This one is from June 04, a 2 week trip that went all over the place, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France....
Only have the one photo from this one though....and here it is..
The ever faithful XL Globetrotter, coupled to a Rothdean Single compartment Milk Tank. 350'000km across Europe, and never missed a beat....
MONDAY… Having spent the previous week in the UK, due to a shortage in European work, it was nice when I was told I would be shipping out to Holland on Monday afternoon, after loading in Braintree Monday morning. What I wasn’t told that it was a new job we had pulling Tankers. I have no objection to pulling Tanks, what I have a problem with is the part when you have to get up on the top of the Tank to open the lids. I do not like heights, never have and never will, just the way it is, so the thought of climbing a narrow ladder and standing 13 feet in the air did not appeal to me one bit. But I figured they couldn’t be dangerous, or else you wouldn’t be allowed on top of them. The trailer itself looked quite impressive, a 9 month old Rothdean Tank, complete with all the shiny bits and alloy wheels, it looked pretty smart coupled to the Globetrotter. I had to move the 5th wheel forward, as it sat too far back, and when loaded the centre axle would not go down automatically as there was not enough weight on the pin. Once all that was sorted I headed out to the motorway. As it was rush hour, the traffic on the M4 was heavy and progress was slow all the way to the M25. Once on the M25, traffic picked up a little bit, but speeds were still below 40mph all the way to the M1, but once passed the M1 split, the traffic lightened and I was soon up on the limiter. A quick look at the map, and I found the Dairy I wanted was in a small village just north of Braintree, and the directions told me to ‘turn left at the Citreon Garage and it was up there on the right’. Onto the M11 and traffic was surprisingly moving well. The Ministry were out at Junction 6 and Police were pulling random trucks in. I sailed passed without so much of a sideways glance, and I was soon pulling off onto the A120 heading for Braintree. I haven’t been down the 120 for a while, and to my surprise it was now dual carriageway all the way to Braintree, far easier than the old single lane road you had to endure. I followed the directions into the village of Sible Headingham. However, once in the village, there was no Citreron Garage, and the phone reception was extremely poor, so phoning up for help was out of the question. I drove up and down the main road through the village, but I could not see a garage anywhere, Then, as I drove back out of the village, I saw a tiny Citreon logo on a Derelict house, so having nothing else better to try, I headed up the country lane. Fortunately Milk Link was at the end of the lane, or else I would have been in trouble as there was nowhere to turn round. I was instructed to weigh in then reverse onto one of the loading bays, where I would be loaded with 24500 litres of cream for delivery to Ommen in Northern Holland tomorrow afternoon. The man in the white coat told me it would take a couple of hours to load me, so I passed the time doing paperwork and looking up the delivery address on the ever faithful laptop. I just started nodding off when there was a knock at the door and I was loaded. So it was back onto the weighbridge and then a quick signature and I was away. Having never pulled tanks before, it was a shock to the system the first time I had to brake, and it was with extra care I headed out to the A120 and onto the M11. A quick call to Pete in the office told me I was booked on the night boat out of Dartford to Vlissengen late tonight. I questioned this as it was only 11am, and after a bit of a rethink, we decided I should go Norfolk Line from Dover to Dunkerque. This was better for me for two reasons, firstly I should be across the other side by 1600 latest, then I would have four and half hours to get as far as I could, which should put me up near Zwolle, leaving me a short run into Ommen in the morning. The 2nd reason was a personal one, I am not a lover of Cross Channel Ferries at the best of times, and the thought of 8 hours on a Freight Boat night crossing really didn’t appeal to me, so when I was told to go Norfolk Line, I had to contain my delight. The descent off the Dartford Bridge was interesting, with 24500 litres of cream pushing me down towards the toll booths, but the VEB did a grand job of keeping the speed down. The run down the M20 was uneventful, and I was quite pleased to see Dover as I dropped down the last hill before you enter the town. Another thing that’s interesting with a tank is negotiating roundabouts, it scared the life out of me, but I had been told as the cream was warm, it would move around a lot until it cooled down and bit and thickened up. The weighbridge at Dover told me I was just under 40T, which I had already known, but I was 20kg heavier on this one than I had been back in Braintree. Round to the Norfolk Line kiosk, and they had no record of me being booked on a crossing, so I had to go into the office with all the relevant paperwork and they booked me on no problem at all. The problem was I was booked on the 1715 sailing, and all boats were running late today. All of a sudden, the night crossing from Dartford looked like a better option, but it was too late to change now. It was just a matter of sitting and waiting. went and changed some money into Euro’s in the main terminal building, and then gave the cab a clean and made some coffee then read a book for a couple of hours to pass the time. I saw the Northern Merchant coming into the harbour, so knew it wouldn’t be too long before I was instructed to go round to the boat to load. I was lucky enough to be one of the first vehicles to go round and wait to be loaded, always an advantage, but even more so when the boat was full to capacity like today. When I was finally waved onto the boat, I was put right up against the bow doors, and once securing the truck, made my way up to the restaurant for dinner and a drink. The crossing was quite calm and after reading the daily paper I went back to the restaurant to help myself the free coffee for freight drivers. Once docked, the captain did his usual bit, and I headed back to my truck, being right at the front I didn’t want to be late back to my truck and hold people up. Off the boat, I made my way out of the docks, and down the single track road to the motorway, as it was 2000, rush hour was long gone so there was no traffic to hold me up on run towards Brussels. Just across the Belgian Border, I needed diesel so pulled into the large Texaco filling station, and filled the drivers side tank. I would fuel up on the way back, and would fill both tanks then, back out on the motorway, traffic was very light and I was making good time towards Gent. At Gent, I pulled off the A10 and headed up the A14 towards Antwerp. Knowing my time ran out at 2230, I needed to get round Antwerp tonight, to avoid the rush hour traffic in the morning, and hopefully enabling me to make Ommen by Lunchtime tomorrow. Thankfully the Kennedy Tunnel at Antwerp was open, sometimes it does get shut during the night for work to be carried out. The roadworks on the Antwerp Ring Road were running well, and I was soon out onto the A1 and heading for the Dutch Border at Meer. The timer indicated I had 5 minutes driving time left, so 10km short of the border, I called it a night in a large parking area next to the A1.
