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AAA’s Knight finally takes the big prize at Alabama TDC

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

TDC Champ Mark Knight (center) stands with ATA Chairman of the Board Terry Kilpatrick (left) and ATA Safety Council Chairman Tony Smith.

Mark Knight a line-haul driver for AAA Cooper Transportation based in Moody, Ala., finally lifted the Alabama Trucking Association’s Truck Driving Championships’ Grand Champion trophy with a remarkable 387.5 combined score. The event was held June 1 near Birmingham with nearly 100 drivers competing. The Grand Champion’s Trophy is sponsored by Southland International Truck & Trailers/Idealease.

Knight and the other Alabama-based truck drivers from more than a dozen trucking firms, competed at the annual event, produced by the Association’s Safety & Maintenance Management Council (SMMC), a subgroup of the Alabama Trucking Association (ATA) composed of fleet safety managers and fleet vehicle maintenance supervisors.

ATA’s competition tests skill, safety and expertise, serving as a qualifier for the American Trucking Association’s National Truck & Step Van Competition held later this summer in Columbus, Ohio. All drivers in this competition have been incident free for the past year — a main requirement to compete.

2018 Alabama Truck Driving Championships Highlight Reel from Alabama Trucking Association on Vimeo.

More to see from Alabama TDC:

  • Final scores and standings, click here.
  • Event photos for download, click here.

Competitors are scored on a written exam covering driver safety and industry best practices; a pre-trip vehicle defect inspection; and a vehicle obstacle course, where contestants navigate a truck and trailer through a series of six obstacles. At the end of the competition, contestants’ cumulative scores are ranked, and winners from nine categories are announced at an awards dinner that evening. The three highest scorers from each class receive trophies and prizes, and special awards also given for the event’s top rookie and highest score for the pre-trip (or vehicle defects) inspection.

Knight, a 27-year veteran driver, with more than a decade’s worth of appearances at the state and national competitions, handily won the 5-axle Class and edged out 4-axle Class winner and defending Grand Champ Charlie Salter by nearly 20 points to take the grand prize.

For more than a decade, Knight has dominated the Alabama TDC, winning every category at least once, but the Grand Champion title eluded him. On this day, he wouldn’t be denied, scoring nearly perfect on the skills course. Tim Frazier, ATA Director of Safety and head organizer of the event, says he has at least one or two competitors a year call the to ask which class Knight is entering so they can choose another. “His dominance is pretty well known around here,” he jokes. “Actually, there 2-3 other regular competitors who have similar reputations. We always take a strong team to nationals.”

Other drivers joining Knight and Salter on the team heading to Columbus are Step Van Class winner Robert Moore of FedEx Freight; Tank Truck Class winner Kenneth Lockhart of FedEx Freight; Sleeper Berth Class winner Russell Cottingham of FedEx Freight; Twin Trailer Class winner Dan Thompson of FedEx Freight; Flatbed Class winner Thomas “Ross” Garner of FedEx Freight; Three Axle Class winner Alphonso Lewis of YRC Freight; and Straight Truck Class winner David Hawk of FedEx Freight (Hawk also scored the highest on the pre-trip contest).

Other individual honors were given to Rookie of the Year Rookie David Deason of FedEx Freight and Ladies SUV Challenge Champion Angela Gardner of TCW (The SUV Challenge is open to wives and/or significant others of TDC contestants. SUVs run the exact same course as the truck competition).

ATA’s Frazier says the event keeps getting bigger and better through the support of sponsors and SMMC members. “Our safety council and the TDC committee do an outstanding job executing this event. As usual we had incredible sponsorship support this year. And I think the quality of our event is a result of that support. I not sure I can fully express how grateful we are for all the volunteers and sponsors. Without them, we couldn’t pull off an event of this magnitude — and I can tell you the drivers really appreciate the effort.”

Winners now prepare to take their skills to the next level. ATA’s teams have had success before, but it’s not easy to win at Nationals. According to Frazier, it’s a much bigger stage, with more competitors (usually 50 drivers per class), more distractions, and a lot more on the line.

“We’ve had a few class winners through the years, and even one Grand Champion in Al Lewis of YRC, who is making a return trip this year. With a veteran team going to nationals this time around, I have confidence our guys will do very well.”

The 2018 ATA National Truck Driving Championships & National Step Van Driving Championships are set for August 15-18, 2018 at the Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, Ohio. More than 430 of best-of-the-best professional drivers will compete. For more information, visit www.trucking.org.

2018 Alabama TDC Sponsors

Contestant Shirt + Cap Sponsor ($2,400)
Birmingham Freightliner

Grand Champion Trophy ($1,500)
Southland International Trucks & Trailers/Idealease

Banquet Dinner ($1,000)
AAA Cooper Transportation
Church Transportation & Logistics, Inc.
Dolphin Line, Inc.
JJ Keller & Associates
J&M Tank Lines

Obstacle Course Sponsors ($500)
BR Williams Trucking
Church Transportation & Logistics
Dolphin Line, Inc.
Publix Super Markets
RangeWay Carriers, LLC
Wal-Mart Transportation, LLC

Judges Lunch Sponsor ($500)
Shoreline Transportation

Gold Sponsors ($400)
AAA Cooper Transportation
Billy Barnes Enterprises
Burr & Forman
Dolphin Line, Inc.
Great Dane Trailers
Greenbush Logistics
Metals USA
Nextran Truck Center
P&S Transportation
Truckworx
Wright Transportation

Silver Sponsors ($300)
Explore Information Services – Supervision
Lytx
Simpson’s Collision Repair
Star Truck Parts
Thermo King
Ward International Trucks

Bronze Sponsors ($200)
JP Transportation Safety Consulting
ErgoScience