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Frank C. Alegre Trucking

First-time state contestant pulls past competition

BY UCILIA WANG - Stockton Record Staff Writer


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 first place 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 competition.

“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 nine.”
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.

“It takes skills, and being sharp and alert. Not many people can do that,” said Frank Alegre, owner of Alegre Trucking.

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.

“It’s 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.