On another form i use, I write the occasional trip diary for members to read. Wel i have just done one for the last week, and thought i would share it with you lot...
Apologies if it bores you...
It had been nearly 4 years since I had last driven a truck abroad, and in that time I had convinced myself that I had enjoyed the UK work i had been doing for various companies since I gave it up. But from the moment I climbed in the truck, adjusted the mirrors and the seat, it felt right, back at home where I am most content.
It had all started with a chance phone call after my previous job had come to an end, when 2 days later a good friend phoned me ďGot a penĒ he said, ďPhone this number, he wants a driver for a couple of weeks holiday reliefĒ. Thatíd suit me fine I was thinking, earn me a bit of cash while I decide what to do next. Well the phone call was made, and it wasnít just holiday relief, it was a full time job running back and forward to Switzerland for a Swiss Company, but being based in the UK. Home pretty much every weekend, money is good, decent equipment, It was too good a job to turn down. So, having collected my truck in Dover 10 days ago, I did a few UK deliveries and collections, then a trailer change in Luxembourg, back to the UK to tip and reload, then home for the weekend, which is where this diary starts..
Leighton Buzzard - Habay
5am Start Today, not nice!
Its Sunday, Its 430am, this is very wrong, I should still be in bed! Well, no rest for the wicked now I have a proper job again(Proper in the sense of working hard!). The truck is kept at a yard about 2 miles from my house, and due to me not wanting to leave my car sat in a grotty little transport yard all week, I get a Taxi down to the truck. I had been down last night to stock the fridge and put my weeks clothes and bits in, so all I had to grab this morning was the essentialís, Lap Top, DVDís, Diary, Paperwork, Sat Nav, etc etc..I prefer not to leave them in the truck just in case anything happens to it over the weekend and they go missing. With all my stuff in its place, I fire the truck up while I do a through walk round with a Mag Light Torch to check as best as I can at 5am that everything is still as it was when I left it on Thursday afternoon. It all looks in order, so I pull out of the tight little transport yard, pausing only to lock the gateís behind me. Itís only a ľ of a mile to the Leighton Buzzard Bypass, where I head off towards Dunstable and the M1 at Junction 9. Being the early hour it is, there is very little traffic about, So it is a nice easy journey down the A5 to the M1. Its surprisingly busy on the M1, So I take it a bit easy in the roadworks as a brace of Scottish Fridges come blowing past.. Itís a pretty uneventful run round to the Dartford Bridge,, which is only livened up as the Bridge is shut overnight for maintainance work, so we are diverted thru one of the tunnels instead. That little bit of excitement over, itís onto the M20 where I pull off into Maidstone Services for a Paper and a call of nature. What comes next is utterly shocking, I went into the Toiletís, to find the Menís out of Order, the guy tells me to use the disabled one, which when I go in I am greeted with a sight I never wanna see again. Someone, took it upon themselves to go for a crap in the hand basin! I turned on my heels, and went back to the cashier, and informed them, to which they were mortified, and immediately phoned for a cleaner to come and sort it! Not the sort of job I could do for a living, but thatís by the by! Anyway, that aside, itís a nice gentle run down the M20 and into Customís to get the load cleared. Usually Customís can take an hour or more, but for the 2nd week in a row, I am in and out in less than 20 minutes. Out of Customs and round to the Norfolk Line booking in kiosk, via the weighbridge, where I weigh in just shy of 39T, I am a bit miffed that only RHD booking lanes are open, so I pull up to one and clamber across the cab. I laughingly said to the girl on the desk she could have opened LHD oneís as well, and she enlightens me to her logic ďWhen I started my shift, there were only LHD oneís open, but I thought as its Sunday, it will be all British Drivers shipping out, so I will open the RHD oneís. The first 3 Trucks have all been British Drivers, and all LHD!!Ē We had a chuckle about it while she booked me on, and once I had got my Vignette for the next 2 days, I was off and round to Lane 61 to wait for the boat, which was due to leave at 10am..
