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Truck Driving Olympics: One Driver to Rule Them All

Sure, the National Truck Driving Championships may not have the TV ratings of swimming or gymnastics. But that doesn’t mean the “Truck Driving Olympics” aren’t just as big a deal to our nation’s truckers, guys who are right at home at rest stops and eat pavement for breakfast.

Only the best of the best drivers from each state earn a spot at the annual event, where they’ll get a chance to prove their skills and knowledge. The NTDC (National Truck Driving Championship) goes way back, all the way to 1937. It’s been held annually ever since, drawing in talent from all over the US. Canada has their own competition as well.

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The requirements for entry include being employed with a fleet and a clean driving record for at least a year prior to the event. That mailbox we hit back in April held us out of this year’s competition, unfortunately. I guess that’s what we get for trying to dip chicken nuggets while driving.

There are nine different classes for drivers to choose from, ranging from tankers to step-vans. After a champion emerges from each group, they’re pitted against each other in some kind of sick, vehicular Royal Rumble. The last man standing is named National Grand Champion.

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This is insane!

During the competition itself, drivers are tested and pushed to their limits in three different areas. There’s a written examination worth up to 80 points, quizzing hopefuls on the various aspects and safety standards of the trade. Then the pre-trip inspection, that tests their ability to check for and find potential hazards before takeoff. A strong routine and attention to detail can net them another 100 points here.

But the driving test is what it’s really all about. Many of us can’t even parallel park a sedan comfortably without multiple attempts and numerous corrections. So just imagine the kind of skill necessary to pull it off perfectly with a massive 18-wheeler. And on the first try.

Other tasks include things like maneuvering through tightly placed cones, where there’s little margin for error, and stopping as close to some small, random object as possible. A true professional can earn up to 300 points for the skills test, making it by far the most important part of the competition.

Winners from each class get $1,000 bucks, a trophy, and bragging rights in the form of a fancy gold belt buckle.

Before You Get Started

Not so fast. Before you get started you might want to check out some must-see truck driver exercises. As told by what must be the best looking truck driver I’ve ever seen.

Sound Easy?

For most of us, probably not. But just in case you’re not convinced, let’s take a look at a typical winner. Paul Brandon, a Fedex driver who took home the gold in this year’s flatbed division, has been behind the wheel of big rigs for 34 years. That’s longer than some of us have even been alive.

He’s driven over 1 million miles without a single accident. Imagine glancing at your odometer and seeing seven figures staring back you. That is a LOT of driving. And without so much as a fender bender.

Even with all that experience, Brandon had to practice and study obsessively in preparation for the big event. That’s what it took to separate himself from the pack of 400+ other drivers – representing 84 different companies – competing for the same prize.

Besides how hard it is, we should all be congratulating these drivers for another reason. The National Truck Driving Championships and their focus on proper safety are creating safer drivers. Every minute they spend training makes them a little less likely to cause an accident on our roads and highways.

When you’re dealing with such powerful machinery and high speeds, rewarding safe practices is definitely a good idea in my book.

Safety First

This year’s championships took place at Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center in front of a couple thousand fans and family members. And even though they just ended, we’re already looking forward to next year! A big thanks to the American Trucking Association, and of course, the drivers for making it all possible.

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There are nine different classes for drivers to choose from, ranging from tankers to step-vans. After a champion emerges from each group, they’re pitted against each other in so