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Nonethe­less, he makes no se­cret of a pro­found ad­mi­ra­tion for truck driv­ers gen­er­ally, for their crit­i­cal role in main­tain­ing the ef­fi­cient and end­less flow of goods and ser­vices to every nook of a nation al­most en­tirely re­liant on a dy­namic road trans­port in­dus­try.

It was Voorho­eve who launched the phrase “With­out Truck Driv­ers, Aus­tralia Stops” and it’s an at­ti­tude never more ev­i­dent than at Mt Cot­ton this year. From the top ex­ec­u­tive ranks to the driver train­ers man­ning the two iden­ti­cal FH16 mod­els, and the team from Volvo pro­cess­ing the data and en­sur­ing the smooth op­er­a­tion of the en­tire event – the re­sources, care, con­sid­er­a­tion, gen­uine warmth and re­spect ac­corded each of the driv­ers was un­like any­thing I’ve ever seen be­fore. And I’ve seen plenty!

REV RHETORIC

As for the driv­ers, those who own their trucks or those who drive for oth­ers, it didn’t mat­ter. They were all part of the same big pic­ture, equal in every sense, de­ter­mined to do their best, har­bour­ing the hope of head­ing off to Swe­den, yet talk­ing openly and wisely among them­selves about how to best tackle a par­tic­u­lar pinch or ex­actly where to back off, where to ap­ply the re­tarder, or where to put a tad more power on. Revs were ev­ery­one’s rhetoric.

Sure, the com­pe­ti­tion was in­tense, but the ca­ma­raderie was in­fec­tious and the tran­si­tion from a bunch of in­su­lar in­di­vid­u­als to a gre­gar­i­ous group bound by a com­mon thread was noth­ing less than ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Be­yond all else, though, was the sense of grat­i­tude. The un­bri­dled re­gard for an event pro­vid­ing the op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate the abil­i­ties and the ap­ti­tude so com­monly dis­missed or ig­nored. And the ab­so­lute ap­pre­ci­a­tion that a truck com­pany cares enough to show­case the per­for­mance and ef­fi­ciency of its trucks in the hands of driv­ers proud of their skills and their con­science.

Still, there could only be two win­ners and it was the fe­male in the group, Kerri Con­nors from fuel dis­trib­u­tor Cal­tas in Tas­ma­nia, who took out the ma­jor award, while win­ner of the off-road sec­tion was another fuel dis­trib­u­tor, Cameron Simp­son from Simp­son’s Fuel in Vic­to­ria.

Of course, the cel­e­bra­tions were big and if there were dis­ap­point­ments, they didn’t show. What did show, how­ever, were the gen­uine re­gard for each other and the sin­cere ap­pre­ci­a­tion for an event which above all else cel­e­brates the skills of peo­ple so crit­i­cal to the func­tion and ef­fi­ciency of an en­tire nation yet so of­ten the butt of ridicule and ig­no­rance both in­side and out of their own in­dus­try.

Any­way, here’s what some of the driv­ers thought about a few things …

What’s the best thing about an event like this for driv­ers?

“Maybe it’ll help make peo­ple see we ac­tu­ally care about what we do. We cop a lot at times, usu­ally be­cause we all get tarred with the one brush.”

“Pride’s the big thing. I think it shows how good we can be but with­out a com­pany like Volvo or­gan­is­ing some­thing like this, we’re just driv­ers to most peo­ple.”

Driv­ers used to get flak about driv­ing a Volvo, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any­more?

“Say what they like. I’m here, they’re not. This is an in­cred­i­ble event, noth­ing like I imag­ined. It’s a credit to Volvo for car­ing.”

“I’ve driven ’em all and I’ll take a Volvo any day. Be­sides, I don’t see any other brand do­ing any­thing like this for driv­ers.”

Do you get much in­cen­tive from your own com­pany to get good fuel?

“Ver­bally I do, but a bit of in­cen­tive in the pay packet wouldn’t go astray.”

“I’ve been told the in­cen­tive is I get to keep my job, but you hear ev­ery­where that good driv­ers are hard to get. Some own­ers need to take that on board.”

Why is get­ting good fuel con­sump­tion so im­por­tant to you in your nor­mal work?

“It’s a way of chal­leng­ing your­self, I think. It feels good to achieve some­thing. It comes down to pride in your­self and what you do.”

“Don’t know re­ally. I guess it just feels good to do some­thing well. All up, I think it makes you safer, too. Maybe I do it for my­self more than any­one else.”

Are you ner­vous about com­pet­ing?

“Yeah, a bit. Th­ese are ob­vi­ously good driv­ers, other­wise they wouldn’t be here. Be­sides, it’s not every day you get the chance to win a trip to Swe­den. The effort Volvo puts in is in­cred­i­ble. It’s a tough event but re­ally well run.”

“Not ner­vous, just ex­cited. I feel very for­tu­nate but more than any­thing else, grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity.”

Are you con­fi­dent you’ll be on a plane to Swe­den?

“No, there are too many good op­er­a­tors here to be con­fi­dent, but I’ll give it a big shot.

“I’d love to go to Swe­den. The com­pe­ti­tion and the ex­pe­ri­ence would be in­cred­i­ble.”

“Yeah, I’ll do okay but I know a cou­ple of them will be hard to beat. I think the girl’s a threat. Women tend to be pretty soft on the gear.”

So Kerri, you’re the only woman in the group. Does that con­cern you?

“Not re­ally. I’m usu­ally the only chick in the group and I’m prob­a­bly just the to­ken fe­male any­way.

“There’d be some good driv­ers amongst th­ese guys.”

So Kerri, you’ve now won it. You’re off to Swe­den. What have you got to say for your­self?

“I just can’t thank ev­ery­one enough. Volvo, the driver train­ers, the other com­peti­tors.

“It has just been such a great group but se­ri­ously, my pass­port is packed!”

It’s a tough event but re­ally well run

Above in­set: Volvo Group Aus­tralia se­nior driver trainer Paul Munro out­lines strict rules for the Mt Cot­ton fuel chal­lenge Left: Headed for Swe­den: the only fe­male in the group, Tas­ma­nia’s Kerri Con­nors, took out the top award, also win­ning the re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion of her male coun­ter­parts

Right in­set: Win­ning grin: Volvo Group Aus­tralia (VGA) chief and strong ad­vo­cate for driv­ers, Peter Voorho­eve (left) with off-road win­ner Cameron Simp­son from Vic­to­ria

Above: Top three: (L to R) VGA boss Peter Voorho­eve, Scott Hughes from Glen Cameron Group, Kerri Con­nors, Kent Dit­ton from Dit­ton Bulk Haulage, and Volvo vi­cepres­i­dent Mitch Pe­den. It was a close con­test be­tween the driv­ers

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