46 Walmart Drivers Compete at the 2023 National Truck Driving Championships

Supply Chain

Meet the competitors at the top of their class in skills and safety.    

When was the last time you were so nervous that you felt your heartbeat in your eyeballs?

For Walmart driver Michael Martin, it was during his first National Truck Driving Championships (NTDC). “I told the fellow sitting next to me that I can feel my heartbeat in my eyeballs! I was nervous!”

It’s no surprise that Michael was nervous, given the level of competition at what some call the Olympics of truck driving. To qualify, each of the 426 drivers won first place in their state truck driving championship in one of nine classes, including 4-axle, 5-axle, tank, sleeper and flatbed.

Contestants must also have 12 months without a preventable accident prior to the championships. It’s quite the safety marathon — and it inspires millions of safe driving miles every year! “We all get safe miles the same way,” Michael notes. “One at a time.”

The competition is where the rubber hits the road as drivers prove their skills through a written exam, pre-trip inspection test and skills course performance. (The skills course takes place inside the convention center with a live audience cheering!)

Ultimately, five finalists from each class compete for the top spots.

Road Royalty

In addition to the 46 Walmart drivers who competed in 2023, one associate attended the championship as a volunteer for the American Trucking Associations, which runs the competition: John Plumer, a Walmart Safety Manager in Raymond, New Hampshire.

John, who has 28 years with Walmart, was a driver for his first seven years. He won the NTDC’s 5-axle division in 2002, was an NTDC judge for 14 years and now serves as a Course Official.

“At Walmart, we preach safety from the minute we hire new drivers,” John explains. “Participating in the NTDC gives Walmart’s professional drivers a chance to showcase their skills and strong commitment to safety not only at the state level but also at the national level.”

And our drivers definitely represented! Seven Walmart drivers were honored as finalists and four were in the top three who competed on the final day. In other words, they outperformed at least 45 of the country’s top drivers in their class.

“Each of Walmart’s 46 competitors represented their state, our company, our brand and their profession with excellence,” John says. “I’m proud of our drivers!”

Looking In the Rearview Mirror

With this year’s competition complete, we asked our drivers to share their takeaways:

“Competing here has made me a better driver. I encourage every driver to get into this program. It's very rewarding,” says Jerry Beckman (pictured above), who’s based in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and qualified for the finals in the four-axle division.

“It’s 95% preparation and 5% execution. And practice goes on all year long,” shares Jason Imhoff (pictured above), who’s based in Grove City, Ohio, and earned second place in the tank class.

“This week taught me that you have to push yourself. You can’t settle for what you did yesterday. You have to improve. You have to adapt because technology is changing. The roads are changing. Everything is different all the time,” says Aleksandr “Sasha” Dragonchuk (pictured above), first-time competitor and Rookie of the Year out of Grandview, Washington.

“Safety is not a luck thing. Safety is about preparation, just like this competition. If you prepare for this competition throughout the year, you're more likely to be safe,” says David Cady (pictured above), who’s from Marcy, New York, and qualified for the finals in the sleeper division.

“After every competition, I'm a better driver. I'm a safer driver. I'm more conscious of what's going on around my truck. And those skills come in handy and may even prevent an accident,” JB Quarles (pictured above), shares. JB is based out of Laurens, South Carolina, and earned second place in the five-axle class. (Read more about JB’s award-winning driving in this Walmart World article.)

“This is definitely the highlight of my career. I’m grateful for all of the pointers and the training and everyone who helped me get to this point. I just tried to enjoy it and learn,” says Julio Pineda, Jr. (pictured above), who attended the competition from Sealy, Texas, and qualified for finals in the five-axle division.

“It was magical, intense and exhausting. I appreciate that Walmart supports its drivers in both state and national competitions. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. And I hope to be back again next year!” says first-time competitor Michael Martin (pictured above), who’s based in Mount Crawford, Virginia, and earned third place in the five-axle division.