Two employees from Stagecoach North East have proven to be the best in the region after receiving top scores in driving skills and achieving first and second in the regional Bus Driver of the Year Awards.
With over 1500 employees across the north east, the local bus operator is celebrating its staff success as dynamic duo David Glasper, from Southwick in Sunderland and Brian Usher, from Marsden in South Shields, are recognised for their exceptional driving.
63-year-old David, a bus driver at Stagecoach North East’s Sunderland depot, has won the Regional Bus Driver of the Year accolade for the 11th year. He was joined in second place by colleague Brian, 54, a bus driver at the South Shields bus depot.
Both drivers had to complete a series of rigorous tests to challenge their driving skills, including a theory test on all aspects of the Highway Code, road safety and hazard awareness, and a comprehensive driving test assessed by Driving Standards Manager Joe Carr, who organised the competition. The drivers had to achieve at least 85 percent score, and were given penalty points for any incorrect answers or marked down for wrong manoeuvres.
Each driver was also assessed on their individual record, with a low Ecodriver score from the company’s green driving programme, excellent attendance and accident-free record until the day of the competition.
A bus driver for 22 years, David was delighted to win again and then go on to represent Stagecoach North East as a finalist at the national Bus Driver of the Year Awards in Blackpool.
100 bus and coach drivers took part in the 51st UK competition, which this year saw horrendous weather for the participants, making the course even tougher. Drivers are given a bus that they are unfamiliar with and are only given a few minutes to prepare and get used to the way they run. Marking is very tight for each test and with few penalty points between competitors, it is a difficult challenge for everyone with little margin for error.
Featuring both single and double decker buses, exams include driving around chicanes lined with cones, length tests to position the bus within a certain area and fast response theory tests. Competitors are also expected to drive a course around the streets of Blackpool and during this, customers can get on board as it is classed as a regular bus service.
Prior to the driving challenge, David was able to enjoy a Gala dinner at Hilton Hotel with over 400 people from the industry and discuss strategy and tactics with the competition.
David, who placed in the top 25 for all Stagecoach drivers in the country with 19 regional Stagecoach operations nationally, said: “Although I haven’t beaten my all time best position of 23rd in the national competition, I was delighted to make the finals for my 11th year. To reach the top 100 bus drivers from national bus and coach companies such as First and Arriva, is great recognition. But the real reward for me is to win the regional competition. To come top in the north east again is an achievement and my wife and I had an excellent weekend.”
Brian, a bus driver for 31 years, has completed his first driving challenge and was delighted to achieve second place in the regional competition. He said: “I have often thought about taking part but haven’t until now, so I’m really pleased for my first attempt. It has been a great confidence boost, as I take pride in my job and want to be good at it.
“Challenges like this all add to the role of a bus driver, which I really enjoy as love meeting new people, helping them to get to where they need to be and being part of their daily life.”
Colin Newbury, Operations Director at Stagecoach North East, presented prizes to the top drivers, with David winning a cash boost of £250 for first place and Brian receiving £150 for second place.
He said: “This is a fantastic achievement for David and Brian and we wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate our drivers and their outstanding results. Alongside our initiatives such as Ecodriver, Fleet Elite and Rosco Safe Driving Awards, the bus driver awards are another example of our drivers taking training to the next level and providing excellent customer service along the way.”
Joe Carr, Driving Standards Manager for Stagecoach North East who prepares the drivers for the competition, said: “It is great to see so many of our staff put themselves forward for this challenge and represent the company. We receive a number of applications every year but it really is the best of the best for the regional and final competition, as drivers have to meet the strict criteria set.
“For the finals, it is very much down to what happens on the day and the weather conditions, but I do as much as I can to help them get ready. David and Brian have pushed themselves to set a very high standard for others to follow and they can feel justly proud of their achievements.”