Top UK Coach Driver
This award is presented to the coach driver who has best demonstrated excellent performance from the customer perspective in the 12 month period to the end of December 2010.
To win the title of Top UK Coach Driver, nominees need to go that extra mile to provide the customer’s ideal: a driver who is friendly, helpful, conscientious and mindful of passengers’ comfort and well-being – in short, a true professional and worthy ambassador for the job.
The Winner: Billy Graham, Cochrane's, Peterlee, County Durham
Billy has been a PSV driver for 32 years, starting with Northern, the local bus operator, in 1979 at the age of 23. He joined the team at Cochranes, a small family firm based in Peterlee in the North East, in 1981.
His boss Ian Cochrane told us, “We know that when Billy goes away on tour, our coach and the passengers are in the safest of hands. We trust him to look after our coach and his passengers impeccably because that is the caring professional he is.”
As the company's lead tour driver since 2002, Billy has trained and supervised many Cochrane drivers over the years, helping them to learn the ropes, including his boss Ian Cochrane, whom he partnered for 3 years. He is always keen to pass on his vast amount of knowledge of both the UK and Europe.
Highly respected in the industry by his colleagues, tour operators and tour organisers, Billy is personally requested by tour operators and clients as their preferred driver and only recently was entrusted by Goldcrest Holidays when a reporter from the travel trade press joined him on a Paris tour.
When the Coach Tourism Council had a familiarisation visit to the North East in January 2008, Cochrane's were selected as the coach company to transport fellow professionals during their stay, and of course Billy was their driver - a superb ambassador for the company.
Ian Cochrane told the judges, "Billy is a people person and very quickly establishes a good rapport with his colleagues, supervisors and passengers. He is confident and can put you at ease immediately, always aware of the needs of his passengers he is helpful and informative, always friendly and an entertainer with a great sense of humour.
He added, "We are very proud of our team of drivers and in particular Billy whose experience, professionalism, knowledge, driving and customer care skills are second to none. It is wonderful that he has been nominated for the coach driver of the year award and of course we can’t think of anyone more deserving. We can honestly say Billy loves his job and the job loves him!"
Runner Up: David Alford, Euro-Cruising, Hull, East Yorkshire
It's not often you get to hear of a driver who was so good that one of his passengers recruited him, but that is exactly what happened with Dave Alford.
His boss Marion Owen told us, "I personally talked him into joining us after being on a continental tour with 32 of my customers on Daves coach. He was fantastic and very informative - just what we needed after several other less than perfect tours with others. Euro Cruising would not have come into being without him."
He joined the industry in 1993 and passed his PSV test in 1995. Marion told us, "We frequently receive phone calls, e-mails or letters praising Dave's driving skills, customer care, and knowledge of routes and places visited. He is quite happy to go the extra distance to ensure his passengers are having a good time. This is most important to him."
The following drivers received a large number of nominations from customers, and are highly commended by the judges for their professionalism, skills and customer service.
Mike Fitzgerald, Anthony's Travel, Runcorn, Cheshire
This is the third year in a row that Mike has been nominated by his customers for this award, and his third successive commendation from the judges - itself worthy of commendation!
Mike has held a PCV licence for over 30 years, and has worked for Anthony's Travel for the last six years.
"Mike is a great tour driver," say his employers. "We receive many favourable comments about him, especially from the Senior citzen groups. His attention to detail when planning routes, rest stops and visits to places of interest is excellent."
These sentiments are echoed by customers, who praised his work highly. "The talk among the passengers was all about the wonderful coach driver," said one customer. Another referred to his "never failing cheerfulness, unfailing availability when members needed help and his knowledge of the locality and the hotel."
Ken Jones, Anthony's Travel, Runcorn, Cheshire
Another champion driver from Anthony's Travel. this is Ken's second successive placing in the finals of this competition.
Ken has been driving PSVs for an amazing 45 years, and has been part of the team at Anthony's Travel for almost 20 years, being employed continuously since 2002.
His employer praises his ability to keep calm in unforeseen circumstances, and he is admired for his skills as an ambassador for the company. "Flexible, approachable and eager to assist," they sum up.
As one customer told us, "Ken is a very friendly man who is very caring about the needs of his passengers. He is an excellent driver who has good knowledge of places, especially helpful to the less able-bodied passengers."
Kevin Starkey, Marshall's Coaches, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire
Kevin first joined the industry in 1988, and has been with Marshalls Coaches for almost exactly fifteen years since joining in June 1997. His boss, operations manager Mark Sheringham-Ford told us, "I have worked with Kevin for the last 10 years and I can honestly say that it has been a pleasure. I can always rely on him to turn up to work on time. He always looks smart and has always has a smile on his face. Kevin always puts the customer first and has a very likebale and fun personality. As a result customers regularly request him to be their driver on there trips. My only wish is that I could clone Kevin!"
Who could be nominated?
Any licensed PCV driver in full-time employment, who has been in continuous employment on coach services for the 12 months ended 31 December 2011.
…and by whom?
Nominations were sought from group organisers and other coach hire clients for the coach drivers they consider worthy of this award.
UKCA organisers then sought further information from employers and the consent of the driver concerned to their name being put forward for the award.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
As well as nomination by customers, entrants will be assessed on their technical and professional skill. Evidence of this will be required and could include:
- The nominee’s accident record
- Number and duration of safe driving awards won by the nominee
- Technical and professional skills, as evidenced by such items as internal driver assessment reports or marks achieved in a company, regional or national competition held at the coach rallies or other events.
In addition to the skills section, short-listed entrants for the Top UK Coach Driver award will be assessed on:
- Public Commendations
- Disciplinary record
In short, the winner of the Coach Driver of the Year prize goes to the individual who best represents the whole range of professional and customer care skills required for this important and highly demanding job.