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The Drive to Compete

Landstar BCO Rebecca Heck

For many of Landstar’s independent owner-operators, trucking is more than a career; it’s a lifestyle. For some, competing in truck beauty shows or truck driving competitions becomes a part of that lifestyle as an outlet for their industry-related passion.

For example, Landstar Business Capacity Owner (BCO) Rebecca Heck, who competes in truck driving contests, says what she loves the most about competitions isn’t the pride of winning a trophy. For her, as an independent owner-operator, “it’s a message to other female drivers wanting to enter the industry.”

For others who compete, it’s as simple as a moment of joy. That’s what Landstar BCO Omar Castillo-Alvarez felt when he entered his first truck show in 2018.

Such passion started early for Castillo-Alvarez and is what ultimately led him to begin competing on an annual basis. Most recently, he won Best Interior at the Texas Trucking Show in Houston this past June.

“Well, you could say he’s obsessed with trucks,” says his wife, Landstar Agent Gabriela Sandoval. “I think it’s just satisfying for him to network with other drivers who are passionate about the same things he is.”

Landstar BCO Omar Castillo-Alvarez

Castillo-Alvarez says truck shows all come down to the details. It can sometimes take him upward of two weeks to prepare his 2011 Kenworth T660 for a show.

“I have to take all the tires and rims off of the truck, wash the whole frame — inside and outside.” Castillo-Alvarez explains. “I do touch-ups with paint. Some parts I repaint, and sometimes I have to replace parts.”

Similarly, Landstar BCO Michael Wallace, who has participated in truck shows since 2009 with his wife and fellow BCO Jackie Wallace, dedicates several weeks’ worth of effort before arriving at each competition.

“We maintain the truck throughout the year,” Wallace says. “We may do small projects for the truck during that time frame, but the actual cleaning — such as polishing — will begin about a week before the show. One to two weeks before the show is when we do all the deep cleaning, inside and out.”

During this time, they also ensure that the 600 lights on their tractor-trailer are operational in order to enter the light show category of competition.

Landstar BCOs Jackie and Michael Wallace

In all, the Wallace duo enters about three shows per year with their 2007 Freightliner Coronado and 2014 Great Dane dry van, often earning trophies. In July, they drove home to Ashville, Alabama, with three new trophies to add to their collection from the 2023 Walcott Truckers Jamboree in Walcott, Iowa:

  • 2nd Place — Working Truck 2008-2000
  • 3rd Place — Interior-Custom Sleeper
  • 3rd Place — Lights at Night Combination Theme

“We often encourage other BCOs to come to the truck shows because, after all the cleaning, it's about relaxing and having fun,” Wallace says. “It's also a time in which we can tell others about Landstar and the opportunities Landstar offers.”

Each truck show has different competition categories and mileage requirements, presenting different opportunities for truck drivers and trucks of all kinds. Some competitors are far less interested in visually impressive scores than they are in flaunting their driving skills and ability to pivot under pressure.

Commercial vehicle drivers in the United States have the option to enter a truck driving competition under one of 10 truck classes, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA): straight truck, tractor/semi-trailers with three to five axles, van, tank, step, flatbed, sleeper cab and twin trailer.

But getting behind the wheel and maneuvering through a series of obstacles isn’t the only challenge of truck driving competitions. Participants first undergo a written test in addition to a pre-trip inspection, where they are provided with a vehicle in their competition class and asked to correctly identify vehicle defects.

“In each class, the organizers set up 10 minor problems and five major problems,” explains Landstar BCO Keith Breeding. In 2011, Breeding started competing in the Florida Trucking Championship and won first place that year in the five-axle sleeper class, despite having never competed before. “It will be like a screw in a tire or an unhooked electric cord. You get points for every problem you spot.”

Competitors are given different time limits to identify defects depending on which class they’re competing in.

All three components — the written test, pre-trip inspection and obstacle course — are combined to determine a competitor’s overall score. As a result, preparing for the competition is also multi-faceted.

Landstar BCO Paul Blessing

This year, Heck, who began competing annually back in 2014 and has placed within the top three of the five-axle class a total of four times, built a small practice course with fellow BCO Paul Blessing. In 2010, Blessing won first place at the Missouri Trucking Championships in the sleeper category, conquering his first-ever truck driving competition. This year, he won third place at the Illinois Trucking Championship in the same category.

Together, Heck and Blessing practiced maneuvering around the self-made course for three days before arriving at the Illinois Truck Driving Championship in June.

BCO Joe Brinkman, who is newer to the Florida competition scene but has already competed upward of six times since 2018, prefers to prep by brushing up on subjects that might come up in the written test.

“They ask questions about regulations that have changed,” he says, “and safety questions about hazardous materials, as well as when you are or aren’t allowed to haul something.”

But above all, these truck driving competitions are designed to emphasize safety.

“You get to network and learn other safe-driving techniques. It’s great to network safety,” Heck says. “You cannot even apply to compete if you’ve been involved in any form of a moving accident on the road or had any moving violations within a year before competition. And that’s a great motivator for continuing to drive safely every day, too.”

Sizing Up the Competitions

There are always opportunities if drivers are interested in competing with their colleagues for bragging rights and trophies. Here are some tips that may help get new contestants started:

  • Truck Beauty Shows:

            o Research the shows that are hosted locally

            o Review the rules and available categories

            o Check out photos from past winners for comparison

  • Truck Driving Competitions:

            o Research the competitions that are hosted locally

            o Study common questions for the written test

            o Look into empty parking lots or nearby open areas
               that may be used for practice grounds

In terms of truck driving competitions, a BCO’s assigned Landstar field safety manager can help determine eligibility in state competitions under the Landstar name.

Blessing has some encouraging words for those testing their skills: “Know yourself, know your limits and use those limits as a stepping stone,” he says. “If you don’t do well, don’t beat yourself up. Use that as a power to motivate yourself for the next year. Strive to be better.”

Learn more today about what it means to be an independent owner-operator in Landstar’s vast network.



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