TUESDAY……I was already up and awake when the alarm went off at 0630, and after putting the kettle on, I tidied the cab and filled out the days tacho. After doing the morning checks of the truck and trailer, I drunk my coffee, and double checked the delivery address on the laptop. At 0730 I headed back out onto the motorway, hopeful that I had missed any rush hour traffic at Breda, the last thing I needed this morning were traffic hold ups. At Breda, you split off onto the A58 for Tilburg, then after about 5 kilometres, you head off up the A27 for Utrecht. I seemed to have missed any traffic hold ups, and the run up to Utrecht fairly straightforward and things were looking good for meeting the delivery time. Off onto the A28 for Amersfoot and Zwolle, and everything was going according to plan. Between Amersfoot and Zwolle, you pass quite a large Recreation Park, and I was surprised at how busy it was considering it was a Tuesday morning, but then again it was the middle of June so perhaps the schools in Holland have summer holidays at different times to us. Progress was good, and once passed Zwolle, I headed off onto the N340 towards Ommen. Once into the small town, the dairy was located with relative ease, and after weighing in, I I made my may round to the unloading pumps. This is where, I was instructed to get onto the roof of the tank to open the hatches and put a steam hose, so to make it easier to unload the cream. It wasn’t too bad getting up the ladder and onto the roof, the main problem was going to be getting down. After a bit of uncertainty, I got off the tank, and made my way back to the cab, having been told it would be at least 2 hours to unload. After sending a message to the Office, informing them I was being unloaded, I was given the reload details, which turned out to be just down the road in Zwolle, and was for delivery in Shepton Mallett on Wednesday Afternoon. Barring any major disasters, this wouldn’t be a problem. Once tipped, I asked if there was a tank wash nearby, and as luck would have it they had one on site, the only problem being the tank wash cost 55 euro’s and I only had 30 Euro’s on me. After a brief chat to an Irishman, who worked for the Dairy, it was agreed they would let me have a tank wash for 30 Euro’s, which saved me running to Rotterdam to get it washed as was previously planned. Once washed, I headed down to Melkweg at Zwolle, I was due to load Goats Milk at 1500, but when I arrived, I was informed that the tanker that collects the milk had broken down, and that it wasn’t due until 1800hrs. I parked in the yard and made myself a coffee, and grabbed a couple of hours sleep as I had already decided to run my time out tonight once I was loaded. A knock at the door at 1730 heralded the arrival of the Tanker that had my milk on board, and within 45 minutes I was loaded and away. With 4 hours 15 Minutes left on today’s tacho, I worked my way out of the small estate and headed south towards Utrecht. It was just a matter of retracing yesterdays route back towards the boat as far as time would allow. As expected, Breda and Antwerp were passed with no trouble at all due to the late hour of the day. I had planned to park at Lokeren, but with an hour or so still left on the timer, I decided to press on as far as I could. The advantage of having a Tank is that you don’t have to worry yourself with getting curtains cut overnight in layby’s, so I could pretty much park anywhere once my time was up. A quick calculation on time, and I figured I should just be able to make Adinkerke for the night. There I would be able to get a shower in the morning, and then after feulling up, its not even an hour to the Shuttle. A brief stop at the Texaco Garage, just before the French Border to grab something for Dinner, and I pressed on for Adinkerke. With only 2 minutes left on the clock, I pulled into the large lay-by in Adinkerke for the night, pleased that I had managed to get this far, it made tomorrow that bit easier, as I wouldn’t catch any traffic between here and the Train in the morning, and with any luck, i would be in Shepton Mallett in the early part of the afternoon.
WEDNESDAY……. Up early and into the strangely named Adinkerke Truckstop for a shower, I say strangely named as it only has 2 diesel pumps and is more like a small village petrol station. Once shower and coffee had been done, it was back to the truck and onto the diesel pump. The Volvo swallowed 1024 litres, and after another coffee I was on my way. It is quicker to run the old road back to the motorway, rather than turn round and go back the way I came in. Its not he widest road in the world, and if a truck comes the other way, you have to make sure you are well over to the right to avoid a clash of mirrors. Out onto the motorway, and the run across to the Train was as expected, uneventful. The cheery girl at the kiosk asked me if I’d like breakfast on board, but having sampled Le Shuttle breakfast before, I declined. Through French Customs with no problems, British Customs and Passport control both warned me my passport only had 3 weeks to run before it expired and after that it was into the waiting lanes. I was 2nd in my lane, and when we were called I followed the Spanish truck in front down to the front carriage of the train. Once safely positioned on the train, it was into the bus, and go down the train picking up all the drivers. It was a quiet train this morning with only 11 trucks in total, so we were quickly in the club car, and on our way to England. Off the train and out onto the M20, traffic was light up towards the M26 split. The M25 was running very well for this time of day, and I was making good progress round to the M3 and down to the A303. I must have judged the day just right, as traffic along the A303 was very light and was well ahead of time, but as is always the way, disaster and delays were not far away. I had decided to go down to the A37, and then back up to Shepton Mallet, rather than cut across country to get there, I had however, overlooked one small problem, The very steep hill at Pylle. Now, I have been up here before, albeit empty and no problem, but today was going to be different, very different. Halfway up the hill, the back wheels on the ever faithful Globetrotter started to lose traction, and spin, and then, the worst possible thing happened, I stopped. Now, with 20000 odd litres of cream weighing 24T trying to pull me backwards, and 460 horsepower trying to pull me forwards, there was only going to be one winner. By this time, I was starting to get a bit stressed to say the least, and with no other choice, I started to reverse down the hill. But with all the messing around, traffic had started to build up behind me. In the end I had to reverse down the hill on the wrong side of the road, and then go into a side road to turn round. The problem now was, which way into Shepton do I go, as there are steep hills every way into it. Not knowing what the hill on the A371 was like, and not wanted a repeat performance on the next hill, I was very careful on which route I took next. Having finally arrived in Shepton, I found the Dairy, and was told to sit and wait until I was called for, which turned out to be 3 and half hours, but once I was called in for unloading, I was empty within an hour. A quick call to the office for instruction, I was told to head for Crediton in Devon, and load for Chester, where after tipping I would be heading out to Holland again. As rush hour had now passed, it was a pleasant run across the A303 to Exeter, and then onto the A377 to Crediton. The instructions I had been given to the Dairy were vague at best, but I knew I had to turn right at the church. Having turned right at the Church, my initial reaction was one of ‘Oh F**k’. The road in front of me was very narrow and very short, but thankfully at the end of it was the Dairy I needed. Once in the Dairy, I washed the Tank out, and then backed onto the loading pump. I dropped the trailer and tucked myself away in the corner of the yard. They would load the trailer during the night, ready for me to couple up to in the morning and head for Chester.