Who in their right mind would buy an Apartment overlooking this road!
Into the Docks, lovely and quiet!
Nice and heavy..
You could have heard a pin drop in Dover this morning, it was that quiet!
Sat in the queue waiting for the boat, A not so good Polish Magnum on its way home!
Since I had last travelled with Norfolk Line, the boats have all been replaced with ďProper FerriesĒ, rather than the old Merchant Freight Boats they used to have. I have to say, these are pretty swish, and I can see why people wanna go Norfolk Line wherever possible. The Driverís have their own area set aside, with a restaurant, reclining chair, WiFi, Their own Toilets and Showerís. All in all they are pretty impressive, lots better than what SeaFrance offer in my opinion. Once I had eaten, I spent the rest of the crossing browsing the internet on my PSP, and in what seemed no time at all, we were being ordered back to our truckís. I had been lucky, as although I was one of the last on, I had been waved down the right and side of the boat, and was right at the front of the boat, so was hoping to be first off. Unfortunately it didnít happen that way, and it was quite handy, as the Post of Dunquerke has changed quite a bit since I was last there, so I followed the trucks ahead of me out to the Motorway. Itís a glorious day weather wise, and the we have the traffic to match it. Its a simple run across to Brusselís, then onto the E411 down thru the Ardennes towards Luxembourg. I decide to pull off at Junction 29 at Habay for the night, where there is a sizeable Truckstop, and although I am not a fan of Habay nowadays, it serves a purpose as there is a driving ban in France until 10pm tonight, and the border at Lux will be shut until then. The planís for tomorrow is to start at the god awful time of 2am so I can be in Swiss by 9am local time. They asked me to get there as early as I can, so it seems like a good plan to me! I am parked up finished by 1615, and after sorting some dinner, I am off to bed..
An identical boat to the one i am on..
Freight Driver's get a Proper Sectioned off area with Wifi, Showers, restuaraunt and reclining chairs
This could have been taken off the back of a Cruise Liner, but no, Its a Cross Channel Norfolk Line Ferry!
This is on of those lucky snapshot's you take... I quite like it..
Off the boat,
Its a plesant run down thru the Ardennes...
Habay, A former very popular place with the British Driver's, now full of Eastern Bloc Trucks.
Total KMíS: 576.
Habay Ė Le Gruyere Services
Stupid O'Clock start at Habay..
Up at the god awful hour of 0130, I tidy the cab up, get dressed and make coffee. Coffee is a must at this hour, helps me wake up a bit. After doing a torch light walk round, I fill a tacho out and head away towards Luxembourg. I was running low on diesel last night so that must take prority over anything else this morning, and within 20 minutes, I am on the pumps at Capelln, where the Merc swallows up the best part of 800 litres of diesel. Most of the time in Luxembourg you have to queue for fuel, I have queued for over and hour and a half before now, but this morning, due to the godforsaken hour the place is empty, just me and one other lorry on the pumps . With diesel paid for, its out into the darkness and crack on towards Metz, then on towards Strasbourg. With the ipod set up, itís a really enjoyable drive across the A4 thru the dark hourís, There is something almost therapeutic about it. I reach Strasbourg just as rush hour is starting, but luckily donít get caught in any traffic, and soon enough I am coming off onto the N83 to make my way down towards Colmar. 20kmís or so down the í83, I realise I am not quite gonna make the Swiss border in one hit, so pull off into a Filling Station for an hourís break. Coffee and half an hours sleep, I am refreshed enough to crack on for the Swiss Bprder, and all is going swimmingly until I hit a traffic jam about 3kmís from the border, well it wasnít exactly a traffic jam, more the queue of Trucks waiting to get into Switzerland! It took about an hour to get into the Truck Park, and then it was fun finding a space, Some drivers had just abandoned their trucks anywhere and gone to sort their paperwork out. Part of the problem, sadly has to be attributed to the sheer volume of Eastern Block Truck who are parked up by the looks of things, didnít seem to have any plans on moving anytime soon. Things had certainly changed a lot since I was last here, in both good and bad ways. Getting your T-Forms stamped used to be a bit of a pain in the arse, First you had to visit the French Customís, then go and get your road tax, then into the Swiss Customís. Now, and it is greatly aided by a Swiss plated Truck I admit, you bypass the French Customís, straight to the Swiss side, they stamp it, back to your truck, stop at the window to hand your paperís in, and away you go! Easy as that. Once off the border, it was into the Tunnelís underneath Basel, Last time I was here these were still being built, but today they are all complete and what a difference it makes! No more sitting in roadworks in the tunnelís, within a couple of minutes you are out onto the motorway. This is where I made a slight error of judgement, I missed the turn for Birsfelden, so instead of driving up to the office, I had to go round the motorway 2 junctions and approach it from the other direction. No great shakes, and within 5 minutes, I was parked up and heading upstairs to see what the plans were.
