First-time state contestant pulls past competition
BY UCILIA WANG - Stockton Record Staff Writer
PUBLISHED MAY 20, 1999
LODI - Walt Ballard is a truck driver extraordinaire.
Ballard, a 32-year veteran of the trucking industry who
works for Frank C. Alegre Trucking, Inc. in Lodi, won
Sunday, May 15-16 in the state competition sponsored by
the California Trucking Association. He also won the
Rookie of the Year Award.
He will take his trucking expertise to the national
competition in August in Tampa, Florida. “I was amazed
and excited and numbed and all those things,” Ballard
said, laughing. “It’s hard to explain.”
Ballard’s success has driven pride and excitement into
his co-workers and supervisors, who happily noted that
the win is the first for the company. This is also the
first year Alegre Trucking participated in the
“This is the Olympics of the trucking industry,” said
Bernie Quesada, safety director and personnel supervisor
for Alegre Trucking. “We are still walking on cloud
Winning the state competition is no small feat.
Ballard, 51, who competed in the tankers division, had
to outdo other contestants in driving skills, a written
exam and an interview with a panel of judges.
The state competition took place in Fontana, in Southern
California, and it had nine divisions. Ballard and other
drivers in the tankers division took turns driving a
three-axle tractor pulling a 45-foot trailer.
Ballard qualified for the state competition after
winning second place in the same category in Northern
California last month. The top three winners in each
division advanced to the state contest.
Throughout the state, there were about 800 truckers
vying for a chance to qualify.
takes skills, and being sharp and alert. Not many people
can do that,” said Frank Alegre, owner of Alegre
Ballard, who has never had an accident or received a
traffic citation on the job, used the knowledge he
gained from driving for 32 years to win the competition.
He also studied a manual of truck-driving rules.
“I had butterflies in my stomach until I got started,”
said Ballard, who wore a white shirt, blue jeans and a
white baseball cap with the Alegre logo to the contest.
In the driving-skill portion of the competition,
truckers were tested on their driving judgment. For
example, while making a right turn, the driver must line
up two sets of right rear trailer tires into boxes
marked on the ground.
Another test involved the driver’s stepping on the
brakes exactly when the truck crossed a line marked on
the ground. The closer the rear tires were to the line,
the more points the driver got.
about having safe judgment so you don’t take out a
telephone pole,” Quesada said, adding that Ballard’s
trucks was within 1 to 2 inches of each marking.
In the written exam, Ballard answered questions in areas
such as fire safety, fuel conservation, first aid and
the use of a CB radio. During the interview, Ballard
answered questions about driving safety.
Because Ballard had never competed before, he qualified
for the Rookie of the Year contest, which involved
another interview. Ballard said the judges asked him
what he thought of the trucking industry.
“I said in the last 20 years, the industry has come a
long way. There are safer trucks now and better
drivers,” Ballard said.
The points Ballard won in the tankers division and the
second interview made him the highest scorer and Rookie
of the Year.
Since the competition was founded in 1939, no one before
Ballard had won both first place in a division and the
Rookie of the Year Award at the same time, Quesada said.
“We are so flabbergasted that one of our drivers got our
name out there,” Quesada said.