Last week I spent the entire week driving an articulated heavy goods vehicle, also known as Class 1 (the licence type) that has now become Category C+E (Heavy Goods Vehicle plus trailer (articulated).
Bendi Buses whilst are articulated could be driven on a rigid bus licence (PCV/PSV/ Cat D) because the two halves cannot be seperated and rejoined by the driver. The engine is often in the rear in those too.
So. I was in a 2005 Iveco Stralis 6x2 with a midlift (one axle driven, 3 in total and the middle axle on the tractor unit (the bit at the front) can be raised or lowered depending on the weight of the trailer. A three axle trailer would take this combination weight up to 44 tons. Slept / ate / drank / drove in the cab all week... Staying away from base every night and moving around the country is called 'Tramping'.
Eastbound and Around
So. Monday. The weekend had me planning and doing. I had an event on Sunday that I was helping out at, a prior agreement and an annoyance that I’d missed the shops to get those final things… But you can take too much can’t you? It was the little things I was short of but they could be picked up during the week
I had 3 lists. Work, Clothing, Cutlery and food. The work stuff I mostly carried anyway, with the exception that I now carried a laptop and some extra electrical cables (usb etc). The food and cutlery was mostly tinned but had a few extra things in there too. Remembered the stove, pans and even a new collapsible washing up bowl. The stove and hot drinks gear stayed in the car anyway most of the time, the same with my work bag and HiVis stuff.
I was prodded away from my lists at Noon on Saturday to help a friend without a car get up to the nearby airport for a flyby of an Avro Vulcan. We managed to get the same spot as the last time we were up there, that time for a Lancaster some years back. After that, I happened upon Go Outdoors and, well, followed the advice from here and purchased a duvet-type sleeping bag.
Sunday evening had me packing it all up, sorting and checking it and I still managed to forget my ‘backup’ torch. I think I popped it in its holster and, er, left it on the shelf. End of the week I found it at home next to the fridge. Oops!
So Monday had me at 0330 at the wagon in the transport yard within the city boundaries. I was quite surprised how many were here, nearly 20 of them, all of them pulling skellies. Some with boxes and some without, but all were Iveco’s and of the 2005 vintage.
Brain fade here because the unit was soft coupled, as it was called by the other drivers and, wow, paper tacho’s! Shoved my gear in, and found it seemed a little cramped from the images I’d seen, but these things happen. It also had a full thickness mattress inside, in the area of the lower bunk and the top bunk hooked away. Later found out the regular driver had got it in himself and it certainly was comfortable overnight!
Grabbed my work coat, hi vis fleece, regular fleece and the waistcoat fleece. The latter two by mistake and it was only 300 miles later when I was looking for my Bluetooth earpiece I wondered what the heck I was thinking at 4am to stick all those fleeces in! The earpiece is in the car, and not in my work bag. Alas.
So, soft coupled. It’s what another driver called it. Kingpin locked in, but nothing else, so I just followed that through to couple the rest up. Another driver fired up the engine for me and much to my annoyance shoved his foot hard on the power to build up the air. Perhaps its just me but I feel that engines shouldn’t be abused when they’ve sat overnight. I’m certainly the most active first thing when I wake up so why should the truck engine be? Double checked everything on the trailer but still took it carefully. Wouldn’t be a good start to break things this early.
Still, soon we were going. A large strange behemoth, it even moved after I remembered to take the trailer brake off…
A brief conversation about the nearest Keyfuels place and the suggestion to follow a particular driver. Thankfully I know the difference between Southampton and Felixstowe as I was heading south and he was going east, at which point I decided I knew better and came off the motorway onto the dual carriageway. I’m glad I did because I spotted one of their trucks in a garage and turned around and came back. Not many 55 plate Iveco’s with containers around that time of the morning.
Next problem, where the heck is reverse. So it’s a semi auto/auto. Left button for neutral, right for forward gear and then lever forwards or backwards to go up/down gears. Reverse? Last one of these I drove, you pressed the thumb switch and then pulled it back. No joy, and I spent about 10 minutes trying to find it. Even rang the boss who gave me the number for the fitter who was already out and about. Thankfully another driver pulled in and showed me ‘the collar’ thing which, to be honest, I hadn’t noticed.
Reversed up, lined up and stuck about £450 of diesel in the tank before pulling off and letting him get his, then took off southbound.