Very early morning fuel stop at Cappeln, Luxembourg
3km's before the Swiss Border, queuing to get in..
There are seperate Border's for the car's and Trucks, and they make a good job of signposting it..
Once into Switzerland, first job is round to the Agent's to find out what your delivering and what is going into the groupage house.
Heading across the National Road to Kaiseraugst...
On the bay tipping Groupage..
Oh to be a Swiss day driver, A day cab Actros with a tanem spread axle tailift tilt!
Putting 15 Pallet's back on for delivery to Frenkendorf and Monthey.
With Frenkendorf tipped in Minutes, its time to head south for Monthey
Absolutely knackered, i call it a day at Le Gruyere Services..
Where i park to this view.... Not bad eh.
Just because we may load 12 deliveries, doesnít mean we are going to deliver 12. Most times we take them into a Groupage House and they take the smaller deliveries off, leaving us with 1 or 2 of the bigger deliveries. Today was no exception I was to go to Leimgruberís in KaiserAugst where I was to get rid of 6 deliveries, leaving me just 2, Coop at Frenkendorf, and Huntsman Chemicals at Monthey. I was quite pleased with these 2, as unlike the UK RDCís, the Co-op in Switzerland are very quick, and Monthey is down in the south of the country, and I have a good chance of seeing some snow! A cup of coffee and a chat to the office staff at TransMaritime, and I was off to KaiserAugst to get rid of half the load. Nothig changes at Leimgruberís, the staff are still as rude and unhelpful as they were 4 years ago, and still had the dont rush attitude. But with a bit of hurrying along, I was out of there in a little over an hour, and heading off to Frenkendorf. It was literally 5kmís down the road, so less than 10 minutes later, I turned into the Co-op, Just as they went to lunch! They did take the time to tell me though, at 1300 if I back onto Bay 3 they would tip me immediately! About 1245 I hear a voice yell ďEnglandĒ, I look round and realise he is talking to me, He tells me to get on Bay 3 now, By the time I was out of the Truck and onto the lading bay they already have 5 palletís of the 11 off, and it takes only 5 minutes to unload the remaining 6, and I am coming out of there by 1300. The plan now was to go to Zwingen to meet my boss Peter, and then sort out my Swiss driving license and a Bank Account so I can be paid!. By that I mean I have to see an Optician, then of to have a brief medical at a local doctorís, then off to the Swiss Licensing Authority. It all sounds pretty simple in theory, but it all fell apart at the first hurdle when the Optician was shut, so it was arranged that I would go back tomorrow to have it done. So a shprt tri[ back to Office in Zwingen, a cup of coffee, a brief chat and some paperwork were sorted out, also while I was there I was given my monthly float for UK expenses. With all that sprted it was back to the truck, and time to head off for Monthey in the South of Switzerland. I had 2 Ĺ hours left to run before my 15 hours were up for the day, so I reckoned on getting to the first services past Vevey if all went well. Traffic was on my side and it was an easy run down from Basel towards Bern, then on to Fribourg. As I passed Fribourg a wave of tiredness passed over me, I had been up since 0115 this morning UK time, so as Le Gruyere Services loomed into view, I decided to end the day here. It was only an hour to Monthey from here in the morning, and then load a full load of something out of Lanzenhausern before Lunch tomorrow, then back to Zwingen to sort my license out. After sorting myself something to eat in house, Its time for bed, as I am shattered!
