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INDIANAPOLIS — Charles “Mike” White of Walmart Transportation is not one to rest on his laurels.
The Grand Champion of the 2016 National Truck Driving Championships showed he is as hungry as ever by winning Indiana’s Sleeper Berth class and capturing Grand Champion honors June 8 to solidify his status as one of the safe-driving greats of the trucking industry.
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
Since winning a national title, White, a low-key driver with more than four decades of professional experience, has remained true to his craft. He has devoted many weekends to practice, repeating myriad maneuvers on simulated courses, such as parallel parking and obstacle avoidance situations. He also memorized the industry’s regulatory handbook, the basis for the written exam portion of the state and national tournament.
INDIANA ARCHIVE PAGE: Previews, recaps and more
This year, White put on a trucking safety masterclass for his Indiana peers.
White recorded the high score on the tournament’s written exam among a field of nearly 200 competitors, as well as the combined pre-trip and skills course aspects in Sleeper Berth.
“I never get tired of challenging myself,” White told Transport Topics at a gala at the Indiana Roof Ballroom minutes after his Grand Champion victory. “It was basically just not beating myself, and it was about reading the course and preparing for whatever they would throw at me out there.”
White has qualified for another trip to nationals, which will be held this year in Pittsburgh on Aug. 14-17. And the game plan for White is not difficult to guess. “I’m going to stay with what’s got me here, and I’m going to stay with what got me a championship last time,” White said.
“I’m going to be strong. Whatever they throw at you, you have to adjust.”
Several hundred family members, colleagues and trucking enthusiasts gathered at the lot at Lincoln College of Technology for the championships.
Most of the companies set up tents next to the driving course. They equipped them with food and games for the drivers and other attendees.
Jerry Wynn, a facility supervisor at Old Dominion Freight Line, embraced the role of grillmaster. Hot dogs and hamburgers were cooked to perfection throughout the day, thanks to a skill honed over the years.
Old Dominion's Jerry Wynn grills hot dogs and hamburgers during the Indiana Truck Driving Championships. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)
He explained to TT good grilling is about “making sure you stay on top of it and don’t burn the food.”
“Lot of it is, you know, buying the right burgers but using the au jus juice in it, to keep it moist instead of letting it dry out,” Wynn said.
Follow those steps, and he added, “They’ll keep coming back.”
Just behind Wynn’s grill, Kevin Good and Karl Wilkerson of FedEx Freight competed in a fierce game of cornhole. For more than an hour, Good and Wilkerson threw bags with precision and determination. Ultimately, Wilkerson earned the bragging rights.
The secret to success, as Wilkerson put it, “Beer. Practice.”
Near the start of the course, Diane Harmeyer cheered for her husband, Rob, a competitor from Batesville Casket Co. in the 5-Axle Sleeper Berth class. Joining her was Christina Lipps, whose husband, Jeremy, works with Rob, and her daughters, Molly, 13, and Rachel, 10.
The tournament holds a special place for the community, Lipps explained.
“I think it shows younger kids that are in school and maybe want to go to school for this, it shows them the opportunities that are out there,” Lipps said.
FedEx Freight's Karl Wilkerson (left) and Kevin Good play cornhole for a few hours. Wilkerson said the secret to success was beer and practice. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)
“Without something like this, a lot of them wouldn’t, you know, be able to see that,” she added. “But with this competition, they learn so much stuff in there that they’re going to eventually see — they may not have seen it yet — they learn about different equipment that’s out there, different ways to keep these trucks on the road. Keep them going, which is, you know, the whole point is to keep these drivers safe.”
Drivers who advance to nationals in Pittsburgh on Aug. 14-17:
- 3-Axle: Ronald Fivecoat, Old Dominion Freight Line
- 4-Axle: John Griswold, XPO Logistics
- 5-Axle: Charles Hyatt, Holland Freight
- Flatbed: Glen Kirk, Old Dominion Freight Line
- Sleeper Berth: Mike White, Walmart Transportation
- Tank Truck: Dennis Shirar, Walmart Transportation
- Twins: Shannon Lynch, UPS
- Straight Truck: Nick Roberts, UPS
- Step Van: C.T. Bachman, UPS
The Old Dominion Freight Line crew won the overall team trophy.