THURSDAY……. Up at 5am, I had a shower and went in to sign the paperwork, ready to couple up and leave at 6am. Once coupled up, I did a quick check of the lights and I was away. Having been stuck on the hill on Tuesday, I was very wary of any sharp inclines, so it was a very careful drive down the A377 to Exeter and the M5. Once out onto the M5 with the cruise set at 57mph, it was a decent run up to Bridgewater, and then onto Bristol, and although traffic was heavy, good progress was being made, and once clear of the M5/M4 split, traffic thinned out. Strensham Services was the first stop of the day, and after a quick coffee and 15 minute break I was back out on the M5, anticipating an early afternoon delivery in Chester. Birmingham was its usual traffic ridden self, queuing started at the J2 of the M5 to get to the M6, and it wasn’t even rush hour! I must have lost the best part of an hour getting onto the M6, and once past J9, the problem was revealed. One of our Polish counterparts had tangled with a Nissan Micra, and although it was all on the hard shoulder, everyone slowed to see what was going on. Once finally through the traffic, I quickly calculated I would need a break before getting to Chester. I decided to press on to see how close I would get before my time ran out, and as I approached Knutsford, the timer indicated I had less than 5 minutes driving left so I pulled in for half an hour to complete a 45 minute break. Although the road signs indicate there are no HGV facilities at Knutsford, there is still a small parking area to accommodate about 20 trucks, which is pretty handy in situations like this, it saves the time of coming off the motorway and round the roundabouts to go into Lymm. Once my break was complete, I headed of up the M6, coming off onto the M56 and then onto the M53. Again, I didn’t have a proper address, all I had were some vague directions, but at least these ones made some sort of sense. Once off the M55 onto the A55, I had to come off onto the A483, down to the first roundabout, come back on myself and turn left into a village called Roughlyn. It was as easy as it sounded and within 5 minutes of leaving the A55 I was weighing in at the Dairy. There was a queue to tip so it was just a case of waiting for my turn on the pumps. Within an hour or so, I was waved on, and then told it would a good couple of hours before I was tipped and washed out. No problem, I set about finding the reload location, a little village in North Wales called Llandyrnog. I was due to load a full load of Whey for Hoogeveen in Northern Holland for Delivery Saturday Lunchtime. Another weekend away, unless I managed a minor miracle and got tipped and reloaded Saturday and managed to get back into Dover Saturday night. I couldn’t load until 10am, so there was no rush to tip and get washed out, but once done I headed out towards Mold on the A55 and parked up for the night in a small Shell Service Station, leaving me a short drive in the morning to load.
FRIDAY…….. Due to not having to load until 10am, I had a lie in this morning and didn’t get out of bed until 7am, and then it was only to put the kettle on and then got back into bed for another half hour. Once dressed and sorted, I wandered over to the Shell garage for a wash and a newspaper, and once back in the truck, I caught up on yesterday’s news and made another coffee. I decided to leave at 0900, hoping to avoid any traffic from rush hour. It was a only a short hop into Mold, and once there you head out on the A541 for about 15 miles until you come into the village of Bodfari, where I picked up signs for Llandyrnog and the B5429. It got a little bit tight in places, especially when you meet a laden milk tank on a blind bend, but soon enough I was pulling into the Dairy, and after finding the relevant people and weighing in, I was told to back onto the pumps, where I would be loaded immediately. Whilst Loading I phoned the office to see what the plan was, and I was told to ship out Stena Line from Killingholme to The Hook of Holland. Now, as I have told diaries before, I am not a fan of long crossings, and the thought of a 14 hour night crossing, on an old freight boat did nothing for my nerves. I was also told I would probably be reloading Orange Juice from Weert, it could be loaded Saturday if I could get there before 1400 local time, otherwise it’d be 0800 Monday morning. Once loaded in Llandyrnog, I signed the paperwork and went back round to be weighed off, and in less than 5 minutes, I was working my way back down the narrow B road, back to the A541, and then back to Mold. Once safely back out onto the A55 it wasn’t long before I was on the M56 and heading for Manchester and the M60. The M60 was running well for a change, and I was off onto the M62 and heading for Hull. But there was one small problem I had overlooked. I always change money on the boats or in the terminal before shipping out, never a problem, but a quick call to another driver told me there is no terminal as such in Killingholme, and little chance of changing money on the boat. This could be a problem, where the hell between Manchester and Killingholme could you park a 40T truck, and find a Bureau de Change. Grabbing my Yorkshire Ordinance Survey Maps from a top locker, I frantically looked for a town with a Post Office on a main Route. I decided to go for Scunthorpe, so I would at least be within a stones throw of the Port before I started messing around trying to change money up. Off the M62 and onto the M18 for a couple of junctions, before coming off and heading down the M180. Having been into Scunthorpe before, I knew the main routes in and out, so I opted come off at the first Scunthorpe turn, and go through the Town, in the vain hope of finding a post office. With Nothing found as I started to head out of the town, I stopped in a Petrol Station and asked if they knew anywhere, but blanks looks all round told me a boring weekend in Holland beckoned. Then just as I was getting back into the truck, a lady who was behind me in the queue in the garage, had heard my situation and told me to follow her to Asda, where they had a Travel Agents in store, with a Bureau de Change! The small problem of Asda being in the middle of a housing estate was insignificant, and after