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Kewanee Woman Takes First Place at the Illinois Truck Driving Competition, Heading to Nationals

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For the first time in Kewanee history and possibly the State of Illinois history, a woman from Kewanee took first place at the 2024 Illinois Trucking Association Truck Driving Competition. Congratulations to Rebecca Heck for winning the Illinois Truck Driving Championship in the 5-Axle Category! There are nine categories for each state in the United States.  The first-place winners will advance to the national truck-driving competition. Rebecca Heck was the only female to qualify in the five-axle class for the state competition. Rebecca Heck has competed in competitions in Nebraska and Illinois and has gotten second place many times, but she said taking first place was a great feeling.  In order to qualify for the state competition, semi-truck drivers must have a perfect driving record for the year. Rebecca said that even an accident that isn’t the truck driver’s fault disqualifies a person from the state competition.

According to the National Trucking Championship, The Championships are a great incentive for professional truck drivers to operate safely, because they must be accident-free for at least one year prior to the competition. Many of the competitors have millions of accident-free driving miles to their credit.”

At the Illinois State Competition, there is a written test, a pre-trip test, and a driving test. Participants are sequestered during the testing phases and participants do not know ahead of time what type of semi-truck they will test in. Rebecca Heck drives a sleeper truck for Landstar, but she qualified in the 5-axle bi-cab class. Rebecca Heck is considered a Business Capacity Owner (BC) with Landstar, which means she can make her own hours and choose what loads to deliver. Participants have a set amount of time to complete each test, such as they have 8 minutes to find a specific number of problems on the truck they are assigned, in the pre-trip test. Rebecca said she starts studying for the written test in February each year for the competition in June.  The written test study materials are in paper and audio form, so you can listen to the study materials while driving.

The Illinois Trucking Association holds an awards banquet each year, where participants find out the winners in each category. Rebecca and her kids found out she won her class at the banquet.  Rebecca said the announcer gave a long pause before announcing the winner of the 5-axle class, and when they said “she”, she and her kids celebrated her first win. Of the nine categories, two females competed in two of the categories. Rebecca Heck said, “I’ll be competing until they force me to retire.” Rebecca said the championships are all about safety, and learning safety tips from each other. Rebecca will compete against 49 other states in the National Truck Driving Championship from August 21st to 24th in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The winners in each category are: Step Van – Conner Christensen (UPS), 4 Axle – Dustin Scholle (UPS), Flatbed – William O’Connor (UPS), Twins – Miguel Corral (UPS), Sleeper Berth – Pete Palczynski (Walmart), 3 Axle & Grand Champion – Ritch Fundell (FedEx), Tank Truck – Michael Steffy (FedEx Freight), 5 Axle – Rebecca Heck (Landstar), Straight Truck- James Fischer (UPS)

Driver Last * Name Driver * First Name * Class Employer * Total Score * Written * Pre-Trip * Skill
Christensen Connor * STPVN * UPS * 290 * 50 * 75 * 165
Scholle Dustin * 4AXLE * UPS * 251 * 76 * 60 * 115
O’Connor William * FLTBED * UPS * 205 * 70 * 50 * 85
Corral Miguel * TWINS * UPS * 264 * 74 * 90 * 100
Palczynski Peter * SLPBRT * Walmart * 275 * 70 * 70 * 135
Fundell Ritch * 3AXLE * FedEx Freight * 330 * 80 * 55 * 195
Steffy Michael * TNKTRK * FedEx Freight, Inc. * 260 * 70 * 25 * 165
Heck Rebecca * 5AXLE * Landstar * 251 * 76 * 65 * 110
Fisher James * STRTCK * UPS * 214 * 74 * 50 * 90

Find the full list of results here.

According to the National Trucking Association, ” To qualify, a driver competes in one of eight equipment categories in the state his or her CDL was issued in or the state in which his or her company has corporate domicile. The categories are:

  • Straight Truck
  • Three-Axle Tractor-Semitrailer
  • Four-Axle Tractor-Semitrailer
  • Five-Axle Tractor-Semitrailer (Tank)
  • Five-Axle Tractor-Semitrailer (Van)
  • Five-Axle Tractor-Semitrailer (Flatbed)
  • Five-Axle Tractor (Sleeper Cab) -Semitrailer (Van)
  • Twin Trailers
  • Step Van

To be eligible, a driver must maintain continuous employment with a motor carrier fleet for a continuous period of at least one year and remain accident free, regardless of fault, for one year prior to NTDC.”

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