This year's Bibby Distribution Fork Truck Driver of the Year proved to be the biggest and toughest ever. As in the past four years, following the event's highly successful launch in 2001, the 2005 competition was sponsored by Atlet, a long standing supplier of mixed lift truck fleets to Bibby's centres throughout the country.
The Fork Truck Driver contest was again combined with Bibby's popular and long-established competition for HGV lorry drivers, following the successful bringing-together of the two events last year. The contests were held at Leconfield Barracks, near Hull, an ex-RAF base which is now home of the MOD's driver training operations – one of the biggest such facilities in Europe.
The Fork Truck Driver contest attracted a record number of entrants from Bibby sites across the UK, who took part in a tough eight-hour contest to test their skills in the theory and practice of operating lift trucks. The practical tests involved Atlet UNS Tergo reach trucks and counterbalance trucks, which Atlet had sourced from Daewoo. Atlet's service engineers helped invigilate and judge the rounds. Each contestant had to undergo a written theory test, pre-operative maintenance checks, stacking and destacking pallets, loading a curtainsider trailer, and a tough against-the-clock obstacle course.
Unlike the 2004 event, which was hit by the region's worst storm in years, with torrential rain and gale-force winds, this year's contest was held in glorious sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20s.
Overall victory went to Adrian Bird from Bibby's Bicester Park depot in Oxfordshire, which is operated for the brewery giant Budweiser and has the UK's largest single fleet of Atlet's high-tech Omni DCR man-up narrow aisle stackers. Adrian received a cheque for £500, presented by Atlet's head of servicing operations Phil Potter. It was a particularly gratifying experience for Adrian, since he was runner-up in the 2004 competition. “I thought that was hard,” he said, “but this year was even tougher – I'm over the moon with the result!”
In second place this year, taking away £300, was Paul Foster from the Bibby's Babcock Defence Storage and Distribution depot, also in Bicester. Third place, and £200, went to Leeds depot driver Darrell Rawnsley. Prizes were also awarded to the winners of the individual rounds, excluding the top three, and all entrants received commemorative medallions and a range of personal gifts. The event culminated in a lively 'Awards Ceremony' dinner.
Assisting Atlet's Phil Potter in presenting the awards was Sir Michael Bibby, Managing Director of the Bibby Line Group. “As Bibby Distribution's motto has it, 'People make our business',” he said, “and forklift driving is one of the core 'people skills' of our operations. It is fundamental to our day-to-day business and to the service we offer our customers. With the help of Atlet we're able to give our drivers the recognition and credit they richly deserve – with an event that's not just challenging but great fun as well. Now in its fifth successful year the Atlet-backed Fork Truck Driver competition has now become an established and eagerly-anticipated event in the Bibby calendar. ”