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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!
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