A46, M40, A34 and by which time I was feeling a bit tired. Clearly a wimp, having spent a week in the classroom and before that a week of relaxed late duties I had seriously got out of these early starts and stuff. Had to stop twice for a 15m snooze and so coupled with that, traffic and having never been to Southampton Docks before I was late. It rained a fair whack and the mirrors were useless. Turns out the heated element, didn’t.
Pulled in at Gate 10 in Southampton and followed the directions given… and went to the passenger terminal. The place I was looking for didn’t seem to exist, and after pulling in I found that the previous information was clearly incorrect and they suggested another name, of which I’d seen. Pentalver, yeah, their site was next to the first roundabout. So now pointing the wrong way I had to turn around.
Eventually having discounted numerous places to ‘spin’ the artic and trailer around in I found an important thing. A roundabout, then hotfooted it back down the road to the Pentalever depot. Pulled in and stalled it. Never mind, I mostly wanted to be here, right? Handbrake on and left it, wondered down to the security hut but they were busy so saw the guy behind in a Daf 85 daycab who ‘advised’ me on the intricacies they wanted here, such as taking off the twistlocks and opening the door to check it was empty. It was, awesome.
The checkpoint guy came over and confirmed it was empty, gave me bits of paper which went in the paperwork wallet in the cab and around I went to the offload area, where a big forklift lifted it off, and wow, the vehicle was responsive again. Left the yard carefully, and once outside cleaned all the mirrors before heading off to the next site.
So, I made a mistake here. Several mistakes happen, but life’s a learning curve. I’d been texted my next plan, and missed a vital postcode and it was only when I had got mostly to Eastleigh I remembered another word he’d used with me. Totton. Checked again on the map and cursed myself. Clearly I needed to go to the first place first to pickup the box to carry the stuff…. Afterall, how was I going to load the stuff to an empty skelly?
Almost a comedy of errors, I was cursing myself somewhat.
The place I had to pickup the box lacked outward signage but was called ‘Eldapoint’ or something and the web furnished a more valid postcode but that only took me to the main road outside. So I’d come down the A35, back at the roundabout heading towards Redbridge / M271 and before the bridge taking a left turn down this road. Van sales on the right corner. Technically I should have turned right under the bridge, but didn’t see the sign and didn’t want to go somewhere I couldn’t get out. So I carried on. After a short while I came to a cross roads, with a 7.5t weight limit ahead, and a wide road on my left, so I went up there. Under the bridge the road had a width and weight restriction up ahead.
Right. Reverse. In daylight, around a corner…
Now it’s easy once you’ve done it but… Anyway, so I managed to let the traffic pass then reversed back into the access road for the train station carpark. I tried to keep it in the middle so as not to let the overhang take out something I hadn’t seen in the semi-usable mirrors and had to take a couple of shunts forwards to straighten it up.
I am often worried with reversing if I haven’t got out and looked in that I might take out something on the hidden nearside that I hadn’t seen or even that the swing is large enough to cause a problem. Experience and practice is what I need!
Bunch of cars past, couple walkers then indicating left pulled out. At the junction ahead I saw a car accelerating (bonnet rose sharply) to make the gap as cars were parked on his side but I was just taking it carefully to give myself enough room to pull out. By the time I had cleared the junction behind the guy clearly realised he’d have to stop and even I heard the wet rubber sliding sound as he proved he didn’t have ABS. I guess I could have reversed, if all those people behind in the carpark hadn’t taken this chance to rush up behind me.
Back on the main road I spotted another truck ahead, with a container going in where I should have really and so followed him. Once through I spoke to the security guy and trundled off to collect the box. They were nice and helpful about it. More puddles and mud but out again. Boss rang, explained my mistake and that was why I was late and so hurried up to Ford at Eastleigh to collect the cargo.
The semi automatic gearbox has it’s moments and telling it to down change whilst in Auto clearly wasn’t a smart move and the gearbox controller had it’s huff on a roundabout. Yaay! Not.
Still, eventually got to the client. Chap not happy, very late and worse, I couldn’t reverse worth a damn. No, seriously. My 3rd reversing of the day was from the outside into a building and the mirrors were naff. Relatively bright light outside and a dark hole inside. 7 shunts later, maybe more and I got it close enough to open the rear doors and then eventually it was on the ramp. The guy helped out with the trailer suspension and showed me the seals I needed. Whilst he was loading, I found them. Helpfully hidden under a pile of rubbish.
