History Won’t be Repeating!

ACH Library Volvo F12 (14).jpg

Often we get told that not to meet your hero’s as they can turn out not to be the people you hope they are. Recently I got to meet a man who I consider to be one of my trucking hero’s if you like. As I regularly do on the blog I harp back to the golden days of transport which I’m sure most of you will agree was the 20 years spanning the 1970’s through to the 1990’s, but unfortunately for me and many of you this was when I was growing up and not old enough to get behind the wheel (legally!). Reading magazines and spotting when on family journeys across the UK was all I had to survive on. When I think back there were really to many fleets to name that I would look out for but at the top of my list were ACH and the black trucks of Ralph Davies. The men behind both of these iconic fleets are what I consider to be my trucking hero’s, luckily for me I recently met up with one David Fowler. Mr Davies is still on the list!

I run the ACH page on Facebook as back in the 1970’s actually before I was born, my own father worked at ACH for a few years.I blame the County Cream trucks in part for what has become some what of an obsession over the last 37 years, but i have to say a very enjoyable one. I look back and talk about the golden years of UK international transport as I firmly feel that those days are gone and sadly won’t be back. What better place to discuss and relish in what was, than on the www with you lot. Luckily the ACH page on Facebook has grown and grown and I am very happy to say that is followed very much by plenty of fans, ex drivers, employees and also Mr Fowler. Due to the wonders of technology it meant we could make contact and have a few email conversations and finally a meeting. David said he had a huge photo collection which of course I wanted to see, so far i have been allowed to borrow the first box of photos for scanning which I can tell you is awesome! At some point I hope to share more with you but that is dependant on David and of course how things pan out as i have a few ideas.

I think it is vital that photos and documents from the golden days are now scanned and kept in digital form. So often at the moment I hear of people throwing away photo collections and the like and it saddens me to think about it. Photos are an integral part of the UK transport history that we younger ones should be taking on from those who are older and even passed on to the big truck stop in the sky. At my place of work, a whole cupboard of photos from the 80’s through to the 2000’s were skipped as they needed the space for filing and all that remains is one 3 album photo box. I’m gutted to say that this was long before I joined the company, so there was never a chance of me giving the collection a safe home. This makes me wonder what is happening to all the other collections there must be. I have heard of a few up for sale, a few which are constantly being sold off on eBay and I also hear of many, many that get binned. These photos are priceless and tell the stories that the sadly ageing driver pool from the golden years won’t be able to tell and pass on for much longer. If you know of any trucking elders, I urge you to talk to them and ask if they have a collection anywhere that they want to pass on to you. If you don’t ask you don’t get and all that old jazz. I asked Mr Fowler if he would lend his photos to me so I can scan them into the computer, luckily for me he agreed, so for now at least part of the history of the well-know County Cream, red and black trucks that ran far and wide across the UK, Europe and beyond (yes….beyond!) has been saved for hopefully all to enjoy eventually.


The photo at the top is Copyright to Mr Fowler and just sums ACH up for me. The photo above was in a small batch my Dad had from his days at ACH in the early 70’s although I have found similar in David’s box. Now the second part of my transport historian quest is the paperwork and items that were used on a day-to-day basis. I have never seen a telex machine in person and never seen a telex note. I found a couple in David’s box of treats, so they too have been scanned as momento of a forgotten era! Along with the telex I found a copy of a GV60 application. For those of you that know what a GV60 is, you probably have seen a hundred of them but for me it was a first. The GV60 was/is the form you had to submit to the Department of Transport to enable your trailer to be given authorisation that you could carry goods under Customs Seal. A couple of photo’s of the brand new trailer along with a description of the build, security measure and of course registered keepers details had to be completed. If the DoT was happy then the trailer could then be used as it was intended. These days I wonder how many trailers are GV60 approved? Probably not many due to the low numbers of you still doing international haulage.


There will be plenty more to come from ACH I hope, some of the photos are just awesome but there is plenty of scanning to be done first. Please, everyone who is a trucking romantic like me and I know some of you are otherwise you wouldn’t have got this far through the blog, talk to the old drivers of these heady days, ask them the questions and ask about the evidence. Lots of drivers were too busy driving all day to take photos but those that did have captured a time and a place I can only day-dream about. Yes it was hard work, but who minds that if you’re enjoying it, what I would do to go back to a brand new F series Volvo and have to tip and load Rome and back with nothing but running money, paper tachographs and strong flask of coffee! Oh the romance of the road…….

