Joseph Hicks of XPO Logistics, the rookie of the year at the National Truck Driving Championships in 2010, is ready to turn heads at the national contest this year after earning the Rhode Island Grand Champion title.
To go the distance at nationals this summer, it’ll take hard work and dedication, he emphasized. Hicks has earned top honors at states four times.
“If you’re prepared and you’re good. And that’s all you need,” Hicks, a 13-year driver with XPO, told Transport Topics last month. “It’s just my opinion.”
Aside from hard work, Hicks has a secret weapon in his corner ensuring he clocks in long hours of practice. His wife, Barbara, helps him train, intensifying the practices on the weeks leading up to the national competition. The couple, together for more than two decades, spends weekends repeating drills and studying safety rules. She became hooked on truck safety methodology when Joseph entered the profession 16 years ago.
“She’ll set stuff up. She’ll measure stuff. She’ll be like the state trooper on the pre-trip,” Hicks explained. “It’s actually pretty funny. She gets really involved in it.”
Her enthusiasm for nationals is such that Hicks is convinced Barbara could compete in the tournament if she could take on the course. The competition entails a driving challenge, a written test and a pre-trip safety inspection.
“Except for driving the truck, she would definitely probably pass the pre-trip and the test,” Hicks said.
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
The 3-axle is where Hicks will look to shine. He was national rookie of the year while competing in 3-axle, and he’s won the class multiple times at states. This national competition will be his sixth, and he acknowledges the 3-axle class is his comfort zone. The specialization, he said, could earn him a title beyond states. But for that to happen, Hicks acknowledged, he’ll work on the pre-trip portion of the tournament. Poor performances in the pre-trip previous years have cost him.
“Whenever you get to the nationals, there always seems to be a curveball that throws me off a little bit. Like either the equipment, it’ll be something … that we don’t really see,” Hicks said. “It’s thrown me off a few times.”
The state association hosted its championships May 12.
“We’re extremely proud of the quality of our competition and the group of drivers we send to the nationals. This year’s Grand Champion, Joe Hicks, just won his fourth [Rhode Island] championship and is a former National [Truck Driving Championships] rookie of the year. We pack quite a punch for the ‘smallest’ state,” Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell told TT on May 21.
Also punching their tickets to nationals from Rhode Island were Ryan Gagnon of Consumers Propane in the Straight Truck class, Eric Cornell of A. Duie Pyle in the 4-axle, Karen Tierney of FedEx Express in the 5-axle, Robert Burdett of FedEx Freight in Twins and David Lumpkin of FedEx Express in Step Van.
The national competition will be held in Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 15-18.