Driving to the Top: Van Excellence Drivers of the Year 2018 Announced

Stephen Hudson of Asda and Luke Birchnall of Bott Ltd are celebrating today after being named the Van Excellence Driver of the Year and Young Driver of the Year 2018 following a rigorous assessment day at the Northern facility of Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Ltd, headline sponsor of the nationwide competition.  Luke also secured second place in the overall Driver of the Year category and first place in the road test category – driver behaviour, and Stephen secured first place in the legislation test category.

More than four million vans operate on the UK’s roads every day and as Mark Cartwright, Head of Vans at FTA, which administers the Van Excellence scheme explains, it is vitally important that the very best van operators are recognised for their professionalism and high standards in such a crowded market:

“There are now so many vans on our roads that we often forget how important their role is in our economy, from delivering our groceries to keeping businesses and hospitals stocked with the vital materials and medicines they need.  With so many other road users to contend with, drivers need to be able to meet deadlines and operate in pressurised situations while keeping a cool head – our winners today have demonstrated that they really are the vital ingredient which keeps Britain’s economy operating efficiently.  Everyone involved in the finals of this competition has shown what a professional industry the van sector is, and our winners really are the very best of British – many congratulations to them.

“The Van Excellence scheme is raising compliance levels across the industry, and each of today’s finalists has shown outstanding commitment, technique and expertise – all vital skills for today’s van drivers.  We are honoured to have this platform to recognise and reward these talented individuals – they should all be very proud of their achievements.”

Stephen and Luke were pitted against 18 other finalists in a competition to complete a set of challenging tasks which cover all areas of their roles, including legislation, driving skills, risk assessment, and vehicle defect identification. Steven and Luke excelled in each of these tests, and were awarded for their exceptional technical skills, diligence, dedication, and compliance knowledge.

Mark Cartwright continued: “By combining variety, technical challenge, autonomy, and opportunities for progression, van driving presents a very attractive career option to individuals of all ages. On behalf of all the members of the Van Excellence programme, we hope these awards inspire a new generation to discover this rewarding and challenging career path.”

Andy Eccles, Head of Fleet at Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Ltd, who presented the awards to the winners, added: “Out of four million van drivers on our roads today, it is an honour to witness the diligence, knowledge and passion the competitors showed today in the variety of tasks presented to them.

“The effort the drivers put into this competition reiterates the awareness van drivers need just to complete their day-to-day work.  We at Mercedes-Benz Vans UK are proud to be a part of a competition like this to commend these hard working people.”

“To be awarded the title of the best van driver in the UK is an absolutely fantastic achievement. I’m passionate about van driving and for my skills in this area to be recognised as the industry’s best is an overwhelming feeling,” commented winner Stephen Hudson of Clayton Green, Lancashire. “I would like to thank my team at Asda for their unwavering support and belief in me. This award shows that anything can be achieved with the right mind set – one of commitment, dedication and an endless thirst to become the best.”

“I can’t believe I’ve won the title of Young Driver of the Year! I was drawn to a career in this industry because I love driving. But more than that – I wanted to travel, to be challenged daily, to be my own boss and, ultimately, to work in a sector that’s full of opportunities,” commented Luke Birchnall of Swadlincote, Derbyshire. “To be recognised as one of the industry’s best at this early stage of my career is an honour I never expected.”

Overall third place was presented to Kriss Asenov of J M Hall Couriers Ltd. Additional awards were presented to for winners of particular skills tests:

Defect check, supported by Bott Ltd: Andrew Bucknall of Asda

Manoeuvring, supported by Brigade:  Kriss Asenov of J M Hall Couriers Ltd

Risk assessment, supported by Licence Bureau: Aron Hadley of Amey Fleet Services

Road test – economical driving, supported by Hertz: Stephen Dykes of Balfour Beatty

The shortlist featured expert drivers from Asda, BT Fleet, Balfour Beatty, Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, AAH, Greencore, Murphy Plant, The Clancy Group, Bott Ltd, J M Hall Couriers Ltd, Scottish Water, Berendsen, Amey Fleet Services, and McGinley Support Services.

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.  With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc.  A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.

For further information on the Van Excellence Scheme, including how to join, please visit www.vanexcellence.co.uk

For more information on our sponsor, Mercedes-Benz Vans UK Ltd, please visit www.mercedes-benz.co.uk/Vans