finding a place to park, money was changed, and I was a relieved man. It wasn’t far to the boat from here, although trying to get through Scunthorpe Town Centre at 1530 was not very easy, but it was self inflicted so I tried not to concern myself with it too much. Back out onto the M180, and Heading for Immingham, past the Humber Bridge. As you come into the outskirts of Immingham, the road signs direct you off to the left for Killingholme, then disappear. Out into the unknown for 3 miles, and it was only because I saw the boat, I knew I was in the right place. As I turned into the dock road, a big sign advertised the Ferry, shame it wasn’t a few miles back down the road! Onto the weighbridge, and the Kiosk attendant told me we would be boarding shortly, so just to join the queue and follow them round. Looking round the busy truck park, it looked like I was the only British Truck in amongst the throng of Dutch and Danish wagons. Within 15 Minutes I was called down to the boat, they call you down in blocks of 5, I would think for safety reasons, and after the first two trucks were waved onto the boat, I was waved onto the upper deck. A quick look at the very steep ramp, and the fact it was wet and I had a tank, there was no point even trying to go up it, so after explaining to the non English speaking crew, I was directed downstairs, and after jack-knifing the truck round, I backed up against a row of unaccompanied trailers. The crew had already chained the truck down by the time I had sorted myself out, so I made my way upstairs to the driver’s quarters. On booking in, I was asked what Nationality I was, this is so when cabins are allocated, you don’t have two different nationality drivers fighting, it sounds far fetched, but I have heard stories of it happening! As I was the only Brit on Tonight’s boat, I was to have a cabin to myself. On the Freight Boats, the meals are free as its all included in the ticket price, and after a meal and a chat with a German driver, heading home to Munich, I went to my cabin to read and then to bed.
SATURDAY…….. As the boat isn’t due in dock until 9am, I woke up naturally at 0630, and after reading some more of my book, I got up and after getting showered and ready for the day ahead, I went and had breakfast. Breakfast is the same sort of routine as the evening meals, it was all free and fill your boots, eat as much as you like. Breakfast out of the way, it was just a matter of passing the time for the next hour until we docked, and once safely in our berth, we were called back to our trucks. I took a little while to get off the boat and out through Customs, but once clear of them, it was soon working my way out of port to he main road. First call of the day was to the nearest garage to get my Vignette for the next three days. Although I hadn’t planned to be running Sunday, I got it anyway just in case. Little did I know at this time I would be running Sunday, and a long way at that. After a quick coffee in the garage, I headed off up the motorway for Rotterdam and Utrecht. Traffic was pretty heavy just before Rotterdam, surprising for a Saturday morning, but it soon thinned out once passed, and good time was made to Utrecht. From Utrecht it was the same route as Tuesday had been, up past the large Recreation Centre just passed Amersfoot, and onto Zwolle with no problems. At Meppel you come off the A28 onto the A37 for Hoogeveen and Germany. Its only a short distance to Hoogeveen now, and within 20 minutes, I am pulling off the Motorway. As luck would have it, directly opposite the bottom of the slip road is the Juice Factory I am delivering to, and after negotiating a tight set of roadworks outside the factory, I pull into a very large modern looking yard, a bit different from the ancient dairies I have been used to this week. Handing my paperwork in, the transport clerk tells me to back onto the pumps, and I’ll be tipped in 20 minutes. This was result, as I had been getting used to 2 hour tipping times. Once tipped, it was back into the transport office for the paperwork, and to see if they had a tank wash. There was no tank wash on site, and the company next door that usually lets you wash out was closed for the weekend, so I would have to get washed out on Monday morning before loading. A quick phone call to Pete confirmed I was loading in Weert, but I had to get washed out at De Rijke first. If I was lucky and had a good run down there was a slim chance I could get washed out and loaded this afternoon, and maybe even back into Adinkerke tonight. Pulling out of the Dairy, and after negotiating the roadworks I headed back out onto the motorway and headed south towards Zwolle. Traffic was pretty heavy and it was slow going in places until I split off onto the A50 and headed for Arnhem. Roadworks at Appeldorn slowed things up a bit more, and I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be getting loaded today and would have to find somewhere to park up. Once at Arnhem, its onto the A12 for a short distance then back onto the A50 heading for Heesch. Traffic had cleared up and I was making good progress. Just before Heesch there are major roadworks as you come onto the N50, and it was slow going before rejoining the A50 towards Eindhoven. I had been playing with the idea of parking in Eindhoven for the weekend, but decided against it and decided to press on to Weert, and get as near to the Tank Wash as I could, which turned out to be just round the corner from the collection address. Once clear of Eindhoven, its down past Valkenwaard, home of the yellow trucks of Centrum Transport, and onto Weert. Just before Weert, I spotted a little restaurant with two trucks on the car park, and after coming off the motorway, I headed back up the national roads, and pulled into the car park. Out of courtesy I went inside and asked the bar staff if it was okay to park here for the weekend. They spoke good English and I had a beer and a chat with them before returning to the lorry to do some paperwork and have a tidy of the cab. After it was all sorted out, I set the laptop up, made a coffee and settled back to watch a DVD, before going into the restaurant for a meal and a drink before retiring to bed. Unbeknown to me at the time, tomorrow was going to be a very long day.
