Palletforce, the UK’s leading freight distribution network, played host to some of the country’s top HGV drivers in a contest to find the British Gypsum Driver of the Year for 2016.

The event, held at Palletforce’s 400,000 sq ft Hub in Burton upon Trent, brought together 10 elite drivers from British Gypsum’s three third-party logistics providers: DHLCeva and Palletforce member Jempsons.

And Palletforce was thrilled when, after a gruelling day of testing, the judges awarded the top prize to Jempson’s driver Julian Spencer – just 12 months after he won the Most Improved category in last year’s competition.

The final itself was the culmination of a series of regional qualifying heats featuring around 350 drivers.

Each finalist was put through their paces in a series of tests designed to show not only their driving skills, but their mechanical, technological and theoretical knowledge.

Tasks included a driving assessment on open roads, manoeuvring their vehicle through a set course, coupling and uncoupling, hazard perception and vehicle defect identification.

Drivers were also required to display mastery of British Gypsum’s “Epod” tracking system, executing a scripted scenario using a hand-held terminal.

Commenting on his award, Julian Spencer said: “This year marks the 150th anniversary of Jempsons, so it’s fantastic to win the Driver of the Year Award.

“The concept of vehicle telematics and the Epod system were fairly new to me when I started with the company, but Jempsons’ development programme – combined with the additional focus provided by Driver of the Year – has made me a much better all-round driver.”

British Gypsum’s distribution improvement manager Kirk Ennis said: “This annual event is all about acknowledging the contribution our drivers and support teams make in delivering a safe and sustainable transport network.

“The final is the culmination of regular development sessions that the driving workforce undergo, which in turn support the targeting of a Zero Harm safe working environment. We would like to congratulate Julian and Jempsons for coming out on top in a highly competitive field this year.”

Michael Conroy, chief executive of Palletforce, said: “We are delighted to host this prestigious event and lend our support to an initiative that encourages excellence in all areas of HGV driving.

“It is particularly pleasing that Julian has won the Driver of the Year award. It’s recognition not only for the effort he has put in over the last 12 months, but the ongoing programme of driver improvement implemented by Jempsons and British Gypsum.”

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