National Truck Driving Championship winners crowned

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Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023:

ATA crowns champion truckers

NTDC 2023 Grand Champion Gragg WilsonUPS driver James "Gragg" Wilson was crowned the Bendix Grand Champion of the 2023 National Truck Driving Championships on Saturday, Aug. 19.ATAThe American Trucking Associations on Saturday, Aug. 19, announced that James Gragg Wilson of Nevada, a truck driver for UPS (CCJ Top 250, No. 2), was named the Bendix Grand Champion of the 2023 National Truck Driving Championships. The competition took place Aug. 16-19 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Known as the "Super Bowl of Safety," the annual event dates back to 1937. This year's competitors accumulated more than 643 million accident-free miles in their professional driving careers.

To clinch the esteemed title of 2023 Bendix Grand Champion, Wilson's driving accuracy and knowledge of truck safety was scored the highest of 418 state champion professional truck drivers from 49 states competing in all vehicle classes this week. 

Wilson, who competed in the tank truck division, has been a professional truck driver for 37 years and has driven more than 2.5 million accident-free miles. He has previously won the Nevada State Championship 13 times in six different classes, and he has also won Grand Champion five times in Nevada. Wilson was also the 2019 Nevada Driver of the Year.

ATA also recognized Myron Means of Wyoming, a driver for Old Dominion Freight Line (No. 10), as the 2023 Rookie of the Year. Additionally, the team of drivers from Connecticut produced the best collective score and were honored as the top state delegation.

Champions from each of the nine vehicle classes were also announced. The full list of champions and top finishers is below:

Step Van:

  1. Jerome De La Cruz, FedEx Express, Alaska
  2. Gregory Long, FedEx Express, Maryland
  3. Alex Lofgren, FedEx Express, Minnesota

Straight Truck:

  1. David Coffel, FedEx Express, Arizona
  2. William Colantuone, FedEx Express, Massachusetts
  3. James Kohr, FedEx Express, New York


  1. Barry Kraemer, XPO, Wisconsin
  2. Joseph Hicks, XPO, Rhode Island
  3. Ritch Fundell, FedEx Freight, Illinois


  1. Martin McMahon, RIST Transport, New York
  2. Bruce Quaal, ABF Freight System, Minnesota
  3. Adam Heim, FedEx Freight, Idaho


  1. John Greene, FedEx Freight, Connecticut
  2. James Quarles, Wal-Mart Transportation, South Carolina
  3. Michael Martin, Wal-Mart Transportation


  1. Daryl Miller, The Cope Company Salt, Pennsylvania
  2. Ernest Wagers, Old Dominion Freight Line, Kentucky
  3. James Sowder, FedEx Freight, Tennessee

Tank Truck:

  1. James "Gragg" Wilson, UPS, Nevada
  2. Jason Imhoff, Wal-Mart Transportation, Ohio
  3. Timothy Vogt, XPO, Georgia


  1. Robert Fair, FedEx Freight, New Hampshire
  2. Jeffrey Langenhahn, XPO, Wisconsin
  3. Michael Flippin, FedEx Freight, Colorado

Sleeper Berth:

  1. Roland Bolduc, FedEx Express, Connecticut
  2. Chris Moore, Wal-Mart Transportation, Georgia
  3. Tyler Rogers, FedEx Freight, Colorado

Rookie of the Year:

  • Myron Means, Old Dominion Freight Line, Flatbed, Wyoming

State Team Award:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Illinois
  3. Tennessee

Vehicle Condition Award:

  • Timothy Blair, FedEx Freight, 5-Axle, Tennessee

Highest Written Exam Award:

  1. Michael Bills, FedEx Express, North Carolina
  2. David Comings, FedEx Freight, North Dakota
  3. David Mogler, FedEx Freight, Colorado
  4. Michael Flippin, FedEx Freight, Colorado

Neill Darmstadter Professional Excellence Award:

  • Ina Daly, XPO Logistics, Arizona

Lifetime Volunteer Award:

  • Bill Graham

Nikola officially recalls 209 battery-electric trucks

After announcing last week that a coolant leak inside a battery pack was the cause of an electric truck fire, Nikola is recalling 209 of its Tre BEV models as a result.

The company in its announcement last week noted that it was in the process of filing a voluntary recall with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the trucks and placing a hold on new BEV sales. NHTSA documents, dated Aug. 18, make the recall official. The recall notes that leaking coolant can accumulate inside the battery pack, causing an electrical short and increasing the risk of fire.

Owners are advised to park outside and away from structures. As advised last week, the Main Battery Disconnect (MBD) switch should be left in the "ON" position at all times until the vehicle is repaired.  The remedy is currently being developed. 

Interim notification letters, informing owners of the safety risk, are expected to be mailed by Oct. 14. A second notice will be sent once the remedy becomes available.

Owners can contact Nikola customer service at 1-630-808-4531 with recall number 23VDC-0601. NHTSA’s recall number is 23V-580.

[Related: Coolant leak the cause of 'suspicious' Nikola truck fire, BEV sales on hold]

EV maker Mullen rolls first Class 3 truck off assembly line

The THREE is an efficient Class 3 with a clean top-of-rail for easy upfitting with bodies up to 14 feet long and over 5,800 pounds of payload.The THREE is an efficient Class 3 with a clean top-of-rail for easy upfitting with bodies up to 14 feet long and over 5,800 pounds of payload.

Mullen Automotive, an emerging electric vehicle manufacturer, on Aug. 21 announced its first production vehicle, the Mullen Three, a Class 3 EV truck, rolled off the line at Mullen’s commercial vehicle assembly facility located in Tunica, Mississippi.

“We have been true to our commercial Class 3 vehicle production commitments and have now achieved a significant milestone with the first trucks rolling off the line,” said David Michery, CEO and chairman of Mullen Automotive, Inc.

Mullen will be gradually ramping up production rate through the rest of 2023, the company said. Once full acceleration has been achieved, Class 3 production capacity at the Tunica facility is currently planned at 3,000 vehicles annually per shift. As EV adoption rates increase, Mullen plans to add a second shift for Class 3 production, which will increase capacity to 6,000 total vehicles per year.

During the ramp up in volume of the Mullen Three, the production testing and launch of the Mullen One, a Class 1 EV cargo van, will also take place in Tunica, achieving deliveries on customer orders for both commercial Class 1 and Class 3 vehicles by year end.

To date, the Company has received $79 million in purchase orders for the Mullen Three from Randy Marion Automotive Group and MGT Lease Company.

The Mullen Three has a MSRP starting at $68,500 and qualifies for $7,500 in federal tax incentives. Its chassis provides a clean top-of-rail for easy upfitting with bodies up to 14 feet long and over 5,800 pounds of payload.

Class 8 severe-duty trucks recalled by Autocar

Autocar is recalling certain 2023 ACX (Xpeditor) and DC (Legend) trucks in which the powertrain driveline center support bearing hardware may not have been properly secured. The recall affects approximately 605 units.

The recall states that an improperly secured powertrain driveline can detach from the vehicle and cause a loss of drive power, increasing the risk of a crash.

Dealers will inspect and secure or replace the powertrain driveline support bearing hardware, as necessary, free of charge. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed Oct. 6. Owners can contact Autocar customer service at 1-888-218-3611 with recall numbers ACX-2309 and DC-2305. NHTSA’s recall number is 23V-571.