Total KMís: 609
Le Gruyere Services Ė Aire de Keskastel
And wake to this view...
Compared to yesterday, today was a comparatively late start for me and I didnít venture out of bed until 5am(UK time), and event hat was only to fire the night heater up as it was a bit chilly. After tidying the cab and making coffee, I fire the Merc up and walk round to do the morningís checks of Lights etc etc. Although the temperature guage said it was just above freezing outside, my body told me it was a damn sight colder than that, so got back in the cab a bit quick smart to get warm again! As soon as it was 6 oíclock I headed out onto the motorway and made my way down towards Vevey. If no one has ever heard or seen of Vevey, you must do a google image search for it. It sits right on the side of Lake Geneva and some of the views are absolutely breathtaking, so much so as I round the lake just as the sun rose, I had to stop for 15 minutes take a couple of photoís. I had forgotten how nice this area was, and after 15 minutes I had to make a move, although I could have spent hours sat there just taking In the views. Back out on the motorway, it was only 30kmís down to Monthey, and a quick phone call to John, another Hueber driver put me right on where the place was. You have to go thru what is effectively a housing estate, but it seems to be the normal done thing in Switzerland, so I just carried on regardless. As John pointed out to me, We are not used to being allowed on housing estates in a truck in the UK, but in Switzerland, along with other countries, they donít treat Trucks with the contempt the UK does and accept them as part of their every day life. Once at the gate of Huntsmann Chemicals, I booked in, and the girl on the gate told me in broken English I had to go and clear customís at Building 327, Floor 1. Once the appropriate building was found within the massive chemical plant, it took less than 90 seconds for the bloke to clear it, and I was then directed onto Bay 2 to tip the 4 IBCís. While I was tipping a Dutch driver backed onto Bay 3 next to me, and had set his Air suspension in the raised position as he back onto the loading dock, which was met with a massive bang as he hit the 4m high canopy. I shouted at him to stop, so he did, then pulled forward, taking the canopy with him! Looking along the loading docks, he wasnít the first, and will by no means be the last to hit it, there was bits missing the whole length of the loading docks!
Some shots over looking Lake Geneva..
Winding my way thru the huge Chemical plant in Monthey..
Not a bad view from the loading bay...
Once tipped, I pull outside and have a quick look at a map/autoroute to see where the reload is. To say its in the middle of nowhere would be an understatement. The most direct route to it, looks on a map like the sort of road you would avoid at all costís in a car, but the other routeís into it donít look a great deal better. I decide to go and see what the road looks like, and take it from there. So its back out of Monthey, and retrace yesterdayís/this morningís stepís up towards Fribourg then onto Bern. Just before Bern, I come off the motorway and into a place called Flamatt where I take the N12 out towards Wunnerwil before comng to the road I want on the left. 2 artics in front of me turn left so I decide it cant be too bad and follow suit. Itís a bit windy and twisty, if a little narrow but not much worse than the likes of the bottom end of the A350 in Dorset, so I take it steady behind the 2 trucks in front. Coming into the village of Ablingen, the 2 trucks turn off to the left, me however, I need to go straight on. The road does look a little narrower than the last 2kmís or so, but I can see an artic parked up a little way up the road, so decide it cant be that bad. And to be fair, for the next 3 or 4kmís it is ok, then I come to what looks like a man made bridge with a wooden pagoda type frame thing round it, and attached to this frame is a sign, that says Big Hill, 25%!! I have no choice but to carry on up it, there is nowhere to turn round so I just head up it and hope for the best! Luckily there were no carís coming down the hill and I am soon over the top and heading towards the little village I need, although a close shave with a fast moving Chrysler 300C nearly caused us both to come off the road, I donít think he expected to see a 40T truck on this road! Once in the village of LanzernHausen I couldnít find the place I wanted, so parked outside a Motorcycle repair shop and asked if they had heard of the place I was looking for. He