SUNDAY……. The best part about being weekended is not having to get up on Sunday morning, and just waking up when I wake up, rather than an alarm clock shaking you out of bed at an unearthly hour. I spent the day going through the cab and throwing away anything that was rubbish and not used, emptied the side lockers and sorted all the straps and rolled them up neatly, all the lights got checked and cleaned. The day flew by and by about 1700, the cab was spotless, all the lockers sorted and in order and ready for the week to come. Then the phone rang, which was highly unusual, as when I am weekended no one calls, what made it more unusual was it was the boss, Pete. A 10 minute chat to Pete revealed we had another truck with a problem and I could help. Another Driver, Cliff, had been parked in Belgium for the weekend en route to Giessen in Germany. The Douane had come round to check the Vignette’s of all trucks parked up, and it turned out for one reason or other, Cliff’s one was not valid. With not enough money to pay the hefty fine, he was escorted to Brussels airport at Zaventem where he was to sit until the fine could be paid. My job, for now was to go to the airport at Brussels and pay the balance of the fine, thus enabling Cliff to continue his Journey, and me to head back to Weert to load on Monday as planned. After packing the Laptop away, I filled out the tacho, and after making sure I had taken`a 24 hour break, I made my way out to the motorway and headed south towards Stein and Masstricht. As it was 1830 local time, traffic was light so it didn’t take long to get to Stein and then onto the A2 towards Brussels. Across the border into Belgium, I had bought my Vignette for Sunday and Monday when I came off the boat on Saturday morning, so I was okay to run. Brussels Airport is well signed once you get onto the Brussels Ring, and once off the Ring the Cargo Centre is well signed too. Finding Cliff was easy enough, and after parking up and having a 10 minute chat, we went off in search of a Douane officer to pay the fine and get Cliff on his way. This is where we came across a small problem, well to be exact, quite a large problem. We had the money to pay the fine, that was no problem, however, the fines office was not open until the morning, and even if it was open, Cliff still had no Vignette to enable him to run tonight, and trying to buy a Vignette at 2000 local time in Belgium was almost impossible. So after some more phone calls to Pete, it was decided I would take Cliff’s trailer to Germany, and Cliff mine once he was sorted in the morning. So, back into the Douane office to let them know what was happening, and after 15 minutes of tooing and froing, they decided I could take it, what it had to do with them I am not quite sure, but this was not before they had inspected my tractor unit and checked all my documents and Vignette. Once they were satisfied I was all legal, it was just a matter of coupling up to Cliffs trailer, a tri axle box van and once I had repositioned the fifth wheel it was back out onto the motorway and off to Germany. I had not been into Germany since the introduction of the new MAUT system, so I knew I had to stop before the border to sort it out. The motorway was quiet, as it should be at 2100 and with a load that weighed less than 3 tonnes progress was swift across the A3 towards Leige. As you climb the big hill after liege, there is a Shell Station near the top of the hill, and I pulled in to get my German Tax. I have heard horror stories about drivers struggling to operate the machines, so it was with trepidation I put my details into the machine. It was a little tricky, as you have to know the exact junction numbers you want to come off at but all in all it was an easy process and within 15 minutes I was ready to leave. I waited round another 5 minutes, just so to have had 15 minutes, therefore if I needed a break later on, I would only have to take half an hour. The motorway was deserted up towards Aachen, and onto the A4 towards Cologne(Koln) traffic was still very light, although it was nearing 0000hrs local time, so I suppose it was to be expected. There are long sections on the A4 between Aachen and Cologne that are unlit, and with no traffic about, it was quite a strange feeling at times to be able to see nothing other than the lights on your own vehicle. Also there are quite a few overtaking bans along this stretch, and quiet as the motorway was, whenever there was an overtaking ban, thee was a slow truck in front, typical! Once you reach Kerpen you start to get some lights on the motorway, but its short lived as once again I am plunged back into darkness as I tramp on towards Cologne. As you round Cologne on the A4, you have to go north on the A3 for a few k’s before coming off and heading further east for Wiehl and Siegen. Yet again, most of this section is run in complete darkness, and apart from overtaking the odd slow moving truck, its hassle free. Although the darkness seems to engulf you, it’s a really enjoyable drive across so far, at least there is no traffic delays to deal with, and you can make good time. I was making good time across the A4, and after splitting off to the South at Gerlingen, I decided to pull off into a parking area for 30 minutes break, and to have a coffee. While the kettle is boiling I looked up the delivery address on the laptop, it’s relatively easy to get to, and after having my coffee and finishing off my break, its back out onto the motorway for the final 60km of the day, or should it be night! Its busier now, with lorries of all nationalities heading south, lots of which come flying past on the downhill’s, but as I am light, I easily pass them on the uphill sections. Down past Haiger and Herborn, its not far to Giessen now, and within half hour, I am pulling off the A45, onto the A485, the motorway which runs round Giessen. The junction I am after is not a numbered junction, but I know its not far after junction 4, and soon enough, a narrow looking slip road comes into the view of the Volvo’s headlights. Turning left at the bottom of the slip road, I have been told there is a Shell Garage where you can park once tipped, and after negotiating another set of lights, the garage comes into sight. Eli Lilly sits just behind the Garage, so I decide to chance my arm and see if they’ll let me in, and even though it was just past 2am local time, the friendly security guard, waves me in and directs me to the loading bays. With some hand gesticulation I manage to ask if I can drop the trailer and come back for it in 9 hours time. This does not seem to be a problem, so after doing the suzies and legs, I pull the pin and park outside the gate. Pulling the curtains shut, I am looking forward to my sleep tonight, as its been a long day. Without any reload details as yet, its anyones guess where I’ll be loading from tomorrow.
