NZ drivers put to the test

New Zealand has embraced the Bus Roadeo concept, first started in the USA 40 years ago and now a regular event at the NZ Bus and Coach Association annual conference

NZ drivers put to the test
NZ drivers put to the test
Robert Adin, Tranzqual | September 30, 2010

New Zealand’s finest bus and coach drivers were tested with an arduous skills-based competition in late September, delivering a winner with two decades’ driving experience and a background in motor mechanics.

Organised by Tranzqual, NZ’s official transport industry training organisation, the ‘Bus Roadeo’ is in its fourth year, capping off the NZ Bus and Coach Association’s annual conference held in Dunedin.

Hawarden Garage and Transport Company driver Riki Katene, a first time Roadeo competitor, won the practical driving section scoring high marks for skilful steering.

Katene has driven buses for 21 years and learnt while working as a mechanic at New Zealand Railways Road Services in Dunedin in the 1980s.

He says he didn’t expect to win and faced tough competition from a mostly urban bus driver field.

"When you look at the calibre of the competitors I was very humbled just to be here, but to find myself amongst all of them to be the winner, that was something else," Katene says.

As a tour coach driver, Katene says he has a ‘brilliant job’ providing international visitors with a taste of New Zealand’s tourist destinations from a 50-seat Volvo B12 coach.

"My philosophy is love what you do and do what you love – if you do that then you won’t ever work a day in your life," says Katene.

"We've got such a beautiful country and if people want to come here then I'm happy to show them around."

The competing drivers were chosen by their companies based on their excellent technical and driving skills, great customer service and professionalism.

Bus and Coach Association Chief Executive Raewyn Bleakley says Katene’s enthusiasm and professionalism impressed throughout the event.

"Riki is the epitome of the ideal coach driver," Bleakley says.

"The kind that we will need going forward into New Zealand’s most challenging event – the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

"We are also delighted to have a South Island Roadeo winner from a family owned bus company, it’s a great achievement."

A total of 24 top bus and coach drivers tested their skills during the 2010 Roadeo, held at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin and hosted by Citibus.

Each driver had to twice drive around a technically difficult course.

They were also tested on their customer service panache, road theory knowledge and ability to detect bus faults.

The second overall winner was Otago Explorer entrant Malcolm Budd while third place went to last year’s overall winner Peter Krivan of Tranzit Coachlines Wairarapa.

The customer service award went to North Shore driver Mark Connolly of North Star.

Tranzit Route Services Wellington driver James Ford-Hathaway claimed both the bus fault detection award and road code theory award.

Tranzqual CEO Wayne Smith says his organisation was delighted to sponsor such a unique event in New Zealand, which was gaining in popularity each year.

"Bus drivers play a critical role in the success of passenger transport in this country," says Smith.

"They are the public face of bus companies and the industry and the Bus Roadeo helps to raise the bar for the industry and the profession."

Smith says the Roadeo also emphasises the importance of driver training and shows how it can create professionalism in the driving force of which New Zealand can be proud.

"We look forward to another great competition," he says.

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