Archive for August, 2011

Adventures in trucking.

After the wag-n-drag fiasco I was quite relieved to get a nice easy job for my second outing. Trunking an artic down to Chelmsford, trailer swap and drive back. How hard can that be?

They wanted me at the Wigan depot for 7.30am. Then they rang back and said make it 9, as they wouldn’t have the trailer loaded. I got there at 9, then sat there for an hour and a half while they loaded the trailer. Slowly.

In which time I tried to familiarise myself with the truck, a MAN, which I’ve never been in before. I did what checks I could then sat around for a bit. I got bored and sat around for a bit longer. I set to trying to adjust things; the seat height, firmness, and fit. Then I thought about moving the steering wheel to a better position. There were no obvious levers or buttons so I started prodding stuff. I saw a lever so I gave that a pull. The steering wheel didn’t move but the lever was dangling down, obviously not right. I had a look to see what it was. It had a pictogram of the front of the truck with a movement arrow arcing downwards.

Oh shit! I thought I’d pulled the cab release lever. I’ve seen pictures of the cab tilted right forwards (so the mechanics can work on the engine beneath) I thought that must be how they do it. Shitty shit. I was jumping up and down in the cab, trying to get it to re-secure, walking around the truck to see if I could see any way of doing it, nothing.

I went on Twitter to see if any truckers were on, they were not.

I was panicking a bit. Thinking that as soon as I hit the brakes the cab was going to flop forward and I’d crash and die and probably get sacked.

After half an hour’s hyperventilating the shunter drove around so I grabbed him. Turns out it was the lever to release the front grill of the truck, much like a bonnet release on a car! The steering wheel adjuster was a button on the floor.

So, a less than great start to my day.

 

When my trailer was ready the shunter helped me out, realizing I was a clueless newbie. Which didn’t do me any favours as you have an acronym to follow (BLACK, Brake, Legs, Airlines, Clip, Kingpin) with him doing some of it I wasn’t sure where I was up to.

I set off, relieved to be out on the road. A nice easy run, about 6 miles of good A roads until the motorway, then motorway all the way until 16 miles from my destination.

As soon as I hit the M6 it was stop/ start traffic all the way to Birmingham. Bloody Wigan were playing at Wembley, it was a Bank Holiday weekend and it was lashing it down. None of which is conducive to free flowing motorways.

From Brum it was good going until I hit the South East, all of which is apparently under construction. Mile after bastard mile of narrow lanes and average speed cameras. The latter is not a problem, you just set the cruise control to the desired speed. The truck was an automatic so it was just a matter of steering really. The former is more challenging. Narrow lanes in a truck the size of the whole lane is …focusing.

I made it. It took me ages due to traffic, but at 5.50pm I was literally three streets away from my destination (the satnav,  not recognizing the address, had taken me close then dumped me!) when the office rang me and said the store was shutting at 6pm, they wouldn’t keep it open, could I drive to Tilsley (30 miles from London) and park up in one of their yards, then make the delivery in the morning!

Joy! I hadn’t brought any overnight kit and had wanted to be home for 7.10pm to watch the new series of Doctor Who!

Ho hum.

 

I had a poor night’s kip, then set off at 7.30 back to the store. I made it without incident. I looked around for the trailer I was supposed to be picking up when I’d dropped the one I was carrying. There was none. I had to help them unload my trailer. Two bastard hours it took! Trunking my arse!

All went swimmingly after that, all the way back to Wigan. I was actually in Wigan, less than a mile from base when it went wrong again. The satnav said turn left, I did, but a road too soon. Had to extricate myself from a poxy little side street with cars parked along it in a feck-off big truck. Not good.

Here is a snap of my wheels (taken on my cheapo Asda ‘phone camera, so poor quality)

!cid_IMG0151A

When I got back into the yard the transport manager was there with the shunter. When I’d finished putting it on a bay he said to uncouple the truck. I got out to do BLACK, but the manager was stood there and he said ‘drop it down. Oh you have already’ He was stood next to the trailer legs and they were touching the floor! I thought I’d driven all the way to Chelmsford and back with my legs down! I was horrified.

It wasn’t until this morning at work, when I showed the lads my wheels on my ‘phone that one of them said ‘your legs are up, there.’

He was right! Massive relief! The manager had dropped my legs, he was on about dropping the back end of the truck (so you can get under, and out from under the trailer). Bit of a mistake on my part, but nothing like the HUGE mistake driving with my legs down would have been.

All in all, it’s a learning curve. As long as I can avoid doing anything massively stupid while I’m ironing out the niggles, I should be alright.

I’m thinking about handing in my notice at work this Friday. Just get what driving I can with the agency, then re-apply to Stobbarts in a month. In fact, I’m pretty much sure I’m going to hand my notice in. Yay!

Later,

Buck.

Buck the Truck.

I have recently joined two driving agencies. Now that I have wasted two years of my life they can insure me, or blag their customers that I’ve been driving for two years, or some such. Whatever the detail, now I’ve held my license for two years suddenly two agencies have taken me on their books. Until now I’ve not even warranted a “piss-off, newbie!” email.

The first one I applied to was exactly what I was expecting. A chair, a desk and ‘phone in a room above a shop. Obviously someone setting up an agency and just getting names on their books in case they ever landed an employment contract. The woman was actually ringing firms and blagging them whilst I was filling in my details!

