First-time competitor wins UMA Driver Competition

Nelson Leite says he was shocked when his name was announced as the new Grand Champion in the UMA International Driver Competition at the 2023 UMA Motorcoach EXPO in Orlando, Florida. 

 He won the prestigious award as a first-time competitor.

Nelson Leite won the UMA International Driver Competition at the 2023 UMA Motorcoach EXPO. (Jill Kelly)

 “It was a tough course, tougher than it looked when we walked through it,” said Leite, whose name is pronounced late. “It’s very intimidating to be competing among the best of the best drivers.”

Richard Prude of Escot Bus Lines in Orlando was named first runner-up, and Brian Horst of Melard Coach in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, was second runner-up.

 Former limo driver

Leite, who drives for Storer Coachways, based in San Francisco and Modesto, California, joined the motorcoach industry about six years ago.

Richard Prude was first runner-up in the International Drivers Competition. (Jill Kelly)

“I used to drive limos. Then I decided to go big time with the buses because I needed a better paying job,” Leite said. “Storer is such a good company. They are a family-owned company and great to work for.”

After attending the UMA Motorcoach EXPO last year in Long Beach, California, and watching the competition, he decided to compete this year.

Brian Horst was second runner-up in the International Drivers Competition. (Jilly Kelly)

“I thought I should try that. So this year, I talked to my company about applying,” Leite said. “I’m very happy about taking part. All the other drivers are very professional and super friendly people from all over the country, and I’m blessed to be the winner.”

3-pronged competition

All competing drivers qualified for the “Excellence in Driving Award” and met the competition’s qualifications. The Driver Competition combines a written exam, education, and an obstacle course.

“All of these drivers were champions before they arrived in Orlando,” said Ken Presley, United Motorcoach Association’s Vice President of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs & Industry Relations/COO. He’s responsible for coordinating the event. 

This year’s competition featured an additional element … rain. The day began with the typical Florida rainstorm, but by 9 a.m., the rain receded, and the competition got underway. 

Drivers were rated on how they maneuvered through an obstacle course. (Jill Kelly)

The event is underwritten by signature sponsors Prevost and Lancer Insurance Company. The next UMA International Driver Competition will be in conjunction with the 2024 UMA Motorcoach EXPO in Raleigh, North Carolina.

See more photos from the competition and awards ceremony.

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