MONDAY…….. I was up and awake making coffee when the alarm told me it was time to get up, and after sorting the cab out, I put a tacho in, and pull across the road and into the gate to see if I am empty yet. They are just checking the load, so I make use of their wash room and after a freshen up, its just a matter of coupling up again, and pulling back outside the gate to wait for reload instructions. After another coffee I phone the office to see whats going on, and Pete explains there has been a problem, the original reload was due to load at Haiger, but it had to be before 11am, as it takes 4 hours to load, but because of the problems in Belgium with Cliff and the fact I didn’t arrive until 2 am, that was out of the window. So they were trying to get me a reload elsewhere. Within minutes of putting the phone down, he was on the phone again. I had to reload computers out of Gros Gerau on the south side of Frankfurt, down towards Darmstadt. These were for Corby and Weybridge and for delivery Wednesday afternoon, not a problem. A quick trip into the garage for my road tax and I was off, back out onto the motorway, and before long onto the A5 heading for Frankfurt. As it was late morning, there was no a great deal of traffic and I made good time to Frankfurt, before coming off onto the A3 and past Frankfurt Airport to the A67 and off towards Gros Gerau. Its not very far down the 67 to Gros Gerau and once off the motorway the Wincanton buildings were not very hard to find. There are 3 Wincanton buildings and I went to the wrong one first, sods law but it wasn’t a problem, a quick turn round in their large yard and I was off round the corner to the next one. This time I was at the right one, and after announcing my arrival I was told to back onto a loading bay, where I would be loaded within the hour. After a coffee and a read off a book there was a knock at the door and I was done, just the usual bits of signing up and writing vehicle numbers and trailer numbers on the relevant paperwork and I was away. I had been told to come back through Lux for Diesel, so it was back up the 67 towards Russelheim, across to Mainz and the onto the 63 towards Kaiserslautern. It’s a quiet stretch of road down here and I had the small problem of being a bit ahead of my toll ticket time, but only by half hour or so, so I figured it wouldn’t be a major problem if I got stopped as at least I had paid my toll. At Kaiserslautern its off the A63 onto the A6 and up towards Neunkirchen and Saarbruken, passing the Big Shell Autohof at Ramstein. Just past Ramstein the motorway is down to one lane due to roadworks, and all its all I can do to sit in the queuing traffic as it filters through the narrow roadworks. At Neunkirchen I head off on to the A8 which takes me up towards Remich, and the border at Perl. There are a couple of big hills on this route, but as I’m running light, they are taken with relative ease. Once you get into Lux, the motorway goes down to one lane for a while before you get to the A3, and after negotiating a roundabout, its up onto the A3, and into the Services at Aire de Berchem for Diesel. There is a small queue, but not one that is big enough to tempt me to pull out and run up to the Texaco at Cappellen, and within 15 minutes I am onto the pumps and after fuelling the Volvo to the tune of 1050 litres, I pull of the pumps and go in for my free coffee. After having 15 minutes I venture back out onto the motorway, and with only 1hr 25 remaining before I need to stop again, I head off out of Lux, with the intention of trying to make the Services at Wanlin to complete my break. With the Roadworks on the A4 at Habay, that stretch 20km or more, progress is slow, and with an accident between 2 cars and a truck southbound, everyone wants to take a look, slowing me down further. The roadworks end just before the A4 splits off for Brussels, or becomes the A26 heading for Leige. I head off in the direction of Brussels, with a slim chance of making Wanlin in my remaining time, I only want to stop here as I can have a shower in the Garage and then don’t have the hassle of trying to find one tonight when I park up. The Police and Douane are out in force this afternoon, so I make doubly sure to keep the speed below 90k’s on the downhill’s, and with time now down to 13 minutes, the 10km sign for Wanlin comes up. Barring any accidents between here and there I will make it with a few minutes to spare. Once parked in the truck park, I head off for a shower and a coffee, and when I return there is a driver from Carr Bros parked next to me. A brief chat with him and I am back in the truck, and once my 30 minutes is up, its back out onto the motorway, for the final 3 hours 48 minutes driving of the day, hopefully I should make Transmarck in this time, but if not its not the end of the world. Up the A4 towards Namur, I decide to come back via Mons and Lille for a change, mainly as I think its quicker, only by a few minutes, but every second counts tonight as I would like to get into, or within a stones throw of Calais. As its getting late, the overtaking bans on the A15 between Namur and Charleroi have ended, so I can maintain a decent speed, there is nothing worse than being in a hurry and getting caught in overtaking bans. The Large Truck park at TransMarck is full, and so are the surrounding roads in the small industrial estate, and after a couple of laps round the truck park, I resign myself to having to park elsewhere. Then just as I am pulling out, a truck parked right outside the back entrance to the shop/restaurant pulls off, giving me possibly the safest and best parking spot in the truck park. I do the daily paperwork, and then after pulling the curtains, I go inside for a couple of well earned beers, then It’s off to bed. All I know about tomorrow is I am taking this trailer back to the yard in Thatcham, after that its anyone’s guess.