looked at me, looked at the truck, thought for a moment, then said ďYou English are Crazy, every time you come to Lanzernhausen you come over the mountainĒ Yeah, cheers for that Pal, now where is this place I am looking for! I wasnít far away from the place, but a few more narrow lanes to go yet, the sorts of lanes if you were sent down in the UK you would think twice about. Once the place was found, the girl on the desk must have been forewarned of my arrival as she came out and in near perfect English told me to go to bay 3 and one a Spanish truck pulls off, back on, where I would be loaded with 25 pallets of assorted Kelloggís products for Manchester for Thursday morning. I had barely had time to open my trailer doors when the Spaniard pulled off the bay, and once I was on, they had 3 electric pallet trucks loading me and in less than 10 minutes I was on my way. A quick glance at a map and I decided to go back along the National roads to Bern, than back onto the motorway at Bumplitz, then back to Zwingen to sort my license out. It was a nice run back up to the yard, the sun was shining and there was very little traffic about, although there was an awful lot of Police carís milling about, must be something to do with the nice weather.
Off into the hill's to Lanzernhausern to load Kelloggs for the UK..
I decide to head back up the National ROads to Bern and the Motorway..
When I went into Zwingen yesterday, I hadnít noticed just how tight the access roads into the place were. You have to quite literally drive thru a market square type place to get to the Train station where the office is. Once in the office, pleasantries were exchanged, coffee consumed then we were off in Peterís little Hyundai Car to Laufen where I was to have my eye test. Unfortunately we could not get a medical booked today, so I could not get my license finalised today, but the relevant authorities have been informed. The Optician was an interesting experience in itself. I was talking to Peter, and explaining about my UK License categories to him, when a bloke taps me on the shoulder. I turn round, and this guy says to me ďYou a Brit or what!!Ē. He was from London, but moved out with his family 10 years ago and is now an eye specialist. It certainly made the eye test easier I can tell you having a normal British voice telling you what to do. With the eye test sorted and appropriate forms stamped and signed we headed back to the office again, only this time I declined coffee and decided to crack on, if I was lucky I could make Luxembourg tonight. I had to call into TransMaritimeís office for the Paperwork and T-Formís on the way back to the Border, and with them sorted and a Ferry booked I am on my way to the border. As I said earlier in this diary, Since I was last here, the tunnels underneath Basel have been completed, which makes getting back to the St.Louis Border a whole lot easier, although I had heard of people missing the signs and ending up at the car border and getting big fines, so I ventured in the tunnels, both cautious and apprehensive. There was no need to have worried, and I will say that anyone who has missed the signs for the Truck border better get their eyes tested, as there is plenty of signs telling you where to go. Once on the border, the formalities were done in 5 minutes, then It was round to the booth to show you T-Forms and then I was on my way back into France and the EU. To start with the traffic was pretty light, and I made good progress, All was going to plan and I would be in Lux tonight with any luck. However, Strasbourg changed these plans due to an 8km queue where the road splits for Metz and Karlsruhe(Germany), but once clear of that I was back up and running. Only having a 4t load made the hill at Saverne a lot easier on the ageing Mercedes, and I was fast approaching Keskastel Services, the main stop for your Vignette on this route to Lux/Belgium. Pulling in to the truck park, a quick calculation on time and I knew I wouldnít make Lux tonight, so I decided to call it a day here. Its not a bad place to park, they have decent, clean showers and if you so wish, a small restaurant which serves good quality, well priced food. Parking in the crowded truck park is an art in itself, and I have to park cautiously so not to get blocked in during the night, but once thatís sorted, I get my vignette for tomorrow, grab a shower and a bite to eat, then head off to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a full 10 hour driving day.
Our Yard in Zwingen, its a railway siding!
Where i did see this...
