And the winner is …

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Wouldn’t you know it: Gabriel Warde – a bonafide Irishman! – took top honors in the 2012 Young European Truck Driver (YETD) competition this weekend in Södertälje, Sweden. He beat out 23 finalists to win the YETD crown for 2012 – and did it before some 10,000 spectators, according to Swedish truck maker Scania (which has sponsored this Europe-wide event for five years now) to boot.

According to the OEM, Warde (at right) lagged in seventh place after the qualification rounds, but dialed it all together in the finals to win first place – taking home a brand new Scania R-series highway tractor, valued at 100,000 Euros (a sticker price that equates to over $127,000).

Dmitrey Semenov from Russia placed second with Stephen Lacombe of France placing third – no mean feat as the annual YETD competition pulls from a pool of over 17,000 truck drivers under age 35 from 24 European countries.

Scania noted that the final rounds last two days and involve three challenges pegged with some pretty cool names – “Combo,” “Knock the King” and “Super Z” – that are all about testing a wide variety of truck driver skill sets: defensive driving, fuel-economy driving, cargo securing, pre-trip checks, and safe maneuvering.

You can see how those three main tests are laid out below:

The Combo

Knock the King

Super Z

Yet Erik Ljungberg, Scania’s senior VP and head of corporate relations, stressed that whole point of the annual YETD event is to highlight the critical role the truck driver plays in the freight industry and also help attract more young people to the driving profession.

“The driver is absolutely the most important factor in heavy vehicle transport,” he explained. “Vehicles and infrastructure are obviously of major significance, but fuel-efficient and safe driving is primarily a matter of human behavior.”

Ljungberg added that, through the YETD competition, Scania wants to help raise the status of professional drivers and emphasize their great importance to the profitability of transport companies and to road safety, as well as to the reduced environmental impact.

Scania also noted that its YETD event is endorsed by the European Commission and the International Road Transport Union, with Michelin and Volkswagen also helping out as sponsors. Scania is also running similar competitions in Latin America, Africa and Asia, with the all of those competitions held this year attracting some 70,000 contestants worldwide.  

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