While he struggled in some skill areas, he still scored in every one. “I wanted to score in everything,” he says. “If you score in everything, you have a chance, and toward the end I started feeling real good.”
Herbert’s road to overall national champion was not a short, easy one. He’s been to Illinois state championships nine times and in the nationals five times: “’98, ’99, ’01, ’02, and this year, which is the first year I’ve won here,” he says. But he says it’s worth it. “I come here for the camaraderie and the competition.” But competing has also made him a better driver. “It helps us know where every point of the vehicle is,” he says. “For example, on the street you know when you’re going to jump a curb. It also helps me better understand what I can and can’t do, stay within my limits. I can tell a dispatcher whether it can or can’t be done.”
Herbert says he’ll be back next year, “either as a contestant or a judge.”
But right now? “What am I going to do tonight?” he says. “Take a shower.”
Competitions, Categories and Champions
All contestants participated in:
- A 40-question written examination covering general trucking knowledge, safe driving rules, security, first aid and fire fighting: 80 possible points.
- A personal interview covering professionalism and attitude toward the trucking industry, management and enforcement agencies: 60 possible points.
- A pre-trip inspection: 60 possible points
- A field-course skills test covering braking, parking, backing, stopping and maneuvering through tight spots: 300 possible points
The following drivers are national champions in their respective categories:
Four Axle: Rick Herbert, Villa Park, Ill., Yellow Transportation*
Five Axle: Ryland Hogan, Stuart’s Draft, Va., Wilson Transportation
Sleeper: Larry Warr, LaGrange, Ga., Wal-Mart Transportation
Tanker: Michael Lomastro, Lake Worth, Fla., Publix Supermarkets
Three Axle: Brent Darnold, Parkersburg, W.V., Linde Gas
Twins: Darrel Kimbrell, Bessemer, Ala., FedEx Freight
Flatbed: Mark Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., Con-Way Southern Express
Straight Truck: Robert Dolan,
Catasauqua, Pa., Con-Way Central Express
* National Grand Champion
Diary of a Changing Life
When Phillip Wilson decided to totally change his life, he kept a record of all the changes he went through.
In his book Driver: Six Weeks in an Eighteen Wheeler, Wilson chronicles his transformation from executive to a licensed over-the-road driver in six weeks. After quitting his job as a merchandise coordinator at a defunct department store, Wilson decided to see the world by way of big rig and saddled up with his trainer to do it.
Although Wilson had daily contact with drivers at his job at a distribution center in Houston, trucking seemed a distant choice for employment.
“It sounded interesting, but in a faraway manner,” Wilson says.
It wasn’t until his last interview for a major corporation that Wilson decided to leave cubicle life and hit the pavement.
“I was up to my eyeballs in this corporate business and canned responses, and I wanted to do something different,” he says.
So at 54 years old, Wilson, from Texas City, Texas, began the training process to become an OTR driver. He kept a daily journal of his training, which his trainer lovingly called his “memoirs.”
“We didn’t always think the same things were funny,” Wilson says. “I stayed generally amused because it was all new to me.”