I like a tidy truck I do, I like to turn up, sling my gear in, make sure all the regular bits work as they should and get on with work in whatever I’m driving. What I don’t like is having to dig through the rubbish stuffed in side pockets, in door pockets, the footwell, the bunk just to find what I need… So I had already started the cleanup operation at the various places I’d been stopped at when needing to access certain parts of the lorry….
So I found the security pins for the back door and shortly after loading, locking up, and securing the door I was off. Destination, Felixstowe. Also known as, other side of the country!
Rang the boss, updated him and gave him the times.
M something towards London, the M25, then up around and the A12 to Felixstowe.
Stopped at some services on the way and really buggered up the reverse. Winchester Services I think. This wasn’t the first time, I pull in tired and wake up by having to find a place to stop. Failed to get it in the box and was cursing myself but wanted a cuppa and a doze so went around the block. Was tempted just to leave there and then, feeling a tad peeved off with the world but mostly my parking skills, or lack of.
But I went around for another try and pulled in next to a van and behind another lorry and set the kettle going. Kimchi for lunch today, so after adding hot water and covering it over and making a fresh coffee I spotted a pair of trucks leaving, and so pulled into that space, to find I could drive to the front to make a forward exit.
10 minute nap followed by food and I could carry on. I was sure if I was doing this all the time I’d get into a routine and could manage to drive for longer without needing a break… I had to stop every 90 minutes for a short nap, I really was out of shape for this!!! Finally reached the yard at Felixstowe and squeezed it in between a lorry and a car and only needed 3 shunts. But it was close enough….
Curtains drawn, tidied the cab, grabbed my HiVis and over to the security hut for paperwork and to be nice to the security guard. A few friends rang so I took the chance for a stroll around the truck park on my mobile before returning to the cab for food and bed…. Supper was a plain pot noodle. Last of the noodle based food but I was too tired to do anything more complicated…
0330 – 1800, 9 hours off
Started at 0340 this morning, having had over 9 hours off. Need to better plan my whole getting up stuff. Perhaps make a list to remind myself what to do and what not to do. Clearly waking at 3am, putting the night heater on and wrapping back up in the sleeping bag shouldn’t be done, should it.
Anyway, so off down to the main gate for the port, then left and to the port Police station. Eventually got access to the building with a polite but grumbling Police officer. He’d come off patrol to sort out my RHIDES card because of civil service cut backs and the like. The previous afternoon I’d had to stop and pass the details to my controller from my drivers licence to get it pre-arranged.
Didn’t take long so back out to the lorry, and drove around to the port. If ever a suggestion for a port, Felixstowe needs more signs. Having entered into the south entrance for Trinity (don’t look at me like that please) I was told to go in and turn it, but getting to the next gate was told I couldn’t do that and to leave normally. I couldn’t find the exit either, so I just turned somewhere else and followed the first advised plan. Finally back out from South gate and found Trinity North gate, and was told about the computer system and what I had to record and put in. Not too difficult when you’ve done it once, then into the port. I was given a map but did ask how to decipher it and away I went.
So. I found the lane and section I wanted and knew not to be in the yellow hatched area for safety but the box was bigger than the trailer… So I asked another driver, who also told me that I was in the transit lane not the loading lane. As the crane was quite far away I reversed it over onto the nearside at an angle then worked my way over to the box. Quite a few times I had to stop, into neutral, handbrake on and out to check it was lined up but I thought it was.
Crane turned up, lowered his frame but couldn’t grip the box. Not having seen one before in operation I didn’t know how it worked but he tried a few times and it wouldn’t engage and he just sat there. When the cranes move bells and horns go off with the flashing lights but I didn’t know what the other horn meant. After a moment the frame came off and he drove off, in a straight line in his lane. It was as tall as a house, had 4 wheels either side, each one larger than a tractor wheel and the width of two together. A big upside down U shape with the cradle in the middle to lift/lower the containers and move them into the stacks they were assigned. Their other side of the vehicle was on the far side of the stack of containers.
So I just waited and after 10 minutes he returned. Same thing repeated again, but at the horn I leaned out and asked if he wanted me to move. He sounded annoyed yet deadpan telling over a loudspeaker me he couldn’t move. Great. Never mind. Took it back a little then forward a little then the frame finally went on with a loud clang, and the box was lifted away. The truck lifted as well and it felt almost naked without a box on. Pulled away and found it was much easier to drive now. That mid axle was still down and was noisier now on the road but so was the empty skelly.
