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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — In 2018, Wilbert Vano’s family said that to train for truck driving competitions that year, Vano had been waking up at 6 a.m. on most weekends.
The dedication associated with those early morning practices paid off, as Vano took home second place in the twins division at that year’s National Truck Driving Championships.
Fast forward four years, and Vano, who finished first in every category at New Jersey’s truck safety tournament June 5, told Transport Topics his Sunday wake-up time was moved to 5:30 a.m.
Awards table at the New Jersey Truck Driving Championships in Atlantic City. (Eugene Mulero/Transport Topics)
“From 5:30 a.m. every Sunday to probably around 10 a.m. every Sunday — every Sunday,” as he put it.
The professional driver with XPO Logistics is counting on that extra 30 minutes to help get him atop the podium at this year’s national tournament. He explained state level tournaments are challenging, but participating at nationals is another thing entirely.
“Nationals is a totally different animal now because you’ll be competing with the best of the best,” Vano told TT at the state tournament’s reception. “Just have to come with pretty much my A-game, and see where I’ll come up, and stay humble.”
Vano, competing in the 3-axle class, was named this year’s New Jersey grand champion at a tournament held at Harrah’s Resort. He said he devoured the requisite book on trucking guidelines (a written exam is among the three pillars of both a state’s qualifier and the national tournament), to prepare for competition. He also trained extensively for the pre-trip inspection portion of the contest, as well as the safe-driving component.
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 examination and driving skills
When: Aug. 16-19
His strategy for excelling at the driving course, which was set up at the side of the Harrah’s compound, overlooking the Borgata hotel and casino: “Take my time. Concentrate. Focus on every problem. Meanwhile, you have to think ahead of you, what’s coming.”
Vano insists he’s not thinking of accolades en route to nationals. He also is keeping his expectations low.
“I won’t celebrate because I still got a big game coming up,” he said, “and maybe if I win that one, that’s when I’d probably celebrate because right now the game isn’t over yet.”
Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, has seen local drivers put on solid performances at nationals. In 2018, New Jersey’s Artur Lesniowski, with FedEx Ground, won the sleeper berth class.
At the tournament’s reception, Toth offered a direct message for Vano.
“Wilbert, do not come back to New Jersey if you don’t win one of those trophies,” she said jokingly.
Other New Jerseyans punching their tickets to nationals:
• Ed Conrad, FedEx Express, straight truck
• Doug Simonelli, A. Duie Pyle, 4-axle
• Carlos Chavarriaga, UPS, 5-axle
• Leszek Beben, FedEx Freight, sleeper berth
• Luis Agudelo, FedEx Freight, tank truck
• Dominick Vanacore, UPS, flatbed
• Remedios Camacho, FedEx Freight, twin trailers
• John Ogundele, UPS, step van
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