Raymond M. Simon of Minnesota, a driver for Yellow Freight System, Inc., was named grand national champion at this year’s ATA National Truck Driving Championships held in Minneapolis.
Competing in the four-axle class, Simon bested competitors in nine skills tests, a written examination, a pretrip and an interview. The four-day competition ended with an awards banquet Aug. 25 during which competitors and winners in all classes of vehicles were honored.
Simon is also the 1992 and 1997 grand champion. “After the first years the crowd did not bother me,” Simon said. “I try to stay focused on one thing: doing the best I can. I really did not compete to win but to do my best.”
Although this year’s competition permitted only first-time participants who were nonmembers to compete, along with a “wild card” entrant from each state, there were nearly as many entrants as in previous years.
More than 350 contestants made the trip to Minneapolis to try their skill and luck. Contestant Jerry Abbott, the Georgia state champ in the five-axle class, said the competition was fierce but even. “At this level, anybody can beat anyone else on a given day,” Abbott said.
Parallel parking requires contestants to finish the problem jackknifed with their left-side wheels parallel to the curb, without touching it or the rear dock.
Watching the competition, spectators soon realized that the high level of skill necessary to have come that far was obvious in the performances of all contestants. The minuscule differences in performance, scored in inches and sometimes in fractions of an inch, demonstrated just how much adrenaline, mental discipline and emotional self-control must be maintained to produce results.
Al Wock, a Watkins and Shepard driver and Montana state champ in the five-axle class, competed for the first time this year. “The competition was a competition against myself.”
Wock has been a driver for 18 years but said performing before a gallery of spectators, peers and trucking officials can cause emotions to well. The competition attracts many drivers from an industry in which most skills are developed and used without spectators.
Contestants expressed enthusiasm for the long and arduous process of winning at company and state levels. Since 1937 the National Truck Driving Championships, sponsored by the American Trucking Associations, have showcased the expertise of the entire industry.
Bill Wang, an owner-operator for Anderson Truck Service and five-axle state champ from Minnesota, believes the final result of this competition means that competitors take the idea of safety and better skills back to their jobs.
2001 national champions
Mike S. Hanson, Sysco Food Services, Minnesota, flatbed; David G. McDonald, Roadway Express, Kansas, twins; Gerald W. Cudmore, Yellow Freight System, South Dakota, three-axle; Norman Melanson, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Virginia, tank truck; Daniel T. Poole, The Boeing Company, Washington, straight truck; Ricky D. Pledger, Wal-Mart, Inc., Texas, sleeper berth; Joseph E. Obregon, Ruan Transportation Management Systems, Georgia, five-axle; Steve J. Davey, Region 01, Hadley Auto Transport, auto transport.