Pulled out and had to go back to the access road before I could go against the directional flow of the trucks in the lanes to get to a much lower number to load. The ‘slot’ was for 0500-0600 and at 0555 I pulled into the slot with the crane already waiting there and had a toot, so stopped. Crane lifted the box over and slotted it in first time and everything sank down, so grabbing my hard hat popped out and did all the twist locks and waved up a thanks. Got a toot of the horn then as I got back in the cab he was moving off straight away and I had to find my way out.
So that took a while, lack of signs again and the map didn’t make much sense. However, I followed a few other trucks and eventually I made it to the exit and the map made more sense now.
Leaving was easier, the computer and the guy for the checks was also easier and I thought I was on a roll, then pulled out and found the traffic queue. 15 minutes later I’d past the last checkpoint and was on the road heading for the A14. Mr SatNav kept me going in the right direction as I headed out towards Middle England. Next drop, Newport Shropshire.
Stopped the other side of the bridge to make a coffee and have a 10 minute nap and back on the A14. Stopped at Brampton Hut for breakfast, which with my planning had made it to be muesli and milk, milk bought fresh from the services. The cool bag I had didn’t keep the milk cool from what I had bought from home and it had gone off. It was time to tackle the fridge also!
The previous user had left some foodstuffs in it and it had gone liquid and smelly, so with a bit of care and lots of kitchen roll, carrier bags and antiseptic wipes I cleaned it out the best I could and lined it with kitchen towel to soak up the last of the moisture, with the top open and the windows open. Binned the smelly carrier bag of rubbish and stuck in the fresh milk sitting on some more kitchen towel, just in case. Also found the power switch and back on the road.
On my walk around checks before setting off I checked the pin was locked in with the torch, the bar was in the right place and everything looked OK and coupled. The suspension was low at the back, lower than I would have liked but checked the suspension was set to it’s reset position. I didn’t know if it was the norm to run with the suspension raised for the wheels to clear the wheel arches a bit more and at that time in the morning the guy I’d ask for tech support on such things was probably tucked up in bed, working the night shift as he does.
So, I asked a driver next to me who helpfully pointed out that if I got it wrong the wheels would soon catch fire. Gee, thanks for that. He didn’t seem inclined to offer any supportive assistance so I just got going, back onto the A14.
M6 had its slow bits but then onto the M54 and off at the Cosford exit. The Snooper got me where I needed to be and popped into the office to be given the bays where I was going to reverse onto. 3 different ones. Ok, practice! Cool… Returned to the lorry and then found the guy was with me there and said they’d changed their minds and wanted me parked at 90 degrees to the door and their forkie would pull it off and get it into the separate doors where needed, so I pulled the curtains and went for a nap. Within minutes another guy was at the door telling me I was in the wrong so referred him to the other guy and that was it. I set the alarm for 45 minutes and had a nap.
I woke up 90 minutes later to silence, the clanging from the box was gone and there were quiet noises from across the yard. I checked the alarm clock and found I’d forgotten to ‘arm’ it. Bugger.
Popped my boots back on and trundled over to the office for the paperwork. There were a lot more trucks in the yard now and a really young guy doing an uncouple with a DAF XF. I thought I was clearly getting old as he looked pretty young and so got on with things. Secured the back up and found the door handles stiff and unwilling to lock in place. Wondered if I had any ratchet straps to hold it closed with and in the end went back to the cab to find a persuader to get it sorted.
Ready to move off and I spotted the young driver finishing the trailer drop and got into the passenger seat… and an older get into the driver seat. Ahh right, that would explain it then. Clearly I don’t have a warped view of the world after all!
The reversing was a bit easier and tried a few of the extra things I’d picked up to get it going in the right place. I think my main issue is that I think I’m turning the steering in the right direction until it goes in the wrong direction and then over compensate whilst still doing it slowly….
