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From a Crazy Idea to the StaplerCup

The final of this year’s StaplerCup is fast approaching. One of the men who helped develop the format from the very start is Peter Seufert. The forklift driver had already proven his own prowess behind the wheel in front of an audience of millions. And he is a perfect fit for our series on interesting characters in the KION world.


Instead of following a straight line, Peter Seufert’s career path took unexpected turns along the way. When this native of Miltenberg in Bavaria first got his training to become a builder under his belt, he probably never would have imagined that almost 50 years later he would be entering early retirement as an employee of Linde MH’s marketing department. It was a very special talent that brought him into the world of marketing: His skillful handling of forklift trucks!

This is because Seufert switched careers after completing his building apprenticeship. First, he became a roofer, before becoming a forklift driver at Linde MH 10 years later. This involved loading trucks and transporting counterbalanced forklift trucks for production. “I loved Linde from day one,” says Seufert. As a forklift truck driver, he also really enjoyed the playful and easy handling of his truck. So much so that he would devise tricky challenges which could only be solved with the necessary dexterity. Like using the prong to put eyelets of thin wire around a ballpoint pen refill. He even put his skills to the test several times on TV shows—but more about that later. In any case, Linde MH’s marketing manager was impressed by Seufert’s talent and creativity, and he also had an ulterior motive up his sleeve.

A StaplerCup Team

An ulterior motive because the marketing manager was planning a competition which would demonstrate the level of art, skill, and passion that goes into handling forklift trucks. He envisioned an obstacle course that riders could tackle with their forklift trucks, and Seufert was tasked with making suggestions for the challenges: “You always have such great ideas,” Seufert’s manager said, convincing him to take part. And so, the StaplerCup was born. Today it has long since been an institution in its own right within the intralogistics industry. Seufert became more than just a major contributor in conceptualizing the successful challenge, he continues to develop it alongside other colleagues. For the first editions of the StaplerCup, the forklift driver moved over to the marketing department, at first occasionally, then increasingly frequently and over a longer period— before finalizing his move to marketing on a full-time basis. To this day Seufert plans and organizes the annual StaplerCup with an entire dedicated team. The team spirit plays a particularly important role here: “New people have fresh and good ideas, and if you always do something the same way for too long, it gets boring.” However, 2022 will be his last StaplerCup because he is officially retiring this November. Even if his colleagues are already jokingly speculating that a passionate individual like him won’t seriously be able to leave the world of forklift trucks behind. And it’s true, Seufert can hardly conceal his passion—and nor does he want to: “You have to enjoy this work, otherwise there’s no point in getting involved with it in the first place.”

Talent, Dexterity, and Spatial Awareness

The same passion that he identifies in the StaplerCup participants, whose achievements he admires greatly. “They all drive better than I can,” he says. “You need talent, dexterity, and spatial awareness.” Shining a spotlight on these qualities was and still is one of the main aims of the StaplerCup. “Forklift drivers don’t have a great reputation. We wanted to highlight the value of working as a forklift driver, and it’s great to see how proud those in the top places always are with our cup,” shares Seufert. “Some of them even make it onto TV afterwards.” And they have a tough act to follow in the process, namely that of Seufert himself.

Because over 20 years ago he was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Today it’s no longer fully apparent who originally came up with the five-mark piece idea. Seufert remembers first being approached about it by one of the car mechanics: “Put a coin on the edge of a truck’s hood and then try to stop it from falling off with the engine running!” Seufert was intrigued by this idea and decided to try it out himself with a five-mark piece, an old German coin, even putting it on the prong of his truck and driving around with it still there. At some stage he told this story to one of the service managers. He didn’t believe him at first. It’s a well-known fact that Linde trucks drive smoothly and with precision—but as smoothly as that? After various successful demonstrations, someone made an off-the-cuff comment, suggesting that they “get in touch with ‘Wetten, dass...?’”

‘Wetten, dass...?’ is somewhat of an institution on German TV: It’s a German TV show that was regularly broadcast between 1981 and 2014, with people glued to their screens on Saturdays when it aired. In the 1980s an average of over 20 million people watched it, often representing a market share of 60–70% of television viewers on a Saturday evening. A mixture of talk show, celebrity guests, and ordinary people in between who made crazy, silly, or unbelievable sounding bets. Take this, for example: Want to bet that I can drive a forklift truck around a course in four minutes with a five-mark piece standing upright on the prong and it doesn’t fall off? That was the bet that Peter Seufert made on November 11, 2000, when he appeared on the program.

Backstage with Madonna and the Backstreet Boys

And so it wasn’t long before the then 40-year-old found himself surrounded by showbiz stars. Behind the scenes he met the likes of the Backstreet Boys (“very nice, the guys,” says Seufert), Madonna, and Til Schweiger to name but a few. “You just become a part of it then,” is how he describes this experience. He caused quite a sensation simply by arriving with “such an enormous machine” in tow: the then H80 Linde model—an eight-ton truck. Seufert balanced a five-mark piece on its prongs, while he also stacked two large boxes on top of each other under time pressure. At the end he didn’t ‘win’ his bet, as he failed to complete the challenge in the specified time limit, and it all got a bit hectic just before the end—and the coin toppled. However, as is often the case on ‘Wetten, dass...?’, that didn’t really matter. If you watch the old recording, you can almost feel how mesmerized the members of the live audience in the arena were, all following the forklift truck’s every movement in awe. And everyone seemed to know: It could have easily gone the other way.

The Second Forklift Truck Bet: A 20-Meter-High Tower

That could have been the end of the story—but Seufert was given the opportunity to take part in a rematch soon afterwards. In 2004 a group of young men wanted to feature on the show with another forklift truck bet. The challenge? Stacking a 20-meter-high tower of water tanks on pallets in under five minutes. “But not long before filming the show they visibly got cold feet,” explains Seufert, and the TV editors were left in the lurch without any forklift truck drivers. So, ZDF rang up Linde: A few years ago, there was this Peter Seufert guy? This landed him a second appearance on the show. This time next to George Michael, Charlize Theron, and Franz Beckenbauer. “The idea was too ambitious from the outset, though,” he says. Once again, the time limit was too tight. Seufert couldn’t do it.

“And then two years later, Chinese television phoned up,” he explains, and they asked if he wanted to work on the Chinese version of ‘Wetten, dass...?’. “At first I thought it was a prank call.” Not long afterwards, Seufert, who isn’t a fan of flying, found himself sitting on a flight to Beijing and was provided with a chauffeur and interpreter for three days. The Chinese version was a different kettle of fish to the German original, he says. There were more acrobatics on the cards. “That made the forklift truck all the better for being a large machine.” This time Seufert also managed to actually build the tower and was crowned the ‘Competition King.’ “And all the competition kings from each episode are invited back again for the final.”

As part of the German program, TV presenter Thomas Gottschalk had previously asked him live on air if he had any tips for becoming an excellent driver. Seufert’s response at the time: The more comfortable the driver is, the more often they remain seated, meaning they carefully move obstacles aside with the fork instead of getting out of the truck—that’s how you hone your skills. But perhaps the truth lies more in the fact that Seufert still used to have so much fun driving after his shift ended, that he played around with coins, pins, and wires, among other things. The same fun that spurred him on during the challenges of the StaplerCup Final for one last time this year.