VICTORIAN fuel tanker driver Ben Johns won highway bragging rights of a lifetime as he was crowned Australia's Best Driver at the Scania Driver Competition on the Gold Coast this month.
Demonstrating both technical and theoretical driving skills against the nation's best transport workers, Mr Johns was shocked by the win.
"Wow, I just wasn't expecting it," he said after the announcement.
It was matter of second time lucky for the Matthews Petroleum driver, who also previously qualified for the final round of the Scania titles in 2012.
"It was hard to tell who was in the lead; it's a tough competition - the technical driving part of the course was definitely the hardest," he said.
Working as a fuel tanker driver for the past seven years, Mr Johns said it was the skills of the other drivers and a chance to learn off driver training experts that made the event.
The Scania Truck Driver of the Year competition, which runs in more than 40 other nations, aims to highlight both the transport sector and the skilled professionals who work within it.
Out of the original 500 applicants across Australia, only a selection of 12 qualifiers made it to the Gold Coast Racecourse to tackle the finals.
"There are a number of phases a driver needs to get to before they reach this stage," Scania spokesman Alexander Corne said.
"First, we go through the applications and then there is a phone interview round on road safety."
Once they make the final stage, the finalists undertake an obstacle course which includes a range of tight driving challenges.
The drivers then take part in a 30-minute inner city circuit and a practice media interview.
"Each checkpoint is designed to test a particular skill, whether that is reversing, parking or spatial awareness," Mr Corne said.
"Part of this competition is about raising awareness for the industry, so we included the media component. We think it's important the winner can also be a good public spokesman."
While there is no international Scania competition, Australian truckies rate well on a points comparison.
"Because road rules and driving styles are so different from country to country, it's impossible to hold an international competition," the industry expert said.
"In saying that, Australian drivers are up to standard.
"We have a very different set of skills compared with Europe, our drivers are used to driving much longer distances in tough conditions."
Commercial Vehicle Industry Association of Queensland CEO Brett Wright said he would like to see more road safety and industry-wide initiatives.
"I'm proud to say this is a very co-operative industry, heavily involved in road safety and it shows at events like this," he said.
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