Ben Johns, aged 28, has taken out the Scania Driver Competition at the Gold Coast Turf Club in Queensland. He drives a fuel tanker for Matthews Petroleum in Victoria, and came through the final test to win a prize worth $10,000.
The final group of tests included navigating a series of manoeuvring tasks, demonstrating an ability to place a vehicle with precision. The single-trailer was pulled by a Scania G 480 Sleeper Cab through a series of car-park tests, before tackling a road route in a Scania R 620 V8 prime mover with a single trailer, assessed by Scania Peak Efficiency Team members.
In the classroom, an independent chief judge, Brett Wright, CEO of the CVIAQ, adjudicated a written road regulations test. As a final test, finalists underwent a filmed media interview.
The event is part of the Scania Driver Competition, held in more than 40 countries around the world, which has attracted more than 80,000 entrants. In Australia, entries were received from all states and territories. In the run up to the finals, entrants took an on-line test of road laws and driving regulations before the best 70 faced a phone-based qualifying round. The top 12 then met on the Gold Coast to battle it out behind the wheel.
“This year we have seen a very high level of finalists contest the last round of our competitions,” said Ron Szulc, Scania Brand and Communications Manager. “The events have been very successful in showcasing the skills and talents of some very fine young drivers, who take great pride in their work and can be considered experts in their fields. They were able to answer some very detailed questions regarding transport and road rules, and were also able to present themselves well on camera and talk confidently about their industry.
“One of the most notable aspects of all our finalists was their passion for their jobs and careers. The finalists were all focused on safe, and efficient driving, and are excellent role models for the next generation of drivers.
Ben Johns, from Warrnambool, in Western Victoria, said he was shocked but delighted to claim the prize after being disappointed to miss out in 2012.
“It has been a fantastic day,” said Johns. “The manoeuvring tests were tricky, and the driver trainers riding along on the road drive were very poker-faced, so I was not able to judge how well I had done.”
Johns has been driving fuel tankers for seven years, and credits driver training at his employer for his early skills acquisitions. He has also driven B-double interstate line-haul and worked in transport logistics.
“Much of my work for Matthews Petroleum involves loading out of Geelong and delivering to farms and fuel stations in Western Victoria,” Ben says. “I wasn’t that familiar with the Scania trucks as we drive American vehicles, but the Scanias were very quiet, comfortable, easy to drive, and offer great visibility.”