Despite some challenging wintry weather conditions at the SBS quarry in Genk near Limburg, Belgium, nothing could put a dampener on Volvo Construction Equipment’s (Volvo CE) 2012 European Operators Club Final.
Held over the weekend, competitive spirits ran high throughout the competition – but it was Germany’s Thomas Vogt who triumphantly stole the European title and the €1,000 prize fund in a nail bitingly close contest.
“I had no idea I had won until it was announced at the award ceremony,” says Thomas Vogt, who works for H. Klostermann in Hamm, Germany, operating wheel loaders and excavators for rail infrastructure contracts. “I was told I had to win this year because the competition began in Germany in 1998 and I have been a member of the Operators Club ever since. It’s the fourth year I have entered the competition and have come close to winning before, coming second and third in previous years. Unfortunately, I broke my thumb last year and had to pull out, but I have done it this time!”
Gathering the best
The Operators Club is based on a series of national competitions, often held in association with trade shows or machine demonstrations, where the skill and precision of eligible operators is tested. Winners of these national competitions then go through to this stage of the competition – the European finals.
Since 1998, the competition has grown considerably now with nine European countries taking part. Operators from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy and the Czech Republic made up the 25 finalists, all of whom had qualified previously in their country’s regional heats. Throughout the day, the operators participated in three different disciplines, each in a different Volvo CE machine. To test their operation skills, each test challenged the operators’ knowledge, accuracy, speed and control.
First on the agenda was the warm up in one of Volvo’s latest MCT125C skid steer loaders to determine who would go first in Discipline 1. A container of water was placed on the machine’s bucket and the operator had to make it around an uneven track spilling as little water as possible. Gasps from the crowd were an effective indication of when water sloshed out of the bucket.
In Discipline 1 the operators used an EC35C compact excavator to dig into the ground and find a cable buried below the all-important Volvo branded blue marker tape. The exercise relied on the operators’ careful precision and estimation skills. An L90G wheel loader was then used in Discipline 2, which tested the operators’ speed and spatial awareness. Discipline 3 focused on precision and measurement using an EC220D excavator. All of the disciplines were against the clock and time penalties were given for misdemeanors in each challenge.
“You’ve got a mix between speed and accuracy and the operators were trying to find the right balance between the two,” says Mike Humphrey, Volvo CE’s Vice President Marketing in Europe, Middle East and Africa. “You could definitely see the difference when an operator was using the machine that they work with every day because they found both speed and accuracy. Some of the operators were giving outstanding performances and it was really impressive to watch.”
Although Thomas is the worthy winner of 2012, the runners-up are commendable adversaries for next year. Mike Feldsien, also from Germany, came a close second and Robert Bekink from the Netherlands followed in third place.
The Operators Club has over 9,000 members and club advantages include free entrance to trade fairs, factory visits, merchandize and of course the chance to compete for the European title of ‘Operator Champion’.
By: Chloe Doyle
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Volvo Construction Equipment
Sales Region EMEA
Tel: int + 46 7008 38951
Tel: int +44 77 333 50307