TUESDAY….. I’m up at 6, and raring to go, so as soon as I can legally move again I am back on the road, well for about 10km until I reach the boat. I have been told to come back SeaFrance, and after going through the heartbeat moniter, I am told to be quick and I should get on the boat that is in dock now. The Cezanne is waiting and I am straight onto the lower deck, and upstairs into the Freight Restaurant for breakfast. Not being a big fan of SeaFrance breakfast, I just help myself to toast, orange juice and coffee, and pass the time contemplating the day ahead, although I still do not know what the plan is once I am back in Thatcham. With the boat safely in dock in Dover, we are instructed back to our vehicles, and after disembarking, its up the ramp and round to Customs, where surprise surprise I am pulled in for a routine question and answer session. It does annoy me at times, I swear they have people they just like to pick on, but nevertheless, I am away within 15 minutes so the delay was not as bad as it could have been. Out onto the A20, the big hill is tackled with ease as I’m only light and once over the top, the cruise is set and I settle back for the hours drive to the M26/M25 junction where it always slows sown, time of day regardless. Chris Moyles and Jo Whiley help pass the time on the run up the M20, but to my sheer surprise when I reach the 26/25 Junction traffic is moving very well. A quick call from Pete in the office tells me that I have to drop this trailer in the yard, and then run Solo down to Blandford Forum to pick up an empty Tanker, and then go and load in Frome for a Dairy just outside Lockerbie in Scotland. This should be a nice end to the week, as I have Friday booked as a day’s holiday, and this should put me back in Thatcham on Thursday night finished for the weekend. The M25 is very trouble free, and I am soon off onto the M3 heading for Bracknell to cut through to the M4 as it’s a quicker route. Well, it would have been a quicker route had they not been doing roadworks which causes a colossal traffic jam, delaying me by 45 minutes, but once clear of the traffic, it was a trouble free run across the M4 to junction 12. Off onto the A4, I took care down here to stick to 40mph, as the police often have a camera van sat waiting for you, and for the sake of 5 minutes, its not worth it. Back into the yard, Martin came out and told me what I already knew about what I was up to for the rest of the week. Because I had Friday booked off as a day’s holiday, I needed to be finished Thursday night, and with what was planned, I should be back without too much problem. Once I had finished a 45 minute break in the yard, and given the Globetrotter a bath, it was off to Blandford to pick up a tank. As is always the way when you wash a vehicle, 15 minutes after leaving the yard it started lashing down, and all my hard work undone! Being solo, the A34 was a bit tricky in places, and I was given a few scary moments when the Tractor Unit started to aquaplane. Off onto the 303, the situation didn’t get much better, and I was relieved to get off the 303 onto the single track A338. A slow gentle drive to Salisbury was the order of the day now, helped by one of our Truck Driver friends from Tesco doing 35mph, but at least there was very little risk of aquaplaning. Round Salisbury and onto the A354 for Blandford, The rain had eased off now and the Sun was out and it looked like being a nice afternoon. Just before Blandford, in the village of Pimperne was where the tank was waiting for me, in the yard of Translact Transport. It turned out to be the sister tank to the one had a swapped at Brussels Airport on Sunday with Cliff, and after coupling up to it, checking the lights and moving the 5th wheel forward again, I head off to Frome for a load of cream for Lockerbie. Out onto the A350, the road gets little bit tight as you head up to Warminster, and in places it can be a mirrors pulled in job if you meet another truck coming the other way. Once clear of Warminster, the road widens out and normal service is resumed. Now Frome is surrounded by weight limits and restrictions and there is only one real route into the town. Luckily the Dairy I am after is a in a village called Oldford, which is easily accessible off the only route into the town without a weight restriction. Once into the Dairy, it’s onto the weighbridge, then reverse onto the loading pumps, where loading will take about 2 hours. I ask the loading supervisor to give me a knock once I am loaded, and then get my head down for a couple of hours, as I need to press on up the road tonight as far as I can legally get too make sure I am back Thursday night without any hiccups. I am finally loaded at 1745, and after weighing off and sorting the paperwork out I get away just after 1800, which leaves me just under 4 hours running time. I decide the quickest route out to the motorway to be across the A361 to Trowbridge, then up the A350 to Chippenham and onto the M4. A trouble free run follows, and I am on the M4 heading towards Bristol and the M5, and soon enough I am sweeping round the bend off the M4 that takes me to the Northbound M5. With the cruise set, I settle back for a trouble free ride to Birmingham, only blighted by the Radio announcement that the M6 is shut at Stoke due to a Major Accident and Chemical Spillage. Although it is Southbound, it could still affect me, but I don’t really have many other options so I head off towards the scene of the accident not knowing what to expect. I needn’t have worried, as when I get there all three Northbound lanes are flowing as normal, and while the Southbound is still shut, there is no wreckage of any kind left for people to gawp at, just the fire service hosing down the carriageway. I am in two minds if i should call it a day at Keele Services or not, as I can get something to eat and start again early in the morning, but I decide against it and press on. Lymm is my next thought of stopping, but again I decide against it and crack on still further north. With only 35 minutes left now, I decide I will park at Charnock Richard for the night, and with only 9 minutes driving time left, I pull into the crowded lorry park. The Truck Park is full, but the are a couple of spaces in the Coach Bays, and seeing the lorries already parked in the others, I decide that will do for me and back the Volvo between two Irish Fridges, luckily both of which are not running. After finding the services food facilities pretty much shut for the night, its back to the cab for coffee and a Pot Noodle, then off to bed. I can’t start until at least 0700 tomorrow, and I want to make a sharp exit and get up to Lockerbie and get tipped and reloaded, to ensure I am home Thursday night.