 

I saw an even more desperate sounding advert for an agency in Liverpool. Their criteria was ‘must have held license for six months’! I rang them, said I’d got no experience. The chap asked ‘do you feel confident to drive an artic?’ “yes” I lied.‘Come down and register then.’

I assumed it was the same deal but when I got there they had a proper office and were talking about proper jobs. They were berating some chap who they’d sent to a job but hadn’t turned up. One asked the other ‘did you check him out?’ The other replied, ‘yes, but we’re desperate for drivers.’ My ears pricked up at that.

He rang me the next day to ask me for a reference. I told him I was shit-hot. Then told him he’d got the wrong number and he wanted my manger at work. Which made me think, however incompetently, they were moving things along.

That was Monday putting my details in, Tuesday giving myself a sterling reference, then Wednesday he rang me and told me he had a job for me on my day off (Friday).

 

Today was  the day! I turned up all nervous, acting ‘I do this every day’.

He took me out back, gave me the keys and said ‘if you can just swing it round I’ll get it loaded’.

 

One drawback, it wasn’t an artic such as I’m used to driving, it was a wag-n-drag! A rigid truck towing a big trailer. Here is a picture of one, about the same size by the look of it; http://www.flickr.com/photos/thebigmans/3445657148/

 

I’ve never driven one of those! They are the worst of both worlds. Fine going forward, but an artic pivots around it’s back wheels so you can turn one in less than the length of a trailer, these are rigids with a trailer. That means mahoosive turning circle to turn it round, like on a van or truck so you can’t turn it in one go, then it is opposite steering like on an artic to reverse it. Lose/lose.

When I got to my first drop I had such a nightmare of a time trying to turn it in a tight space that when they said I was at the wrong place (and that I’d have to turn it around, again) I tried to drive it around. ie, just follow the road in a loop back on myself. I turned into an industrial estate with that in mind, drove through the narrow gauntlet of parked cars and vans, just managed to get the rigid around a ninety degree corner into a narrow alley, only to be told it was a business yard I was going into, not a through road!

I was seriously thinking about ringing them up and telling them they would have to come and get their wagon. I couldn’t see how I could get out. Eventually I did. I just about backed it around the corner then someone guided me back all the way to the road. Without him I would be still walking home now!

Nightmare. Still, after that I wasn’t too concerned about reversing! Didn’t do it well, but I knew I could do it.

I though that would be it, that the agency would say ‘never darken our door again’, but they asked me for my availability for next week.

This could be it! My first step on the ladder to a driving career!

I’ve done my first day solo, in a wag-n-drag, (grrrr!) I didn’t crash and nobody died. Super.

 

So glad that’s over! I told the agency guy (when we talked after I’d been driving for half a day) that I’d never driven wag-n-drag before, he said he get me different work next time. An artic will be childs-play after that!

If they keep coming through with work for me I’ll be quitting my day very soon. Huzzah!

So, that’s it; I’m a driver now! Send me your Yorkie bars!

Buck.

Sublime letter and reply.

I have been spending my last day off wisely reading through the works of the master, Alan Moore. In particular ‘The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ (a wonderful collage of  fin-de-siecle fictional characters) whence upon I perused this missive and reply;

 

Dear Sirs-

Having lately lost my husband in a tragic firearms accident, I have the subsequent responsibility for rearing our two sons, Toby and Benjamin, without a father’s aid or council, in addition to my unpaid work as a volunteer nurse. You will appreciate, therefore, that I am anxious to provide them with reading material that is both educational and morally instructive.

It was with this in mind that I reserved a copy of your publication’s first edition to pass on to them, amidst excited yelps of boyish gratitude.

Imagine, then, my consternation when I later took a moment to study the aforementioned periodical, only to find it contained material of the most doubtful provenance.

Sirs, have you no shame?

Not only were my children and I forced to witness scenes of both monstrosity and violence, but we were also made to suffer the most luridly depicted scenes of lust and drug addiction.

Why, upon the very cover you have portrayed women with their ankles, knees, and even the appendages of  their maternity exposed.

As a direct result of  this unfortunate exposure to your so-called “comic” magazine, my carefree offspring have had forever their innocence and childhood torn from their grasp.

Toby, hitherto a cheery lad of twelve years who had always done well at school, now says he cares for nothing in the world so much as “trollops, absinthe and contemporary dance”; while Benjamin, a tender eight years old, is now a slave to hemp.

How can you claim your product to be beneficial and uplifting in the face of this, one mother’s tragedy?

I remain, Sirs, most indignantly,

Amelia Lumford (Mrs)

110 Holloway Road,

Highbury, London N.

 

Madame, how dare you?

By your own admission you are that most disreputable and unnatural class of the female sex in that you “act the man” and must resort to manual employment.

It is almost certain therefore that you are either a Sapphist or a harlot.

As for your children, do you want the two of them to grow up as d……. pansies? Why you should instead be glad that our fine publication has awakened in them an appreciation of a healthy, masculine approach to life.

Your worries about Benjamin are quite unfounded, as it is a well known fact that many eight year olds pass harmlessly through stages of mild hemp addiction without ill effect.

May we suggest that any damage to the minds or constitutions of your sons results instead from your own evident inadequacy as a mother.

It is little wonder, Madam, that your husband shot himself.

 

Brilliant! If you are dim as I, a Sapphist is an old term for a lesbian.

Buck.