TBHQ Donations

Hello Gang, sorry I’ve been away. Been getting over Christmas and through nearly dry January. A busy year this year I think truckers, lots to do, shows to get to, books to write etc etc and of course you lot to try and keep hooked. This year should see the birth of a new, larger TBHQ and Mrs Blog has already told me she will decorate it using all my truck gumpf as it will look far cooler if she does it! 

A good old boy by the name of Mr Darren Watts text me and said he’d found a couple of old toy trucks in a clear out and asked if I wanted them?? Is a bear catholic? Does the pope….. in the woods?? So the deal was done and I’ve re-homed the two National Band 3 Globetrotters. If much like the kind hearted Mr Watts, you have any old truck stuff that you don’t want to bin but don’t have space for then I can give it a loving home. Things like stickers, badges, models or anything to be honest, can be re-homed. I even got given a proper looking CMR with Russian stamps and numbers and the like, looks awesome on the wall. 

If you willing to donate to the good cause then contact me some how and we’ll get something sorted. Much love bloggers. 

I Love Dutch Trucks! 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if I have my time again Lord please let me be Dutch. Not just the home of the best curry sauce in Europe, not just home to the tallest men in Europe, not just home to Europe’s only native wooden shoe and not just home to the most beautiful blonde  people in Europe (Sorry Sweden!), but home to what I consider to be the best looking trucks in Europe and possibly the world. The vast majority of Dutch trucks are painted and by this I don’t mean over the top or hideous colours. Very few trucks are sold in the manufactures standard white and plastic, but on the opposite side of the scale when have you ever seen a fleet of over top painted trucks?? Never. They all seem to be painted to just the right level, subtle, stylish, simple and generally stunning! Just look at the ever delightful Chickliner fleet…..

Living near to Harwich I see plenty of Dutch trucks, but even with all the gorgeous flower trucks that come in and out of the port with all of our Friday gifts for our partners(!), the fleet of Chickliner trucks stands out. White trucks yes, but full white paint with simple lines and painted wheels. As far from a plain white truck as a painted white truck can be! Match these gorgeous paint jobs to another Dutch invention, the full custom interior. The Netherlands is home to 3 or 4 custom cab interior companies but one of the original and best known is the one and only Special Interiour. The Hazelanger Scania is another of Special Interiours creations and sumptuous is probably the best English word to describe it, not sure on the Dutch translation though. I’ve not seen another custom Interiour company who make their work look so, hmm, look so right. The work carried out looks like a manufacturer finish rather than aftermarket if that makes sense. 

Yes I like Italian trucks and yes I like Spanish trucks, Danish trucks can be pretty close but for me Dutch are top of the league. Long live the Hoek Harwich ferry and long live the Truckstar Festival!! 

Spa to Monza by Nick Ireland

After the job to Hockenheim I had a month before the next drive for Mclaren F1. Originally I was due to be on the Hockenheim to Spa drive, but was then told it was cancelled. The reason was that as they had 3 weeks to get the trucks the relatively short distance to Spa, and the trucks had to have a service in Germany, they would use the handful of Mclaren drivers to shunt them down in batches of five or six. When I was told this I secured other work, only to be told while we were in Hungary that the drive was back on, but a week later! As i’d committed to other work I had to turn Mclaren down, but I would only be missing out on a 3 day job, and one of those days would be travelling to Spa in a coach, so no great loss. I completed my month of work which consisted of 3 weeks on containers for General Express Services, and a week on Transam Trucking  driving from Lelystad near Amsterdam to Lake Constanz in Switzerland. The Transam job got off to a rocky start when the trucks were impounded immediately on leaving the gig in Holland due to a large bill not being paid by the band who’s equipment we were carrying, but that’s another story!

So at the end of August I found myself meeting the coach in the factory at Woking at the ungodly time of 07:30 on the Sunday of the Spa raceday . We were bussed out to the hotel near Spa, via the Dover-Calais ferry, arriving in the early evening. As the hotel is in the middle of nowhere, we ate a meal and retired for an early night. As the races were ‘back to back’ the trucks were to be double manned once again, and my friend had come out to drive with me again. The next morning we left at 08:30, the coach taking us down to the circuit before he returned empty to England. The weather was miserable, with heavy showers, which inevitably slowed the riggers down, so when the coach dropped us off on the start/finish line on the race track we only found half the trucks were loaded, and the last of the hospitality building was still being dismantled. My truck was being loaded still, and it was a rare chance for us to see how the building was formed, normally it’s all packed away when we arrive. After the floor sections were loaded onto my trailer the riggers draped the sheet over it, and tied it down, amazingly it went on very straight and lined up perfectly, which meant it wouldn’t flap around as much. 