WEDNESDAY….. Up at 0600, to make sure that I am raring to go as soon as my 9 hours are up, I make coffee and fill out the day’s tacho before doing the usual morning checks. With the tacho in, its out onto the motorway, which considering the time, is relatively quiet. It’s a hassle free run up to Scottish Border, the big Volvo coping well with the big hills over Shap. The Ministry Check at Harker is open, but with 3 fridges and a Transit Van all being checked out, they didn’t even take a look at me as I went past. Once back onto the A74M its not too far to Lockerbie, and after exiting at J18, I head off into the town, before taking the A709 out towards Lochmaben. Having never been to this Dairy before, and with nothing more than handwritten directions, I air on the side of caution, and take it easy. I am told to keep an eye out for the dairy on the right hand side as it’s a big place and I cant miss it. True to their words, the dairy appears on the right, and after turning into a small farm track, I avoid the potholes and make my way into the small transport yard of the dairy. After weighing in, I am directed round to the unloading pumps, where I find a truck already unloading. While I am waiting I make coffee and give the cab a clean and tidy, and once the truck in front has finished unloading, it’s onto the pumps. Unloading takes a couple of hours, during which I watch a DVD and drink coffee, and once tipped its back round to the weighbridge and to collect my signed paperwork and then onto the tank wash for a good washout.. Once ready to go, I phone the office to find out about a reload as no details have been sent through yet. I am instructed to head for Appelby in Moreland, where I am due to load Semi-Skimmed Milk for Palmers Green, London. The only snag is, it loads during the night, so all I have to do is run down, and drop my trailer and then come back in the morning for it. Working my way back out to the motorway, the weather takes a turn for the worse and it starts lashing down, and things get no better once onto it. With the rain falling, the car drivers all slow down and switch their fog lights on, which ordinarily would bug me, but as I’m in no rush, I just sit with it, and once down at Carlisle, the rain abates and normal car driver service is resumed. Down to Penrith, I exit at J40, and head down the A66 towards Appelby. With the Appelby exits not very well signed, I sail past, and after finding a place to turn round I head back, this time exiting at the right junction. Dropping down the hill into the small town, I see a small sign pointing up a very narrow road to an Industrial Estate, but it looks like the sign had been turned round so I decide to carry on into the town and ask. There is a policeman stood outside the local Co-op, and he informs me that it is on the industrial estate I decided against going to, so after turning round on the wide high street, its back up the hill and then left into the Industrial Area. I find the Dairy, and then it becomes clear why it loads during the night. This isn’t a Dairy as I expected, they don’t produce milk, store milk or anything like that. You have to wait for the Dairy to bring the milk in on their trucks, then they pump it from their tank trailer to yours. After dropping my trailer in position to be loaded, I head back into the town for some dinner, then back to Dairy to park up for the night. My trailer won’t be loaded until 5am, and I am not due in Palmers Green until 1600hrs. Shutting the curtains for the final time this week, I am looking forward to a long weekend for a change.
THURSDAY……. Up at 0415, I put the kettle on and make coffee, and after sorting myself out, I head off to the transport office to find out if my trailer is ready yet. It is almost ready, so after coupling up and checking the lights, I head back inside for my paperwork. Once sorted, I work my way out of the small Industrial Estate, down the narrow lane and back into the small town. Back out onto the A66, its quiet and I make good time back to the M6. It’s a bit of a long way round, but far easier when you have a loaded milk tank than going down to Brough and across the A685 to Tebay, and after last weeks escapade on the A37 at Shepton Mallet, I was taking no chances on hills! Back out onto the M6 heading south, there were roadworks just before Tebay and it was down to 2 lanes but there were no road workers in evidence. With very little traffic on the roads at this hour, progress was good, and after passing Lancaster and Wigan with no problems, I decided to stop at Lymm for some breakfast. The truck park was surpisingly quiet, and after parking up I got a newspaper and went off for breakfast. Obviously the chef was having an off day as breakfast wasn’t that good, although I doubt that bothered the owner after he relieved me of the best part of a fiver for it! Back into the truck, I finished off my break and then headed back out onto the motorway. As I came onto the M6 an old mate from RPL went past, and after a quick shout on the CB, we ran down the M6/M1 together as he had loaded in Ellesmere Port and was heading back Milton Keynes. As we hadn’t seen each other for a year or more chat and insults flew thick and fast, and in what seemed like half an hour, we were approaching J14 on the M1, having skipped through Birmingham without even noticing. As it was only 1230 and I wasn’t booked in the dairy until 1600, I was in two minds about heading straight to it, as there is nowhere to park in the vicinity of the Dairy if I got turned away, in fact the nearest place was South Mimms! I decided to take a chance and go straight to it, and after coming off the M25 and onto the A10, I took a slow drive down to the north circular. The Arla Dairy sits right on the junction with the A10/A406, and if you don’t know its there it can be a pain to find as its in the middle of a housing estate. As I turn left into the road leading to the dairy, I can see there are two lorries already waiting on the road queuing to get into the dairy. All I can do is park behind them and wait until I get called in to tip. Having been here before on RPL, I have seen the tank drivers struggling to get on the loading bays as they are exceptionally tight, and watching the drivers today reveals nothing has changed, they are still very very tight to get on to. As the queue moves up, so do I, and within an hour I am called onto the weighbridge, and that means I am next in line to tip. Now its time to hope that I get an easy bay to back onto, and just as I am praying for a miracle the vehicle on the first bay pulls off, leaving me what looks like a relatively easy manoeuvre onto the bay. A couple of the other drivers try to tell me it’s the hardest one of them all to get onto. I need one shunt forward to get it bang on, and that was only because it wouldn’t have been fair on the driver next to me to leave it that tight to his vehicle. It takes about 2 hours to tip and wash out, but after that is done, I am heading back to the yard and decent length weekend for a change. I decide to be brave and try the North Circular route to the A40, and it pays off as I fly round, unheard of at 1730 in the evening. Even approaching Hangar Lane there is no queue. Onto the A40 and the traffic is still doing well, if this keeps up I’ll be in the yard by 1900ish. The M25 is a little bit slow towards the M4 junction, but once I am off onto the M4 it clears up and its plain sailing to junction 12 and down the A4 to the yard at Thatcham. Once back in the yard, I check my car starts as its not been run for run for 2 weeks, then unload all my stuff into the boot. After completing the tacho and sorting paperwork and timesheets out, I finally get away from the yard about 1930. I have been told I am shipping out to Belgium on Sunday afternoon through Dartline at Dartford, to Zeebrugge to load a load of Orange Juice in Gent first thing Monday morning for delivery to Shepton Mallett Monday PM/Tuesday Am. That though is another story.