. He has a smile measuring a million watts and perfectly groomed hair. His stature is comfortably over 6 feet tall and shows no signs of being out of shape.
That description does not fit the stereotypical image of a truck driver.
But it’s a great fit for Jason Imhoff of Ashland, Ohio, who represents a new generation of drivers.
Father of three and husband to wife Sunshine, Imhoff is a busy man driving for Walmart Transport out on the road five days a week. The family was all out to support him as he took to the course May 18 at the Ohio Truck Driving Championships.
Imhoff with his daughters Addison (back row) and Kenzee, wife Sunshine and son Ridge, after taking home first in the Straight Truck division at the Ohio Truck Driving Championships May 18. (Picture America Event Photographers)
“It started when I was 3,” he said. “My dad ended up driving for 44 years and just retired last year.”
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
Imhoff always knew that he wanted to be a driver. He and his son, Ridge, 5, have many parallels, both becoming interested in trucking at a young age. He started his career washing trucks and trailers after school in high school. At 20, he saved enough money to purchase a $25,000 Peterbilt truck. By 21, Imhoff had made enough to buy a trailer as well.
“I polished it twice. Took about a week each time,” he said. The purchase took him five years to pay off, but was worth every penny.
On March 4, 2003, he parted with his tractor and trailer to take a job with Walmart Transportation. Sixteen years into the job makes his time with Walmart about 10 years shy of his father’s 26-years-plus career with the company.
Not only does Imhoff enjoy driving, he is good at it. He has been competing since 2005, and in the past years has accumulated a slew of accolades. Imhoff has found success in the 5-Axle, Flatbed, Step Van and now Straight Truck. In 2016 and 2017, he qualified for the National Truck Driving Championships in Step Van, placing second and fourth.
Imhoff getting the mirrors and seat adjusted before competing on the driving course. (Marissa Gamache/Transport Topics)
“I thought, ‘I’m going to shoot from the hip. I want to go with Step Van,’ ” Imhoff said. With his successful run at the state level, he became the first Walmart Transportation driver to win the Step Van division.
He currently is a Walmart Road Team captain, teaching youth about truck safety and helping promote the industry’s image.
At the 2019 state event, Imhoff delivered a first-place performance, much to his family’s excitement.
“I truly feel I have been gifted,” he said. “Everybody in life has a gift, you just have to find what it is.” Driving is his.
To Imhoff’s advantage, he has been able to train and learn with some of the industry’s best, including his father.
“My goal over time is to win in all nine categories,” he said.
This is a goal that may not take long to achieve if he keeps up his winning pace.
After his victory in Straight Truck, Imhoff and his family were beaming. His son may have been the only person more excited than his dad, giving him a 10 out of 10 for his driving performance.
Ridge Imhoff, 5, is hoping to drive a truck like his dad when he grows up. (Marissa Gamache/Transport Topics)
“I like that he drives truck,” Ridge said. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he said, “A driver, just like my dad.” He plans to have a blue-and-black truck.
“It means everything to me to have my family here with me,” Imhoff said. “If they weren’t here, it wouldn’t mean the same.”
He and all of the drivers who qualified for the NTDC will try to get together for a team practice before the Aug. 14-17 championships in Pittsburgh. Drivers every year realize that snatching the first-place title gets harder as talented drivers continue to put in the hours practicing and studying.
“I’m no better than any of the drivers in the room,” Imhoff said. “I just had a good day.”