Sunday, August 11, 2019

Alabama’s best drivers head to Pittsburgh for national competition

This week, the Alabama Trucking Association takes its safest professional drivers to the American Trucking Associations’ National Step Van Driving and Truck Driving Championships, set for August 14-17 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

More than 425 Professional truck drivers from all 50 states will compete in nine vehicle classes, with one driver taking home the overall title of 2019 National Truck Driving Championships Bendix Grand Champion.

To qualify, drivers must maintain a year of accident-free driving and win a vehicle class at state-level truck driving competitions. Like Alabama’s competition, the National competition consists of a written examination that tests drivers’ knowledge of trucking facts, rules, statistics and safety protocols; a pre-trip inspection that tests drivers’ ability to identify defects on the vehicle; and a challenging driving course that assesses precision and strategy.

Alabama TDC 2019 Grand Champion David Hawk, a driver for FedEx Freight from Gardendale, Ala., spearheads a veteran team that includes several former National TDC competitors from fleets such as AAA Cooper Transportation, UPS Freight. FedEx Freight and YRC Freight.

Making his seventh trip to Nationals is the 2007 National TDC Grand Champ Alphonso Lewis of YRC Freight, who participates this year as a 5-axle class competitor.

Lewis, Alabama’s first and only National TDC Grand Champion, says he still vividly remembers his winning skills course run more than a decade ago. That day he scored 270 points, which tied for the highest score on the course that year, but his results in the pre-trip and written tests put him over the top that year.

However, he warns that even as a former champ, he can’t get too complacent because the competition gets better every year. “When you go to the nationals you can’t let your head get blown up because when you get there everybody you’re competing against are national champions, grand champions,” he says. “Every one of these guys is on the same level you are, so you have to practice harder, study more, have a good pre-trip. You’ve just got to step it up.”

ATA Director of Safety & Member Services Tim Frazier agrees. “I have seen some of our guys in years past absolutely destroy the competition at the state championships, then go to Nationals and just lay an egg,” he says. “It’s just so much more difficult. There are more competitors and more distractions.”

He adds that all but one of his drivers going to Pittsburgh has competed at Nationals before, so they’re ready to bring back some hardware.

“There’s no question we are bringing one of our more experienced teams this year,” Frazier said. “I am pretty confident that the guys will represent us well.”

The rest of the team headed to Nationals, includes Robert Moore of FedEx Freight (Step Van Class); Kenneth Lockhart, FedEx Freight (Tanker Class); Rodney Cosper of UPS Freight (Flatbed Class); Mark Knight of AAA Cooper Transportation (Twins Class); Charlie Salter of FedEx Freight (4-axle Class); William Brandon, FedEx Freight (Straight Class); and Gary Nuckolls of AAA Cooper Transportation (Sleeper Berth Class).

According to ATA President & CEO Mark Colson, the true focus of this event is to showcase the industry’s most valuable resource: the professional truck driver.

“Our A-Team of professional drivers heading to the National TDC represents the best-of-the-best in Alabama’s trucking industry,” Colson says. “Professional truck drivers are the backbone of our industry, and I am proud of their dedication to professionalism and safety. I wish them all the best as they head to Pittsburgh to represent the great state of Alabama.”