Eventually got out and back on the road. Fuel was needed and so off to that Burdens opposite Cosford that did Keyfuels. I was able to stock up on a 5L of water as I’d gone through 5L in just 2 days!!! Also called into the boss to tell him of the few computer issues I’d had and he directed me to their repair facility on the A5. In hindsight I should have stayed on the A5 but I got back onto the M54, M6 and was stuffed in traffic again. Pulled up outside the garage on the A5 and wasn’t sure I could get the trailer in the yard so left it mostly on the pavement and went inside. Instructed to drop the trailer in the lay-by and come back and bring the unit inside, so did so. I also stuck a post it note on the front of the SatNav saying ‘Don’t Forget Trailer’
Once in the garage they explained some of the intricacies of the gearbox plus had it on the computer via the diagnostics socket and made notes of what was not well. Fixed the NSF side lamp that was out and it looked very easy, even the sort of thing I could have done! I also found out that none of the mirrors were heated and they had one in stock, so that went into the nearside. It did actually help quite considerably on the road!
Alas things took time so by the time they were out I was running late on my scheduled run back to Felixstowe. I rang the controller to tell him I wouldn’t be back and abandoned my plan to park on the A14 but instead reached a lay-by just outside of Magna Park in Lutterworth, with my trailer.
It was a small lay-by but off the main road as such and would be quieter, and it was too. Parked at an angle rather than the traditional straight but all was well and another day done.
0340 – 1840, 9 hours off
When I woke I found a van had crept into the space ahead of me, an old hard standing area. Not blocking me in or anything but I’d been running the engine on tickover for a good 10 minutes to warm things up before leaving and moved the curtains at the last thing. Ahh, ok then!
Coffee made, breakfast deferred and onto the road to Felixstowe. Stopped after Huntingdon to stretch my legs and then back on, getting to Felixstowe just after the Onion thing had happened. Dropped the box at ACL then over to the depot to get the paperwork, told them I might be delayed leaving due to that RTA on the A14 and already drivers were moaning about it.
Into the port and this time it was much easier and quicker. Apart from the fact I used a regular lane than an empty lane as I had no box on. This time they sent me all around to the exit, but that was a quick one too. This time I was sent to the THA area to get another work ticket to goto a regular loading area, and then off to the exit and the roads again.
Lots of other helpful drivers around as I had a knack of getting in the wrong lane but they were pretty relaxed over it, then joined the A14 queue. 90 minutes later cleared it but was due a break now so pulled in on the A12 to some little garage where I could squeeze up at the edge for a break. If I’d known I would have carried on to find a lay-by or something, as I found out later there were plenty of them. Had my break there then called it in with my revised time and information why. Asda Chepstow. I had already clarified expenses and found that I would pay for tolls myself and if approved would have them credited back to me.
Three hours later I found the Severn Toll was actually £18!!! Still, having got to Asda Chepstow I then had to deal with the security guards. Two of them, one who oozed ex military yet had almost a bouncer style hardman attitude and other that with descriptions made me look thin, and I’ve got enough stomach to make people pale if they saw me running…
So I was 15 minutes late for my 3pm booking that should have been adjusted to 4pm, but they couldn’t find it. The reference number was wrong and even after getting an updated one from the boss they couldn’t find it. Then I let them know I had less than 90 minutes duty time left and suggested if they rebook me in for the morning I’ll take my break outside. They didn’t like this but let me in to goto the office and assigned me a reversing spot.
So, I pulled around and tried that blind side reverse thing but I couldn’t work out the lines so spun it around and tried from the other way and managed it. Was quite annoyed to have some guy in a rigid reversing into the next space whilst I was trying to squeeze it in but in the end use the side of his lorry to line it up then had to shunt forwards as he couldn’t use his drivers door. Ooops.
So, OK now. Walked over to the office and returned with bolt croppers which were useless. Eventually getting the box open we discovered a good reason not to park outside as those new 30” flat screens would quickly go, with or without a seal. So I could drop the trailer, much to their disgust and take my break outside. Spotted a foreign truck parked in the corner, tractor facing the hedge and curtains pulled. I enquired if I could park next to him to get annoyed looks from the security bods. Seems he’d dropped his trailer in his ‘assigned’ parking bay, dropped the paperwork in, announced he was taking his 11 hour break and left them too it. One of the security guards had tried to get him to move and had been met with the sight of a hairy 40 year old trucker in tshirt and boxers leaning on a crowbar in the cab, so they left him too it.
I found a place outside and lined it up so I would have some privacy from the CCTV and decided on soup this evening. Oxtail. My little stove was getting slow so it was in with a new canister and the soup was lovely. More hot water boiled and a chance to try out my new collapsible washing up bowl, which worked really well too and did my washing up before watching a film and bed.
