queenslanders dominate scania bus driver competition national final
SCANIA PRESENTED THE WINNERS OF THE 2016 BUS DRIVER COMPETITION WITH THEIR PRIZES AND ANNOUNCED THE FINAL FINISHING ORDER AT THE SCANIA DINNER AT THE BUS INDUSTRY CONFEDERATION CONFERENCE IN PERTH LAST NIGHT.
Damien Christensen, from Townsville, QLD, who works for Greyhound Australia won the Competition, which took place on Friday 28th October. Second was Leah Hahn from Mees Bus Lines in Victoria, with Tim Krekt from Sunstate Charters third.
This was the third time Australia has hosted a version of Scania’s long-running global challenge to find the country’s best bus/coach driver.
All finalists were challenged to undertake 7 manoeuvring activities behind the wheel of a Scania K 310 UB 4x2 bus with a Volgren Optimus body. Identical vehicles were used for a road drive, while each of the finalists faced a 30-question road rule test and a simulated media interview to gauge their views on the passenger transport industry.
“Scania put 11 talented finalists through a tough series of tests on the road and behind a desk in order to determine who would win the coveted Champion Driver status,” said Ron Szulc, Brand & Communication Manager for Scania Australia.
“This unique competition puts the spotlight on safe, skilful and efficient driving, underscoring the high levels of professionalism among today’s bus and coach drivers. It is interesting that all three of the top finishers are coach drivers.
“Day-to-day, Australia’s bus and coach drivers are largely unappreciated for the hard work they do against tough timetables, battling congested roads and all manner of other road users,” Ron said. “The competition highlights driving skills that contribute to reducing driver stress and improving the customer experience.
“By putting these finalists to the test we expose their high levels of ability, but also importantly give them a chance to meet with other like-minded, passionate and committed bus and coach drivers who can impact the industry with their professionalism, courtesy and leadership.
“As a company, we put a lot of effort into supporting drivers and enhancing their standing within their communities locally and globally via the Scania Driver Competitions. We congratulate not only the winners but all the finalists for their efforts today and everyday.”
Leah Hahn: “It’s been a great day, the best experience. I have got to do things I haven’t done before in a bus. I couldn’t believe that I have finished in the top three. It’s the best feeling. I’m doing it for women bus drivers (everywhere). It is an amazing achievement to have made it here. I am over the moon.
Damien Christensen: “I was a little nervous at first, but it has been a really good day and I have learned a lot. It is a great way to bring recognition to people of the industry.
Tim Krekt: “It’s been a fantastic day, I can’t believe we are sitting here now. We came as competitors but we are leaving as friends.”
Tim and Leah said the toughest test was aiming their test bus through two barrels they had set as close together as possible, while Damien said the slalom test was his toughest challenge.
“I felt really good in the bus. It felt like second nature,” Leah said of the unfamiliar environment of a route bus, compared with her usual coach.
“Driving the Scania was like driving a car, it was so smooth and comfortable,” she said.
“If the tool for the job is right then the job is half done,” Tim said of the Scania bus.
“This competition is a good way to bring young blood into the industry. I am the youngest coach driver where I work,” said Leah, 32.
Damien, who is the North Queensland Driver Supervisor of Greyhound Australia based in Townsville, said he started driving buses and coaches at 24. Tim started aged 23 and Leah at 30, after previously driving trucks for a living.
Tim entered the industry in his native Holland when studying international tour management. He worked as a dishwasher to help pay for his studies and his boss offered to pay for his coach licence training as they needed drivers. When Tim migrated to Australia he saw it as a great way to see the country. “The best thing about my job is the freedom it brings,” he said.
“I got sick of driving trucks, the hours weren’t great and I wanted a change,” Leah said. “You get to see more, meet all sorts of people, and that was the change I wanted. I went from driving by myself all day to driving with a bunch of people I can talk to. The best thing about my job is its diversity.”
“In 1996 I started as a bus-washer,” said Damien. “I went into the cooking industry, then decided after a while I had had enough of that, and returned to driving coaches and that’s where I am now. The best thing about my job is there’s something different everyday,” he said.