Once I had checked it all over we were ready to go, but I decided to wait for the other 4 trucks that were still being loaded, partly because the paddock area was still chaos with trucks everywhere, plus I could help out if any of the others had a problem. We eventually pulled out at 1pm, weaving our way through all the trucks being loaded in the pit lane, and headed out on the country roads towards Luxembourg. The route was twisty but picturesque as we went through Stavelot then Trois Ponts before reaching the motorway at Werbomont. As soon as we joined the motorway we hit a huge hill with an overtaking ban for trucks on it, but this didn’t stop any of my colleagues with lighter trucks overtaking me as we lumbered up the hill, obediently sitting behind a slow Spaniard. Once on the flat the rest of the motorway was no overtaking all the way to the border, but as the traffic was heavy we took advantage of being able to ‘hide’ behind other overtaking trucks and coaches and gained a little time, you only live once! We rode straight through into Luxembourg and transited the short distance towards the French border, but as we neared Berchem we came across a huge traffic jam, where traffic coming from Germany merged with our directional traffic. It took some time to get to the border and as we crossed it my truck dashboard suddenly came to life with warning buzzers and lights telling me I had an ‘Injection Malfunction’. The engine was coughing and spluttering just like it had when I nearly ran out of AdBlue, and I lost all power. A quick call to my lead driver in the front truck confirmed that a couple of other trucks had suffered this ‘defect’ and the solution was the tried and tested method of turning it off, and back on again, albeit with a 10 minute wait! So I crept into the next layby, turned it off, walked around for 10 minutes, and when I turned it back on the fault had disappeared. Apparently Volvo Trucks are aware of this and will be looking into it after the European season has finished. We got going again and the heavy traffic persisted all the way through Luxembourg and cleared once we were into France. Usually we stop for our first break south of Nancy on the A31, but due to the holdups we were forced to pull into parking just to the north of the town. We found the others we had been travelling with struggling to park, French service areas get so full it’s a question of find a safe gap and abandon it. After checking with some East European drivers that they were parked up for the night we parked across the front of four trucks, the only gap left in the services, much to the annoyance of some Stobart F1 trucks that had just pulled in and were looking to stop. We had a leisurely dinner break of an hour and a half, then set off again. French Autoroutes are so good and the traffic was light that we were pulling into our overnight stop at Macon in what seemed like no time at all. We use to use the truckstop at the Centre Routiers at Macon but the hotel could never guarantee us single rooms, so for the last few years we’ve used the Ibis hotel at the services on the Autoroute. We found a space easily as we were quite early and retired to our rooms for the night.

The next day after breakfast we headed off, skirted Lyon on the new bypass and headed down the A43 towards Chambery. In the past all the trucks used to pass into Italy using the Mont Blanc tunnel. In 2011 I was driving the centre atrium trailer, single manned in those days, and I was refused entry into the tunnel due to being over width. The riggers had had some problems in Spa getting the hydraulic arms to retract properly so they were a little wider under the sheet than normal. I climbed inside the sheet and tried to do the ratchet straps up the held the arms in a little tighter, got them to pull in a bit but when measured again it was still too wide. A colleague of mine who was pulling the trailer that I do this season stopped at the tunnel entrance to help me. Although he had been given the all clear at the bottom of the mountain at the checkpoint you have to drive through, the official that was measuring my trailer took an interest in his, measured it and told him his was too wide also! Both of us ended up having to re route via the Frejus tunnel and got to Monza a day behind the others. Since then the centre atrium and the side atrium (floors) trailers, one of which I pull have been told to travel via the Frejus tunnel just in case, the rest of the trucks have the option of using either tunnel. After Chambery we head south towards Modane and start the climb up to the Frejus. It’s a much more gentle climb that the Mont Blanc approach, and there is less traffic, although it is a slightly longer route. At the tunnel entrance we paid our toll fee and travelled the 12.87km through the mountain. Inside the tunnel the temperature rises to around 30 degrees celcius, if you place your hand on the inside of the windscreen you can feel the heat. Once out of the tunnel the road drops down into a valley with spectacular views all around. We stopped at the first services on the Autostrada just before Susa for a break. The centre atrium truck has to fit flashing roof beacons and Convoi Exceptionnel boards as it’s classed as overlength in Italy, and while that’s being done it’s a good excuse to sample Italian coffee and pastries- while in Rome and all that!