0400 – 1645, 11 hours off
Even going into Asda, getting paperwork, permission to lift the box, and actually getting off site took me an hour, then it was back onto the road and the motorways. M4 pretty quiet and stopped at Reading services for a break, coffee out and fresh coffee made and then noticed I had only quarter a tank of diesel so the Snooper found me a Keyfuels place in Reading. Erm, big mistake.
Got there to find it was a non HGV one and had a low canopy, and the Morrison’s had a low one too so back out onto the motorway and I’d lost an hour, then another half hour in delays. No problem east bound but west bound a few accidents and everyone slowing down to look. Usual congestion at exits but those were mostly people waiting until the last minute to get over. Reached Colnbrook BP and found it a little tight to get in, made worse by people parking where I would have liked to have swung the front end to get over. Still, they soon moved when I had to reverse it back a bit to line it up. Found they only allowed 333 litres of the stuff but that was good enough and onward. Because I couldn’t take a break on the pumps, the other 3 drivers queuing would have complained and they looked bigger than me, even if their lorries weren’t, I headed out for South Mimms.
I was annoyed to find it only 20 minutes from Colnbrook in partial rush hour. Clearly I needed to plan things more, and also know how far the truck can travel on quarter a tank of fuel. A few complications to get to the parking area due to those queuing for fuel but found a way to get around and in and it slotted in first time so I locked up and went to the service area with a smile on my face and a cheer in my heart.
I didn’t buy anything but just looked at what I could waste my money on then back to the truck after the usual use of services everywhere and updated the controller with my location before getting back on the road after my time was up.
I was going to Woolpit this time, so up the M11 on the limiter, then the A14 and finally into the yard there. Popped to the office, did the whole paperwork thing and then had the box lifted off and went around to the loading area.
The forklift got into position and clearly wanted me to reverse under, so I obliged with only a couple of shunts. Mostly as I’d parked in clearly the wrong place, still, I’d know next time!
Back out on the road and my next destination was in Alfreton, which was handy in a way and after a quick phone call to the controller and a relative who lived near the drop I was on my way.
A14, M1, A38 and arrived with about 2 hours of duty time left. Found where I had to reverse into and the first time couldn’t get it lined up, I think I had approached at too shallow of an angle and then couldn’t get the turn going, so went around the block. A lot of people had been queuing at this point and as I was waiting at traffic lights I recalled something I’d been told and lifted the midlift, and then it was back around to the bay. This time I pulled up in the entrance to another companies yard and then started the reverse back. Took another shunt to line it a bit better but I got it back as far as I thought then stopped and parked up. Enough room to open the doors but not to close the gate so locked the cab and was at the back when they broke the seal, and opening the doors some of the cargo fell out. It was on a downhill slope, this bay and when an M&S 4x2 with a 2 axle trailer came in they had to lift their suspension to prevent it scraping the ground.
The guy explained the tip would be seven hours and I should pull out after that. Went in to see the boss and told him about my hours and he suggested I drop the trailer and park in the yard overnight, gates shut at 11pm and opened at 6am. Rang the controller to update him and he sounded stressed. Seems they wanted me in Southampton for 9am!! Yeah, right, like that was going to happen.
So, I dropped the trailer. On a slope, downhill backwards. Hmm.
Brakes, legs, checked the brake again, and electrics. Took the suzies off and the one where you twist the collar and pull to get off shot off and clanged against the back of the unit, narrowly missing me. The yellow one I think. Hmm. I didn’t think it was supposed to that. Made sure no one was behind and pulled the other one, the red one. Lots of hissing and groaning as the trailer settled but it didn’t move.
Pulled the pin and tugged forwards, dropping the suspension before pulling out. I then found I couldn’t squeeze between the other trailer and the yard I was going to park in, as he’d reversed in and dropped his trailer in less time than I’d taken at all.
So I parked on the road, pulled the curtains and the tacho and made it look like I was parked up for the night and told the office staff that I’d be back before they closed and trundled off for a meal with some relatives, well, at their house and with fresh clothes and the use of their hot water raining device in side the house thingy!
Returned to the unit at 10pm to find that the trailer had been pulled out of the yard and parked behind my unit and the paperwork put in a clear envelope taped to the back of the trailer.