Total KMís: 548
Aire de Keskatel - Dover
Today starts at a semi civilised hour, I am up at 4, time for a shower as I couldnít be bothered last night, and by the time I have made a coffee and tidied the cab up, its almost time to go, so a quick check round and fill a tacho out and its time to hit the road. If all goes according to plan, I could be home tonight, its 10 hours driving from where I am parked to my house in Leighton Buzzard, so all being well, I will be indoors by 9 tonight. Considering the early hour it is, the roads are surprisingly busy, and a bit of an exchange with an arrogant French driver at the Looperhouse Paege livens me up a little. Basically he was in the wrong lane and was trying to forcw his way in, and I was having none of it!. That aside it an easy run up to Metz, then I split off and head up past ThionVille towards Luxembourg, This is where the day takes a decided turn for the worse, but I wouldnít realise to what extent until later on. About 5kís from the Lux border I hit the back of a traffic jam, which would delay me by about 45 minutes until I was past the Shell services in Lux, and heading up towards Brusselís.
This traffic in Lux costs me later on...
A very foggy run up to Brussels..
Taking a break just before Brussels..
How this Rumo can see where he is going is beyond me!
Just before the Lux/Belgium border I pull off the motorway and head in towards Markís for some diesel and a 15 minute break. I had planned on having an hour further up the road, but the traffic delays earlier had put paid to this plan, so it was a matter of time being of the essence today and cracking on. After fuelling up to the tune of 420 litres, I pull of the pumps into the small truck park and go back inside to have my free coffee and to stock up on Mineral Water, as its less than 2 Euroís for 8 litres. With 15 minutes now up, its back out to the motorway, and up towards Leige and Brusselís, before splitting off for Brussels. It had been foggy for the last hour or so, but it starts to get to get worse just before Namur where as usual I am faced with the decision of which way to go. As per most times, I opt for Brusselís, and shortly after I pull in for he 2nd part of my 45 minute break. 30 minutes up, its back on the road again, wondering what delights the Brusselís Ring is going to throw at me today. Its not looking to bad but I trynot to get my hopes up to much, as it doesnít usually start backing up until you get round by the Airport at Zaventem, and then its heavy all the way to the Gent split. Today seems to be an exception to the normal rule, and apart from a little bit of traffic in a No Overtaking Zone, itís a trouble free run all the way round the Ring and on towards Gent.
At Wetterin Services I pull off for a brief stop for the Loo, and just as I am puling out of the Services, a bloke in a bright Orange coat jumps out in front of me, drawing squares with his fingers and yelling ďVignette, VignetteĒ. No problems here as I got mine last night in Keskastel, but there were quite a few of out Eastern European Cousins parked up with the Douane crawling all over them as they evidently didnít have theirs, quite why I donít know, as its only £6ish for a day, So its not a great deal of money is it. I had been planning to catch the 1400hrs boat out of Dunkerque to Dover this afternoon, but the traffic in Lux has made a big dent in these plans, I know it takes roughly 1hr 40mins from Wetterin to Dunkerque with a clean run, and I have exactly 1 hr 40mins between now and 1400, but there is now the overtaking ban on the corridor to contend with which could seriously hamper progress this afternoon. I begrudgingly accept I am gonna miss the 1400, but it still doesnít stop me pressing on in the hpoe it has been delayed and I may be able to sneak on. Itís a good clear run across to the French border, and then on to Dunkerque, apart from an English Car that wasnít sure if it wanted to go to Lille or not, the Spanish Truck in front of me made the decision for them though! Coming off the motorway into Dunkerque and I could see there was a boat in dock, so there might still be a chance of me making it on. Round the old one way system like a man on a mission, and up to the heartbeat monitor, where I finally accepted defeat in that I wasnít going to make the 1400. An Eastern Bloc truck was getting lots of attention in the only bay that was open, and there I sat for 10 minutes before being waved in. Less than 2 minutes and I was out and to the booking in kiosk. I shouldnít have wound myself up, but I just had to ask how long I had missed it by! The bloke smiled and said ď10 Minutes mateĒ.. I could have cried!
