25 years since the first Operators Club Final was held in Germany, the 2023 edition was fittingly won by German operator Robin Müller. While celebrating its origins, the 25th anniversary edition also looked to the future, showcasing the latest electric machines from Volvo Construction Equipment, as well as the company’s commitment to sustainability and vision for a zero-emission construction industry.
On Saturday 14th October, the stage was set for a thrilling showdown as Europe’s finest equipment operators gathered at the home of compact excavators, the Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) factory in Belley, France, for the annual Operators Club Final.
Since its inception in Germany in 1998, the competition has earned a reputation as the construction industry's ultimate test of precision operation. It stands as the pinnacle of regional heats alongside test-driving and networking events organised by the Operators Club throughout the year. With a current membership of 25,000 individuals from 17 different countries, this community formed around celebrating skills and sharing experiences is expanding with each passing day.
In the first discipline, the competitors navigated the Trailer Slalom course with an L25 Electric compact wheel loader and trailer, avoiding hitting the cones and tennis balls.
In this special 25th anniversary edition, 23 contestants represented Operators Club branches from Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland. Robin Müller from Germany clinched the top spot, with last year’s winner Jonathan Legeard from France and Jorne Maebe from Belgium in close pursuit. A notable mention must also go to Michiel Hulsman from the Netherlands, who was among the fastest operators in the competition’s first three disciplines and won an invitation to an FIA World Rallycross race weekend next year.
The overall winner, 29-year-old Robin Müller, has only been a member of the Operators Club since August 2023. The third-generation construction equipment business owner discovered the network at the recent Steinexpo in Germany, where he qualified to take part in the competition.
In the second discipline, the Electric Slam Dunk, the competitors used an EC230E Electric excavator to pass basketballs through three different hoops at various heights.
A new twist on the competition
The 2023 Operators Club Final followed its traditional format, featuring three qualifying disciplines, with highest-scoring operators advancing to the super final challenge, where they battled for the coveted title. The unconventional nature of the tasks – driving machines around a slalom course, dunking basketballs, flipping tires, and a water bucket run – pushed the operators’ speed, dexterity, and accuracy to the limit.
In the third discipline, called 'Flippin' Tires', the competitors used an L25 Electric wheel loader to pick up and transfer tires into a bucket.
This year's event carried a unique twist, however. It featured only electric machines, aligning with Volvo CE's commitment to sustainability and a zero-emission construction industry. The electric lineup included the EC18 Electric compact excavator, the L20 Electric compact wheel loader, L25 Electric compact wheel loader, and the mid-sized EC230 Electric crawler excavator.
In the grand final, the competitors used an EC18 Electric compact excavator to maneuver a water bucket from point A to B in the maze in the fastest time and filling a pipe until a table tennis ball falls out.
For most of the operators, this was their first encounter with electric construction equipment, and it proved to be a unique experience. Unlike conventional internal combustion engine equipment, electric machines generate minimal noise and vibrations and deliver even more responsive control over their movements.
To prepare for the competition, the participants had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of these electric marvels during a test-drive session held the day before the main event. The highlight for many was the opportunity to test-drive Volvo CE's first mid-sized electric excavator, the EC230 Electric, which having undergone a successful trial in Norway last year is now set to reach selected European markets.
Hanna Jaschke, who is responsible for dealer marketing in Europe and the Operators Club at Volvo CE, said: “Each year, this competition challenges the best machine operators to push their precision and competence skills to the absolute limit. It was also exciting for the operators to get a deep dive into the Volvo electric technology and machines and for them to see how some of them are made at the factory in Belley. This was highly appreciated by the group.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Bitter, as head of Volvo CE’s new compact business unit, summed up the significance of this landmark competition taking place in Belley: "We are thrilled to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Operators Club and to introduce an exciting twist this year with the exclusive use of electric machines, reaffirming our commitment to a sustainable future.”
The 23 competitors in the 2023 Operators Club Final represented 12 countries from across Europe.