Every year, thousands of contestants from around the world battle it out for the title of most economical Mercedes-Benz truck driver in the world. GAVIN MYERS met up with our boys just before they jetted off to the finalsThe end of August and beginning of September was an exciting time for South African competition. We had Oscar Pistorius showing able-bodied athletes he can run with the best of them at the IAAF World Championships; the Boks set off for New Zealand, ready and eager to do their nation proud once again; and in the middle were Pieter Adriaanse and Basil Bailey from Imperial Logistics, ready to show the trucking world what South Africa has to offer.
Two humble drivers from Imperial Logistics mentioned among our national sporting heroes? Yip! Customers of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles should be familiar with the Truckermania competition which has been running for the past eight years in Germany, three years across Europe, and for two years worldwide. But, for those of you whose fleets may consist of other brands, here’s what you’re missing out on.
Using the Mercedes-Benz FleetBoard fleet management system (currently fitted as standard to the new Actros, but which can be retrofitted to the previous Actros model) as a base, drivers from companies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa and the Middle East competed in the national leagues for the month of June.
Every trip during this timeframe counted for the 9 000-plus competing drivers, as the FleetBoard Performance Analysis system gathered data on their personal driving style. This took into account factors such as preventative driving, speed changes and braking behaviour to provide an objective statement on the drivers’ economical handling of the truck. In all, South Africa had 740 contestants from 80 fleets!
“We encourage all our fleet operators to have their drivers participate in this competition, as the success of last year’s event – involving more than 250 drivers from 50 fleets – culminated with two finalists (from Timber 24 and Imperial Logistics Refrigerated Services) competing in the finals in Germany,” said Pascal Weiss, FleetBoard manager, Mercedes-Benz Trucks. “Their finish in the top 20 is commendable and we were extremely proud of their achievement, particularly as the competition environment and routes travelled were very different to what they are used to in South Africa.”
Adriaanse was the driver representing Imperial Logistics last year, when he placed a commendable 16th. Along with colleague Bailey and driver trainer Dennis Jolliffe, the team said it was hoping, at the very least, to crack the top-ten placings at the finals held on 3 September 2011.
“We know the Germans are quite tough to beat, as they’re running up scores of 9,9 (while) we came through on a 9,67 - which is good; it’s the best in South Africa,” said Jolliffe. “But I think the way our drivers have adapted and the interest they’ve shown – basically every week they wanted their print-outs – is why they’re here today; they want to go and represent us in Germany,” he continued proudly.
Addressing the team at their send-off from Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles East Rand, Weiss told the drivers they were “ambassadors” and that the two best drivers from 16 countries would compete on a special 20 km round track at the Münsingen former military base.
“So we’re actually not driving on public roads this time,” he reminded them. “But you will still drive on the other side of the road, so that needs preparation. Fortunately, the UK guys have the same issue!”
Weiss said a highlight was that the South African participants would drive the new Actros, the most modern truck made by Mercedes-Benz. Launched in Europe on 1 July, it is a highly efficient Euro-6 truck and Weiss said the local contingent would “have to get used to it very quickly”.
So, while obviously under a fair bit of pressure, the boys representing South Africa were not going to let things get them down. “The second time is not so bad; the first time I was nervous,” laughed Adriaanse, as Bailey continued: “I am excited, and I’m determined to do something!”Look out for a follow-up on the finals in the forthcoming edition of FOCUS.