HARRISBURG, Pa. — Terry Wood, the Walmart driver who was recently crowned Pennsylvania’s truck driving champion, said the secret to success can be distilled into two basic habits — study and practice.
Wood became a first-time grand champion at the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association’s truck driving rodeo, which was held June 9 at the FedEx Ship Center 10 miles east of Harrisburg. He placed first in the sleeper berth category. This was his third time competing in PMTA’s truck driving championship.
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level advance to the national competition, with a grand champion crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written examination and their driving skills
When: Aug. 15-18
Where: Columbus, Ohio
Wood, who has been driving a truck for 34 years, said the greatest tricks to safe driving are simply spending time on the road and practicing good habits.
“Study. Practice. The more you do it, the better you get,” Wood told Transport Topics. “It just takes time. If you don’t put the time in, you don’t learn any tricks.”
Wood’s dispatches take him across the Northeast, from Ohio to Virginia to Maine. Like many drivers, he learned about the world of trucking through a family member. His father, Cleon, drove a truck, and served as Wood’s inspiration for entering the trucking industry.
“My dad did it,” Wood said. “[That’s] probably the reason why I got into it.”
Cleon Wood attended the ceremony with his son. The elder Wood was very proud of Terry and said he hoped he brought his son good luck.
Drivers competed in the following categories: 3-axle, 4-axle, 5-axle, flatbed, sleeper, step van, straight truck, tank truck and twins. Winners from the nine categories at the state level advance to the national competition. The state’s grand champion is crowned from those nine winners. The National Truck Driving Championship will be held Aug. 15-18 in Columbus, Ohio.
Eight other first-place victors will be joining Wood at the national tournament:
• 3-axle: Steve Allison of Walmart.
• 4-axle: Matthew Fletcher of Martin Brower.
• 5-axle: Bryan Krol of Martin Brower.
• Flatbed: Troy Wolf of A&S Kinard.
• Step Van: Chad Keefer of FedEx Ground.
• Straight Truck: Robert Dolan of XPO Logistics.
• Tank Truck: Brian Smeltzer of RH Crawford Inc.
• Twins: Croydon Ostriche of UPS Freight.
“All the drivers here deserve this,” Wood said during his acceptance speech. “We do this all year long. We practice.”
Contestants were evaluated through a written test, a pre-trip examination and a driving course. The driving course consisted of six exercises, or “problems.” A couple of the drills tested skills in maneuvering the vehicle, such as turning before a ring of cones without touching the cones and moving around a rubber duck without touching the duck.
Other exercises tested parking and stopping skills. These exercises took the form of a strip of tape along which trucks had to evenly park, a dummy weigh station that trucks had to park squarely on top of, a bull’s-eye that trucks had to park directly over and a makeshift loading dock that drivers had to back into.
Wood said the bull’s-eye, which cost him his only zero score, was the most difficult. Krol, the 5-axle winner, agreed that the bull’s-eye was tough. He also said the dock “gets [him] every now and then.” This was Krol’s third year participating in PMTA’s championship and his third year claiming an award. He placed second in his class last year and won rookie of the year two years ago.
Martin Brower, the company for which Krol drives, won the award for best small team, which applies to teams with three or four members. The company had three drivers competing in the championships.
Krol said his dispatches, which take him throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, usually keep him within 400 miles of home. He said this is a good thing because he has twin toddlers and a 5-month-old waiting for him when he gets back.
“We’re pretty local,” Krol told Transport Topics. “We’re home every day.”
Old Dominion Freight won the award for best large team, which considers teams with five or more people.
The event also recognized the drivers with the best pre-trip inspection and the best score on the written test, as well as rookie of the year.
Straight truck winner Dolan won the prize for best pre-trip inspection. Ron Emenheiser of Walmart placed second in 4-axle and won the award for best score on the written test with a perfect score. Andy Glock, a driver for A. Duie Pyle, placed second in the 3-axle category and won the rookie of the year award.
“Practice daily. Make sure everything around you is safe,” Dolan, who has been driving a truck for nearly 40 years, told TT. “Always watch out for the other guy down the road. Drive defensively.”