Nevada’s Gragg Wilson of UPS Named 2023 NTDC Grand Champion
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Best-in-show honors at the 86th annual “Super Bowl of Safety” went to UPS professional driver Gragg Wilson from Nevada.
Competing in the tank truck class, Wilson surpassed a field of 421 drivers Aug. 19 to earn the Bendix Grand Champion trophy at American Trucking Associations’ National Truck Driving Championships and National Step Van Driving Championships.
En route to his blue ribbon performance, Wilson excelled in the event’s driving course, pre-trip vehicle inspection and written exam of industry regulations. In the final round of competition, he edged out a field that included two former national grand champions, multiple state grand champions and a fierce challenge in his tanker division from Walmart’s Jason Imhoff from Ohio.
Wilson, a commercial driver for 37 years, was competing in his 14th national tournament. He arrived on the national stage in 2000 in the 5-axle class. That year, he was recognized with the tournament’s vehicle condition award for best pre-trip inspection. In 2018, he was a member of the Nevada team that won the state category at nationals. He also was the Silver State’s grand champion that year. The following year, he was named the state’s driver of the year.
Who: Winners from nine categories at the state level who have advanced to the national competition, where a Grand Champion will be crowned
What: Contestants are judged on a written exam, pre-trip inspection and driving skills
When: Aug. 16-19
Where: Columbus, Ohio
“First time I make it to the finals, and, wow,” Wilson told the crowd after winning the blue ribbon. “Everyone just continue to do what you’re doing.”
Later he told Transport Topics, “I don’t know how I feel. I’m overwhelmed.” He noted that his key to success was “just doing what I do every day, just going out there and doing what I do.”
“This is my big family,” he added, “and everybody supported me and was very much behind me, and stuff. So it was really cool.”
Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association, celebrated the new national grand champion.
“It’s definitely a great individual accomplishment for Gragg. But for us it’s definitely something to be proud of that we have the grand champ from the Silver State.”
Said ATA President Chris Spear: “Gragg delivered a flawless performance to take home our industry’s top prize and earn the title of grand champion. This accomplishment epitomizes his entire career, with 37 years and more than 2.5 million miles of accident-free driving.”
Put your hands together for Gragg Wilson the #NTDC Grand Champion! (1st out of 418 competitors & the first UPS National Grand Champion!)
He placed 1st in the tanker class before being crowned the Grand Champion at the National Truck Driving Championships.
Gragg is… pic.twitter.com/aS7uwyVQfS — UPS (@UPS) August 21, 2023
ATA’s chairman also lauded the winner’s performance.
“Congratulations to grand champion Gragg and the rest of the 2023 champions,” said Dan Van Alstine, also president and chief operating officer of Ruan Transportation Management Systems. “These drivers devote an enormous amount of time preparing for this competition, and the awards reflect the extraordinary dedication and commitment to safety that they bring to their jobs every day.”
Rick Cates, a lifetime member of NTDC’s organizing committee, said Wilson’s victory helped to elevate the industry’s profile nationwide.
“When the chairman of the NTDC announced UPS driver Gragg Wilson, the roar out of Nevada [team] could be heard around the world. The roar was from his family, friends, fellow competitors and law enforcement officials,” Cates said. “Wilson won the ‘Super Bowl of Safety’ by making the proverbial first downs and touchdowns in the pre-trip [inspection], written test, and skills test to be awarded the crown.
“Everyone roared for Gragg Wilson … We look out for each other, pull for each other, and outclass all other forms of competition.”
Two-time NTDC grand champion Roland Bolduc of @FedEx Express and 2014 winner Jeffrey Langenhahn of @XPOLogistics assess their #driving performance at #NTDC23. @eugenemulero has their accounts. @TRUCKINGdotORG #trucks #trucking #TruckDriver #safety https://t.co/rTSP5kSNVs — Transport Topics (@TransportTopics) August 19, 2023
Other notable winners included FedEx Express’ Roland Bolduc, last year’s grand champion. Representing Connecticut, Bolduc took home the national title in the sleeper berth division.
Reacting to Wilson’s victory, Bolduc said, “In a very difficult competition, Gragg stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. I am so proud and happy for him.”
Members of the Connecticut team display their first-place awards at the NTDC banquet last night in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio Trucking Association CEO Thomas Balzer is at the far left, and NTDC Chairman Rodney Myers is at the far right. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
Bolduc’s Connecticut team won the state category. Drivers from the Constitution State included 5-axle national title winner John Greene with FedEx Freight and team captain Anthony “Tony” Spero with ABF Freight. Spero competed in the tanker truck class.
Alaska’s Jerome De La Cruz with FedEx Express won best-in-show in the step van class.