Back doors open I left it there and got my head down as was quite tired now. Could have done with this drop earlier in the week as now I had fresh bread to eat with my soup and the smell of it was quite nice in the cab.
0400 – 1730, 11 hours off (although TruckerTimer tells me it’s ‘reduced rest’ Hmm)
Today was down to Southampton, change boxes, up to Leicester then a trailer change for a loaded box for another port for next week. The agency told me I wasn’t required next week so wouldn’t worry about where it was going or anything but would worry about time.
The Snooper gave me options of the following.
- A38 North, M1, A42, M42, M40, A34 and the final bit to Southampton
- A38 North, M1, M69, A46, M40, A34 etc
- A38 North, M1, A43, M40, A34 etc.
These all had similar times so I opted for the M42 route and stopped for my first 15 at Warwick services, then on to Soton.
They told me Gate 10, but it later transpired that they got mixed up and meant Gate 20, which delayed me and meant I was almost out of time and had to take a 30 on the bridge by the gate. Another driver from the company came over and gave me helpful advice to get to Leicester, as if I didn’t know the area and at the end of his instruction I said ‘So you could have just said to take the road off the M69 for Kirby Muxlow to get to Scudamore that way” and he was silent then nodded
Theoretically I knew my way around enough now to get to these places without a SatNav and I was sure that if I did these routes more often then I would certainly not need my Snooper as much as I did!
Finally into the docks, got the box off and went around to the loading area. No one told me, didn’t see any signs and when I pulled into that place where the cranes operate I drove in a large arc to line up facing the way the other lorries did not having reversed in. A couple drives came over smiling and the first said ‘You’ve not been here before have you’ and told me I could get banned for what I’d just done, or walking behind the line when the crane was around or anything. The cab was parked behind the line so I would have to walk over the line to get to the cab…
Still, survived, followed instructions and then after 90 minutes of faffing around in the port got going.
Stopped for a break on the A34 north of the M4 for a break of a nap then had another 10 minutes whilst the kettle was boiling for coffee to strip down the bunk and pack my gear up before getting back on the road with fresh hot coffee and a partially cleared down cab for finishing that evening.
It had been suggested I leave at the A43 but the exit was clogged down to the slip and after using the first roundabout I was back on the M40, opting for the M69 option instead.
Got to the site and went around the block an extra time to verify I’d had the right entrance before faffing around with the paperwork then the box. I guess I could have hooked up first but I didn’t want to do that and find it was a different box for some reason.
Pulling away I stopped before leaving the queue to swap the number plate from the trailer I’d dropped to the new trailer before heading for the exit.
Mr Security Guard didn’t like doing manual labour and had to check the box, the seal and everything. He suggested I break the seal for him to verify the contents. I offered to let him speak to my controller in Southampton of to why he wanted to do this and when I name dropped the name of the controller the guy paled a little and said he could just take the seal number. Not seen that effect before, but was soon out of the gate with a loaded trailer. The mid lift came down and the indicator warning light came on.
Met a few idiots on the roundabouts to the motorway, aiming straight then cutting across me at the last minute. Most weren’t using indicators and when I finally pulled on the motorway the van behind did a horn test on me. Briefly stopped at Leicester services to stretch my legs as one does after most the afternoon on the road sucking coffee and a bit of exercise before heading back to the yard. Went over my time thanks to my delays but couldn’t get hold of the boss and didn’t want to weekend at LFE when I didn’t live far.
Reversed it into the slot at the yard and took several shunts to get it lined up but still didn’t get it perfect and spent an hour chatting to another driver there, also a newbie but with previous considerable experience for me to glean knowledge from, then transfer my gear to the car and head for home.
0430 – 1830, end of week. Yes, I went over hours here but I put the excuse on the chart…
The truck in general was very similar to the HGV rigids except when cornering, overtaking, passing other vehicles and of course reversing. I spent a lot of time going forwards and of that I had experience in other types of vehicles also, but I certainly enjoyed myself but also need to plan time a bit better and get into trim for these trips…
Cab Photos: Note, this is the tidy look /after/ I had spent the week in it and tidied it up ready for my departure. I did not have many cleaning materials with me for the lorry except to clean out the rubbish I though I would generate, not what was there already!
It was a semi auto and the fridge slid out into the space behind the gears when it was in the forward position. It wasn't the standard bunk but you can see at the top the sort of standard bunk it would be.