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PITTSBURGH — Finalists encountered a creative, fast-paced course during the last competitive event of the National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships.
Some 45 drivers competed in the finals, which kicked off the morning of Aug. 17. The finals course presented six obstacles, or “problems.”
Several of the problems demanded quick maneuvering and well-judged turns, such as the jump pads, which required the drivers to navigate their steer tires over two staggered strips of tape; and the radius, a curved line of marks the driver had to round. The turning jump pads, located on one corner of the course, challenged a driver to execute a turn while guiding his or her front and rear tires over designated marks.
Drivers also had to complete an alley stop, where they lined up a strip of tape on their trailer with a scoring zone on a mock alleyway; and a single lane pit, which forced drivers to move along a slanted channel and avoid running over a row of tennis balls.
The final problem was a rear scale stop, where drivers had to stop evenly over a small mat.
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
Several drivers, including rookie John Sanderson, an Oregon-based FedEx Express driver participating in the 3-Axle class, and Ina Daly, an XPO Logistics driver from Arizona competing in the 5-Axle division, identified the alley stop as the hardest problem. The problem is challenging to judge because it’s difficult to see the side of the trailer opposite the driver (which was the side on which the tape was placed.)
“Problem No. 2 [was] probably hardest because it’s blind on the gauge,” said Jason Imhoff, a Walmart Transportation driver from Ohio who was participating in the Straight Truck class. “We’ll see what happens.”
Ohio’s Scott Woodrome of FedEx Freight, who won Grand Champion at NTDC in 2018, said the course was challenging, but not as tough as last year’s finals course. He said the course presented a “lot to think about” because of all the necessary steering and turning.
Krol by Marissa Gamache/Transport Topics
Alphonso Lewis, a YRC Freight driver from Alabama competing in the 5-Axle class, noted the course was tricky because many of the obstacles required navigating at an angle. Martin-Brower’s Bryan Krol of Pennsylvania, who also competed in the 5-Axle class, said the course felt tight but smooth.
“I feel like there were easier things to hit this year,” Krol said. “Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I hit them.”
The event was prolonged by a run-off tie-breaker in the Sleeper Berth class, which pitted Southeastern Freight Lines’ Luke Yoakum of Georgia against Walmart Transportation’s Michael Barnes of Virginia. Both men were surprised to learn they’d be revisiting the course.
Barnes by Marissa Gamache/Transport Topics
“I thought they were just fooling with me,” Barnes said. “I didn’t think they were serious.”
Yoakum noted it was harder the second time because he didn’t know what was on the line (he and Barnes weren’t told what place they were tied for.) Barnes said he appreciated the second shot at the course because he knew what to expect.
The championship ceremony runs from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. for both NTDC/NSVDC and the North American Inspectors Championship. Watch TTNews.com for coverage of the winners in the evening.
Finalists from all nine truck classifications:
Paul Swan, FedEx Freight (Colorado)
Jeffrey Slaten, YRC Freight (Florida)
Ritch Fundell, FedEx Freight (Illinois)
Brian Walker, UPS Freight (North Carolina)
John Sanderson, FedEx Express (Oregon)
Jottyn Santos, FedEx Express (Florida)
Adam Heim, FedEx Freight (Idaho)
David Rohman, FedEx Express (North Carolina)
James Plaxco, Old Dominion Freight Line (Oregon)
Walter Ebinger, YRC Freight (Virginia)
Alphonso Lewis, YRC Freight (Alabama)
Ina Daly, XPO Logistics (Arizona)
David Hall, ABF Freight (Arkansas)
Steven Johnson, XPO Logistics (North Dakota)
Bryan Krol, Martin-Brower (Pennsylvania)
Scott Osborne, FedEx Freight (Mississippi)
Scott Fischer, Prime Inc. (Missouri)
Eric Flick, FedEx Freight (Nevada)
Basher Pierce, FedEx Freight (North Carolina)
Robert Lilly, FedEx Freight (Virginia)
George Wells, Shamrock Foods Company (Arizona)
Cecil Hicks, FedEx Freight (North Carolina)
Paul Brandon, FedEx Freight (Connecticut)
Edward Pennington, FedEx Freight (Florida)
George Foster, Casey’s General Stores (Iowa)
Mark Knight, AAA Cooper Transportation (Alabama)
David Mogler, FedEx Freight (Colorado)
Donald Lynch, UPS (Indiana)
Scott Woodrome, FedEx Freight (Ohio)
James Belcher, UPS Freight (South Carolina)
Gregory Ryan, Walmart Transportation (Arizona)
Luke Yoakum, Southeastern Freight Lines (Georgia)
Charles White, Walmart Transportation (Indiana)
Terry Wood, Walmart Transportation (Pennsylvania)
Michael Barnes, Walmart Transportation (Virginia)
Matthew Hart, FedEx Freight (Nevada)
Neil Nogues, YRC Freight (New Hampshire)
James Kohr, FedEx Express (New York)
Jason Imhoff, Walmart Transportation (Ohio)
Robert Dolan, XPO Logistics (Pennsylvania)
Eric Damon, FedEx Express (Colorado)
Robert Ledoux, FedEx Express (Massachusetts)
Adam Stroup, FedEx Express (Nebraska)
James Sheehan, FedEx Ground (Tennessee)
Gregory Long, FedEx Express (Virginia)