Oi, I want that boat!!
Sat in the queue, waiting for the 1600..
With no rush now I know I wont make the 1400, French Customís decide they want to inspect my load, so I open the back doors and leave them to it. Less than 5 minutes later they have seen enough, so after shutting the doors and padlocking it up again, A quick show of the passport to British Customís and I am off to Lane 3 to sit and wait for the boat. About an hour or so later, the Norfolk Line Dunkerque appears, and after unloading the incoming vehicles, I am waved onto the top deck. As I said on the outward leg, Norfolk Line have WiFi on their boats, so I took my lap top up with me today, only to find that this boatís WiFi has packed up! Instead I spend the crossing chatting to a German/British driver about the difficulties of working for Foreign companies and not speaking the language, and he gives me some good websites for interactive learning at weekends. The boat Docks, and me and the German go our different ways, him to the lower deck, me to the upper. However, it seems to take an age to disembark, and when I finally get off, it is clear what the problem is. Norfolk Line, SeaFrance, and P&O have all had a boat arrive at the same time tonight, and to say its chaos would be an understatement. Due to this, it takes me an Hour to reach Customís from the dock, which is only a mile up the road, and by the time I am cleared, its nearly 7 oíclock, so I decide to stay in Dover and use the 2 movement rule on and off the boat, and plan to leave at 3am.
Off the boat in Dover, it takes over an hour to do a mile!
Total KMís - 545
Dover Ė Hartshead Moor Services
2am, What a **** time of the morning to be getting up, A quick cup of coffee then off to get my paperwork which I couldnít be bothered to collect last night, I pay my parking and just as I am about to leave I bump into Graham, another driver for Hueberís and stand and have a chat and coffee with him while he clears customís, by which time its nearly 3am, He has all sorts of hazardous on board, and is shipping out of Purfleet at 6am, so we run up the M20 together. Just as I coming up the hill out of Dover, a red warning light flashes up on the dashboard, and as quick as it appearís, it disappears, with me not getting a proper chance to see what it was. It doesnít take long for it to reappear, and it becomes very quickly apparent its an Alternator warning light. Its decision time, Do I pull onto the hard shoulder, or keep going. I carry on for a few miles, deep in thought, and decide to assess the situation again in a few more miles time. The light goes out again, and it looks as though normal service is resumed. Itís a clear and uneventful run up to the Dartford Tunnel, apart from a Police Volvo pulling in front of me by Maidstone and braking sharply, other than that it was a peaceful run up. At the Dartford Tunnel Graham went off into the Hazardous Goods lane, and I went thru and on towards the M1. As to be expected it was pretty quiet and not much was on the road, but just before the M1 the dreaded Red Warning light made another unwelcome appearance. A quick stop on the hard shoulder I decide to carry on as everything seems to be working and all the lightís seem to be working and not dim in anyway, the heater fan and wipers are working normally too, But I keep a close eye on things, then about 30kís up the road the light goes out again! The roads are starting to get a bit busier now, but I still manage to sail thru the roadworks on the M1 with no major problems, and head onwards towards the M6 split. Approaching the Watford Gap my favourite Red Light appears again, and its obvious there is something seriously wrong, So I call Mercedes 24Hr Breakdown line for an opinion and some advice from them. They inform me that if the light was on permanently then they would advise to stop the truck and get someone out to fix it, but as at the moment its intermittent, then they it should be okay to keep driving it, and ask where I am going to. It turns out there is a Mercedes dealer very close to where I am delivering in Trafford Park, so it gets booked in there, and once I am tipped later in the morning, I have to run it in. Sorted.
My Favourite warning light!
