Truck drivers probably cop more flak than any workers in any industry, but they are not without some staunch supporters. Among several valuable initiatives showcasing the skill of operating heavy trucks, the Volvo Drivers’ Fuel Challenge brings together t
Volvo’s Fuel Challenge showcases drivers’ skills
From the outside looking in, the Volvo Drivers’ Fuel Challenge has all the appearances of just another publicity exercise by a company highly skilled in selling marketing messages to the masses.
But step inside and take a closer look. Talk with the executives and organisers who make it all happen. Ponder the extraordinary efforts and expense of bringing together such an eclectic bunch of individuals from all over Australia.
Spend time mixing with the drivers as they first shrug it off as a bit of fun, a couple of days outside the ordinary, before suddenly becoming intensely serious, and very determined. Consider, if you can, the personal satisfaction and surprise of realising you’re someone at the centre of something very special, instead of a daily routine where derision and ridicule are everyday events.
Then, after two days of fierce competition measured down to the last drop of diesel, smile at the humour and humility of a group which has grown incredibly close, despite the desire to win the highly coveted prize of a trip to Sweden to compete in Volvo’s world championship. And finally, witness the flattery of being guests at a location normally reserved for the rich and famous, and best of all, revel in the sublime, shared thrill as winners are announced.
Then, and only then, will you be able to see this extraordinary event for what it truly is. A marvellous, exciting, rare and totally professional exhibition of the competency and pride of some extremely capable and impressive people. Truck drivers.
But of course, celebrating the skill and competency of truck drivers is far from normal, isn’t it! Let’s face it, for whatever reason they take a flogging from just about every angle.
Publicly and privately, whether deserved or not, they’re routinely hammered for being too rude, too ignorant, too stupid, too arrogant, too tired. To the average motorist they are intimidating, careless, confronting, cranky and worst of all, dangerous. People to be avoided, even feared,
in trucks that are too big, too loud, too fast, too heavy, and in most minds, too many.
Given such opinions and periodic outbursts, it’s easy to wonder why anyone would want the job, let alone try to actually do it with a sense of professional pride and purpose. Especially when a fair portion of the offense comes from within their own industry in the form of some foul-mouthed clown on the end of a radio. Or worse, company owners who see drivers as little more than a commodity, a necessary evil, to be manipulated and blamed when something goes wrong, or vilified when a poorly managed and marginal business finally fails under the stress of fierce competition.
Sure, there are crook drivers, no question. There are also crook companies, crook plumbers, crook mechanics, crook businessmen, crook regulators, crook doctors, crook lawyers, crook coffeemakers, crook cooks, crook politicians, crook drunks, and dare I say it, crook commentators.
BEST OF THE BEST
But in every endeavour there are also the good ones, like the 16 men and one woman invited to Brisbane’s Mt Cotton Training Centre for the 2017 Volvo Drivers’ Fuel Challenge.
They weren’t there for their stylish demeanour or articulate speech, their academic abilities, political smarts or athletic agility. They were there because they are truck drivers. Good truck drivers, and each one had set a particularly high standard for fuel efficient driving of a Volvo truck in their daily work, gaining them entry to an event where they would pit their abilities against each other and in the process develop a mutual respect and admiration which would inspire and surprise them all.
Surprise also came in Volvo’s decision to this year add for the first time an off-road course, placing the drivers at the controls of loaded FMX eight-wheeler rigids on a demanding track and almost certainly unlike anything encountered in their normal driving duties. Again though, there was plenty of incentive to do well with the most fuel efficient driver on this section also winning a ticket to Sweden for a shot at the world title.
Then again, surprise was not for drivers alone. The first Australian ‘challenge’ was held in 2013 and despite previous invitations, this was the first I’d attended. Tasked to ‘front’ a video on the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect other than a couple of trucks running around the Mt Cotton circuit with a bunch of different drivers.
But this much I did know: Volvo rarely, if ever, does things by halves.
Even so, the level of expertise and commitment given to this exercise was indeed surprising and way beyond anything I envisaged. What I found, in fact, was a thoroughly professional and superbly organised event which in the first instance takes a rigidly enforced and highly technical approach based on data processed by Volvo’s advanced Dynafleet trip information system, to determine the most fuel efficient driver over a series of laps around the testing Mt Cotton circuit.
More to the point, and for me most surprising of all, were the attitudes of everyone involved.
First, Volvo. At the top of the tree, Volvo Group Australia boss Peter Voorhoeve is certainly no naïve newcomer to the truck business.
It’ll help make people see we actually care about what we do
Above: Competitors in the 2017 Volvo Drivers’ Fuel Challenge. A great bunch of proud and professional people