Well, I’ve renewed the domain for this blog so I suppose I’d better update it.

Finding logistics tedious and not terribly inspired to write about it but I’ll do an update shortly.

It’s safe to say that work has changed considerably since I last posted.

A few weeks ago I had quite an intimidating experience.

I had to deliver a split load to two different shops in Leicester, quite late at night. I did the first drop then had to find somewhere to park up for a half an hour break due to the “six hour rule” which dictates that a break must be taken after six hours of work.

None of the usual laybys on the main roads presented themselves, so I found spur of road on one of those half-finished industrial estates, reversed in, and put the tacho on break. I got on the bunk and started reading my book, leaving the curtains open as I knew it was only a quick stop.

After about five minutes, a car pulls up and stops nearby – suddenly about eight more cars turn up – they were all “cruisers”, wannabe street-racers or whatever you want to call them but you’ll have seen the type of car – lowered, bright paint, loud exhaust, big sound system, etc.

I thought nothing of it and carried on reading my book. Then a car with four lads in it reverses right up to my bumper; they were about six inches in front of me. Two more cars reverse in, totally blocking my exit, then the rest of the cars all pile in in front of them. There must have been ten cars in front of my wagon.

By this stage alarm bells were ringing, I’d turned out the cab light, slipped back into the driving seat, and had my phone ready – to me this looked like a robbery about to happen.

I examined my situation. Leaving the lorry would not be an option – I can run quite fast but being on my own on a dark strip of wasteground didn’t really seem sensible. I hadn’t started the truck yet as I didn’t want to force any situation to occur. Left, my exit was blocked by bollards that would need a run up to crush; right might have worked but had the possibility of getting stuck on the grass verge.

So, really the only option would be to back up then take a run up at the cars which were four deep by then. As long as I maintained grip, throwing four cars out of the way would probably be quite easy given that I was running at about twenty tonnes and these wagons can pull over forty with ease.

By this time five minutes had passed, a couple of people had made a show of opening their doors but then not getting out – at the top of the road leading down to the estate some more cars had gathered.

Suddenly one car gave a signal and they started to drive off…within three minutes they had gone. My heart rate returned to normal and I quickly left the area and on to my second drop. I have to admit it, for a while I was shitting myself.

So, what was going on? Were they planning to rob me but then realised that it’s not worth robbing a Wilkinson lorry? Were they just trying to scare me? Were they just meeting up in a convenient spot? If so, why park six inches from my bumper, block off the road and generally be completely intimidating?

I guess (thankfully) I’ll never know, but if I’m in that area in the future I’ll stick to the main routes for a break, or take it at the shop.

Jetlag

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will often hear me moan about working shifts, the jetlag effect and being forced to drive tired. I’ve always claimed it’s downright dangerous to have guys piloting 30 to 40 tons of metal around in the dark when they are sleep-deprived and working against their body clocks.

Well, last week this was confirmed. A guy at work wrote one of our almost new, 10 registration wagons off. He fell asleep at the wheel on the A17 and went straight over a roundabout. The police checked his tacho and he hit the roundabout at 53mph. That means he was on the limiter, i.e. cruise control set at maximum speed; which is how we drive most of the time.

Miraculously nobody was injured in the accident but it’s clear that the consequences could have been grave if he’d hit a more substantial roundabout, drifted off the road into a ditch/trees or hit that car containing a family coming the other way.

It’s unclear what action will be taken against him but I suspect he will be prosecuted and probably lose his job, poor bastard.

Work had changed his shift hours around so he was driving tired, like most of us have to do day in, day out.

Hopefully, finally my workplace will wake up to the danger of their enforced shift system…but somehow I doubt it, it’s happened before and nothing has changed.

When somebody dies in such an incident, would there be grounds for a corporate manslaughter charge to be raised against a workplace who constantly expects drivers to swap and change their shift patterns and stay alert on long, lonely night-time journeys?

Prejudice

I was having a conversation with friends recently about the acceptability of swearing; two of them were agreeing that they would both be quite shocked if they heard anyone say “fuck” at work.

This made my think about how my perspectives on such things have changed. If I’m honest back when I was working in a highly professional office environment I’d have probably been quite surprised to hear such swear words but after a few years in a traditionally “working class” job I guess I’m now immune – pretty much all speech is liberally littered with swear-words and the desk managers and drivers will routinely call each other “cunts” and every name under the sun as a matter of course.

To be honest I don’t really find such language an issue as I do quite like swearing – it’s just another facet to our rich and varied language and a well chosen swear-word can often hit the nail on the head during a conversation.

Anyway, the discussion got me thinking about what I do find offensive at work which is the rampant, seemingly ingrained bigoted attitudes to race and colour that I have to listen to day in, day out.

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Slippy

It’s easy to get quite blasé about driving a truck; after a while it just gets to feel like you’re in a big car, especially since we often run quite light.

Last night I was off to Rhyl on the North Wales coast and wanted to get it done as quickly as possible so set off charging over the Pennines. As I reached the Woodhead Pass the weather started to deteriorate badly with sleet soon turning into thick snow.

I shot past one of our double deckers on the main hill up to Woodhead Summit; we flashed each other to say “hi” as he crawled up the hill running at least ten tons heavier than me.

Almost as soon as I was over the crest of the hill things got slippy and I suddenly found the controls feeling rather vague indeed. Eeek! I slowed down to a sensible thirty – visibility was terrible and the winds had got up too making it reminiscent of the bad weather of a few weeks ago.

As you start to descend towards Manchester there are some steep hills, sharp bends and deadly dropoffs so I started to work down through the gears and to slow using only the exhaust brake. For those that don’t know, the exhaust brake is a braking aid that doesn’t brake the wheels using the discs, but instead retards the exhaust gases in order to brake using the engine.

I turned down the radio so I could hear the exhaust brake working but as I started down the hill I could hear it flipping off then on again. This is something I’ve learned to listen for this winter and it’s really not what you want in such a place as the Woodhead – the fact that it was flipping off meant that the drive-wheels were locking and sliding.

When the wheels are sliding without you touching the actual brakes it’s not a great sign, especially when you’re headed for a sharp series of bends at the bottom of the hill! I put on my seatbelt and remained calm, slowly working down the gears trying to keep the locking to a minimum. I made it and from there things improved, the relief flooding over me as if my poor body had been more anxious than I had let myself realise.

Amazing how such little moments can make you feel so alive…

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