Surprisingly Birmingham is very traffic free and blast thru there on the limiter, amazed that so far I havenít come across any traffic at all. Not long after Birmingham, with the clock showing 4hrs 22 Mins Driving, I pull into Stafford Services for a 45 minute break. I decide to risk turning the truck off and go into the shop for a pint of milk and a paper, and to my amazement when I get back to the truck it fires up with no problem at all. I start to wonder if there is really a problem or if the computer is throwing a fit! Break over its back onto the M6, I have 1hr 45mins to make Kelloggs at Trafford Park, in theory it shouldnít be a problem, but with the traffic round Manchester you never can tell. The M6 is bus but nothing too serious, but just before J19 it starts to back up, so I shoot off onto the A556 to cut thru to the M56. Now usually this can be a right nightmare of a route, but today for some strange reason it was empty. Soon enough I was on the M56 and that was as empty as the A556 was, as was the M60 and at 0915 I am coming off to head into Trafford Park. Kelloggs is easy enough to find, and I am straight in, onto a bay and coming out before 1030. If only all RDCís were like! Finding the Mercedes dealer was pretty straightforward, and once in their yard, tuck myself into a corner and drop the trailer before going in to see them. They had been forewarned that I was coming, but I still had to phone Mercedes in Switzerland to action the breakdown, so they could guarantee the payment, but that was easily sorted and then the truck was taken into the workshops for diagnosis. They had hoped it had just blown a fuse on the charging system, but we were not that lucky and after 45 mins they finally accepted that it needed a new alternator. Now, they didnít have one at Enza, Trafford Park, but they had one in Warrington, so a runner was duly sent off to collect it, meanwhile I sat in the drivers room drinking coffee and watching TV. Whilst I was sat waiting for what turned out to be 3 hours, they Service staff seemed to feel sorry for me, and did a couple of running repairs on the truck for me, repairing 2 of my 12V sockets and tightening up the wind deflector kit on the back of the cab. Also, which was to their benefit, they uploaded the English Language option to the OnBoard Computer, which had previously only been available in German and French on my Truck. Once the runner returned with the alternator, it was just a matter of an hour and it was sorted and I was back on the road again. I phoned the office in Switzerland and they told me I was loading a full deck of Non Hazardous Chemicalís out of Low Moor, Near Bradford for delivery to Basel on Tuesday Afternoon, but its not due to load until tomorrow morning. No great shakes there, so I have a gentle run across the M62, doing battle with traffic and Fog before calling it a day at Hartshead Moor Services for the night.
All sorted, its back on the road to Bradford to load tomorrow..
Total KMís - 544
Hartshead Moor Services Ė Leighton Buzzard
Sat waiting to load with trucks from all round Europe..
Inside the Ciba Chemical plant at Bradford
A nice leisurely start to the final day of the week today, I am up at 6, make a coffee and sit and have ablast on the internet for an hour, before sorting the cab out and making my way to Ciba in Low Moor for 0730. Its quite busy here this morning with trucks from all over Europe waiting to get loaded, and when I go to the booking in office, its not good news. ďYour not booked til 1400 mate, come back at 1315Ē says the guy on Security. Oh well, bang goes an early finish for me then! Its quite handy really in a way, there has been an accident during then night thatís shut the M1 at Chesterfield, so hopefully by the time I am out of here it should be cleared up and open again..
I spend the time giving the cab a damn good clean and sort the side lockers out and give the motor a damn good sorting out. After a couple of hours itís lovely and clean and I watch a couple of DVDís before going across to Security at 1315 to book in to load.
Once thru the gate, its onto a loading bay and within an hour or so I am loaded and shutting the doors to head for home. The M62 is at crawling pace due to a car fire, but once past that fly thru to the M1. Luckily the earlier accident has long since been cleared up and it pretty much a clean run all the way down the M1, thru the roadworks at J27 and on wards towards Milton Keynes. Its pretty good going considering itís the height of rush hour, but Iím not going to comlplain! Off the M1 at J14, I work my thru to Leighton Buzzard, and finally call it a day at 1830. Its been a pretty good first trip back to Switzerland, I cant wait until Sunday/Monday to do it all again!
Total KMís: 278
Total Trip Kmís: 3100.