Arizona’s Ina Daly with XPO was awarded the Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award. A consistent finalist at NTDC over the years, Daly is the only woman to have won a national title. In 2013, she earned the blue ribbon in the tank truck division.
Winning rookie of the year was Wyoming’s Myron Means with Old Dominion Freight Line in the flatbed class. The vehicle condition award for the tournament’s best pre-trip inspection performance went to Tennessee’s Timothy Blair with FedEx Freight, who competed in the 5-axle class.
Meanwhile, at the North American Inspectors Championship held concurrently with NTDC, the Jimmy K. Ammons Grand Champion Award went to Tomasz Krolak with Minnesota State Patrol. The event is hosted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
NTDC 2023 Vehicle Class Winners
3-Axle: 1st place, Barry Kraemer, XPO, Wisconsin. 2nd place, Joseph Hicks, XPO, Rhode Island. 3rd place, Ritch Fundell, FedEx Freight, Illinois.
4-Axle: 1st place, Martin McMahon, RIST Transport, New York. 2nd place, Bruce Quaal, ABF Freight, Minnesota. 3rd place, Adam Heim, FedEx Freight, Idaho.
5-Axle: 1st place, John Greene, FedEx Freight, Connecticut. 2nd place, James Quarles, Walmart Transportation, South Carolina. 3rd place, Michael Martin, Walmart Transportation, Virginia.
Flatbed: 1st place, Daryl Miller, The Cope Co. Salt, Pennsylvania. 2nd place, Ernest Wagers, Old Dominion Freight Line, Kentucky. 3rd place, James Sowder, FedEx Freight, Tennessee.
Sleeper Berth: 1st place, Roland Bolduc, FedEx Express, Connecticut. 2nd place, Chris Moore, Walmart Transportation, Georgia. 3rd place, Tyler Rogers, FedEx Freight, Colorado.
Step Van: 1st place, Jerome De La Cruz, FedEx Express, Alaska. 2nd place, Gregory Long, FedEx Express, Maryland. 3rd place, Alex Lofgren, FedEx Express, Minnesota.
Straight Truck: 1st place, David Coffel, FedEx Express, Arizona. 2nd place, William Colantuone, FedEx Express, Massachusetts. 3rd place, James Kohr, FedEx Express, New York.
Tank Truck: 1st place, Gragg Wilson, UPS, Nevada. 2nd place, Jason Imhoff, Walmart Transportation, Ohio. 3rd place, Timothy Vogt, XPO, Georgia.
Twins: 1st place, Robert Fair, FedEx Freight, New Hampshire. 2nd place, Jeffrey Langenhahn, XPO, Wisconsin. 3rd place, Michael Flippin, FedEx Freight, Colorado.
NTDC 2023 Awards
Bendix Grand Champion: Gragg Wilson, UPS, Nevada.
Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award: Ina Daly, XPO, Arizona.
Rookie of the Year: Myron Means, Old Dominion Freight Line, Flatbed, Wyoming.
Highest Written Exam (Four-way tie): Michael Bills, FedEx Express, North Carolina; David Comings, FedEx Freight, North Dakota; David Mogler, FedEx Freight, Colorado; Michael Flippin, FedEx Freight, Colorado.
Vehicle Condition: Timothy Blair, FedEx Freight, 5-Axle, Tennessee.
Lifetime Volunteer: Bill Graham
Meanwhile, at the North American Inspectors Championship held concurrently with NTDC, the Jimmy K. Ammons Grand Champion Award went to Tomasz Krolak with Minnesota State Patrol. The event is held by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.
Congratulations to this year's North American Inspectors Championship Jimmy K. Ammons Grand Champion winner Tomasz Krolak with Minnesota State Patrol. @MnDPS_MSP #2023NAIC pic.twitter.com/8Z7gNdEEgC — CVSA (@CVSA) August 20, 2023
2023 NAIC Awards
Jimmy K. Ammons Grand Champion: Tomasz Krolak, Minnesota
High Points U.S.: Tomasz Krolak , Minnesota
Sean McAlister High Points Canada: Ken Clarke, Ontario
North American Standard Level I Inspection: Christopher Vinson, Local Member
North American Standard Hazardous Materials/Dangerous Goods and Cargo Tank/Bulk Packagings Inspection: 1, Tomasz Krolak, Minnesota
North American Standard Level V Passenger Carrier Vehicle Inspection: Tomasz Krolak, Minnesota
John Youngblood Award of Excellence: Shane Northrup, Maine
Team Award – Orange Team: Aron Smith, Arizona; Benjamin Minick, California; Christopher Vinson, Local Member; William Hughes, Louisiana; Tomasz Krolak, Minnesota; Reynaldo Pierluisse, Pennsylvania; Roman Martinez , Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; Davyd Mortensen, Wyoming
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