The speed limit for trucks in Italy is still 80kmh but very few people adhere to the rule, unless you know there is a policeman around! We made good progress around Turin on the A4, and on towards Milan where the traffic became much denser. By the time we were on the ring road at Milan the rush hour was in full swing. I find it amazing that the race track at Monza is not signposted from the Milan ring road, so I was determined to keep up with the other trucks as I can never remember the correct junction to come off at! We managed to spot one of our other curtainsiders getting onto the exit slip road and followed him. Once onto the dual carriageway that leads up to the suburb of Monza I knew where I was, and after a couple of turns we ended up in front of the spectacular Royal Villa of Monza, a neo classical royal house and gardens. The road takes you alongside of the Parco di Monza, and after a couple of kilometres we turned into an entrance for the park-still no signpost for the race track! We follow a narrow single track through the park avoiding walkers and joggers, and enter the race circuit where we head for the parking area. A couple of the trucks drive straight into the paddock as they are needed first, the riggers are awaiting our arrival to start the build immediately. Normally once we are all parked up we commence washing the trucks in Monza, and continue until they are all done the next day. However, as the build has started and the trucks will soon be taken into the paddock in order, we escape this chore! All that is left for us to do is order a set of taxis and head for the hotel. Job done, we will back in Monza the following weekend for the last drive of the season.

2016 Photo Review

I virtually always start a blog with a photo but for this one I thought I’d do something a little different. Seeing as we are into 2017, Happy New Year by the way, I thought I’d do a little photo review. 2016 was not much different from any other year, a number of truck shows through the year and a good 1000-1500 photos taken I should think. Just having a quick flick through my Flickr albums I wanted to paste a few of my favourites up here for you to see. If you feel like voting for a bit of fun then please cast your vote using the number of the photo. 

  1. Taken by my pal James Cartwright on our way back to the ferry after another excellent weekend in Assen. A gorgeous old Volvo coming through!
  2. A classic line up from the Retro Truck Show at Gaydon. Taking me back to my childhood and the trucks that got me hooked!
  3. Another one from the Retro Show. Not such a retro truck but Shaun Burtons awesome T-Cab Scania parked near the lake. 
  4. Next up was this one I took on the Hipstamatic camera app on my phone. Great App that shuffles your camera settings and can produce lovely rich photos, in this case of my beloved Mercedes-Benz. 
  5. Next, the first of a few more from the Truckstar Festival back in July. A truly photographic place for trucks. A night of rain can produce some great results. Again taken through The Hipstamatic app. 
  6. One of the Englishmen abroad. There isn’t a finer fleet from the UK if not Europe in my book. Coles & Sons in Assen with Convoy and Vendetta. 
  7. Needs no words. Truckstar Festival, Assen. Mrs McKee and Mrs Gibson. 
  8. Pure 100% Dutch. If your new to the world of international custom trucks, then this photo sums up Dutch trucks in one. 
  9. Much like number 2 but a Dutch line up. Could be any year you like from the late 1970’s!
  10. Finally our man Steve Marsh and his little MAN up in the French Alps. Marshy is doing all the things I didn’t in my little Tonka toys, so I’m always grateful for his photos. Taken by Marshy himself. 

That’s just a selection of everything, if you want to see more then go to my Flickr page by clicking HERE and looking through the albums. Just for fun pleasecast your votes. Hopefully 2017 will prove to be as enjoyable with quite a few trips to various shows already in the pipeline and of course I think Assen is on the cards again this year. Fingers crossed! 

Wanted: Joeri Van Veen

Back in July I found this delightful Actros hidden away at the end of the pit straight at the Truckstar Festival. Being me I didn’t go over and have a snoot about but on this occasion I probably should have. One thing you may not notice from my photos are the 7inch twin exhausts up the back of the cab. The truck itself is a very much a less-is-more kind of truck and is by no means over the top, much more understated. For a number of reasons I want to know how the stacks work as we all know Mercedes-Benz trucks have a large exhaust box and I’m interested to know if the exhausts can run as straight through and this then leads me to wonder what the straight 6, 630hp, 16 litre sounds like. So now you can understand the title of the blog. I’ll need my Dutch friends to help with this please. A friends from Truckstar, Marco, gave me the name and he is on Facebook but I can’t send him a friend request. I’d love to know more so if you can put me in touch with Joeri then that’s just marvellous! A great truck.