High-Flying Hawk Wins Alabama TDC
David Hawk, a FedEx Freight truck driver from Gardendale, Ala., posted the overall highest combined score to earn the Grand Champion Award at the Alabama Trucking Association’s Truck Driving Championships held in Pelham, Ala., Friday, May 31, at the Pelham Civic Complex.
The Alabama TDC Grand Champion Award is sponsored by Southland Transportation Group.
Mr. Hawk, who easily won the 3-axle class, outscored 95 other Alabama-based truck drivers from more than a dozen trucking firms competing at the annual event, which is produced by ATA’s Safety & Maintenance Management Council (SMMC), a subgroup of the Association composed of fleet safety managers and fleet vehicle maintenance supervisors.
The 52-year-old truck driver has more than 34 years of professional driving experience with nearly 2 million safe miles. He currently drives for FedEx’s terminal in Bessemer, Ala.
This year’s course raised a few eyebrows from veteran TDC competitors for its tighter layout and reverse orientation from previous years, flowing from top to bottom (or turning left instead of the usual right). TDC officials said the changes were a nod to the National Competition’s course layout, which is usually held at indoor facilities with smaller floor plans.
Last year’s Grand Champ, and nine-time Alabama TDC class winner, Mark Knight of AAA Cooper Transportation said it was the toughest course he’s seen since the contest moved to Pelham several years ago.
“That was a really difficult course,” he said as he walked to the podium to accept his first-place plaque for the Twins Class. “I wasn’t very confident about this winning this one. It was just so tight out there. It was so hard to line the truck up.”
ATA’s annual driver competition showcases professional truck drivers’ skill and commitment to workplace and highway safety, but it also serves as a qualifier for the American Trucking Associations’ National Truck Driving & Step Van Driving Championships scheduled for later this summer in Pittsburgh, Pa.
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 obstacle stations.
At the end of the competition, contestants’ cumulative scores are ranked, and winners from nine categories are announced at an awards dinner later that evening. The three highest scorers from each class receive plaques and prizes, and special awards are given to the event’s top rookie and highest scorer for the vehicle defects inspection.
Other class winners with Mr. Hawk were 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); Alphonso Lewis of YRC Freight (5-axle Class).
Meanwhile, Philip Arthur of AAA Cooper Transportation posted the highest score in the Vehicle Defects portion of the contest, and Gregg Luther of AAA Cooper Transportation earned the award for the highest scoring Rookie.
To qualify for the state competition, contestants must be employed by an ATA member company and have had no accidents for the previous 12 months. Some competitors are handpicked by their supervisors for overall experience, skill and work ethic, while others win company competitions.
SMMC officials said this year’s event attracted more drivers than more recent years, but spectators and attendance numbers for the awards ceremony have grown tremendously. Officials said the event this year drew about 500 spectators, contestants, volunteers and officials, and the awards dinner banquet drew nearly 350 guests — a near capacity crowd and an event attendance record.
“Our event keeps getting better and more polished,” said ATA Director of Safety & Member Services Tim Frazier. “Our safety council and the TDC committee do an outstanding job planning and executing this event. We received incredible sponsorship support this year – more than we have in a long time. I think that’s a testament to the quality of the event.
“We are grateful for all the volunteers and sponsors. Without their support, we couldn’t pull off an event of this magnitude – and the drivers really appreciate the effort.”
Winners will now turn their sights to the 2019 National Truck Driving & Step Van Driving Championships set for August 14-17 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Through the years, Alabama’s team has enjoyed several class winners at Nationals and even one Grand Champion – YRC’s Al Lewis in 2007. “We’ve had a good amount of success at Nationals before, but it’s not easy to win there,” Frazier said. “Each one of our class members has been to Nationals at least once, so we are bringing a very talented group. I know they will be ready.”