Silverstone to Hungaroring by Nick Ireland

After the trip to Zeebrugge previously I’d enjoyed a few days work on containers with General Express Services Ltd driving one of their Volvo FH’s, but now it was back to the glamorous job with Mclaren F1 driving from Silverstone to Budapest. The job didn’t start too glamorously though with a bus trip up to the circuit in Northamptonshire. I was looking forward to this trip as I’d managed to secure the services of a fellow work colleague from Transam Trucking to double man with me, meaning I didn’t have to worry about who I was driving with and could relax during the journey. Although there were two weeks between the races at Silverstone and Hungaroring, straight after the British Grand Prix the major teams had commenced 3 days of testing so all the hospitality units had remained in place during this period. Now it was Thursday, we had to get the unit to Hungary by Sunday which would leave the riggers 3 days to set it all up again by Wednesday when it would be needed. The teams have corporate and press meetings from the Wednesday onwards before practice commences on the Friday, then qualifying on the Saturday before racing on Sunday. When you stop and think about the logistics and effort that goes into the whole event, it seems a lot of work and money simply to race cars around a track for an hour!

The paddock area at Silverstone gives us more space to work in than other circuits, especially as most of the other teams had already packed up and gone. We found our trucks all loaded and ready to go, and after our obligatory checks we set off. Passing by the teams of workers busily dismantling all the circuit paraphernalia we exited onto the A43 and made our way to the M1 where we headed south. Traffic was light and we decided on the M25 then north on the A12 to reach Harwich. As we neared the port we were spotted by well known photographer Neil Jarrold who I’d previously tipped off of our arrival. He took a photo of my truck as I sped by then leapt back into his car. We entered the port and parked next to the booking office. Neil appeared and after a quick chat he left to photograph the other trucks as they arrived. Once booked in we parked in the lanes, put the tacho’s on rest as we were having a split break during this crossing, and retired to the port cafe. When it came time to board I pulled forward and was immediately deafened by the tyre pressure sensor alarm sounding. We were stopped just next to the ship to allow the passenger vehicles to board so I jumped out to check the offending tyre on the trailer. I was parked on a slight slope, and the tyre did seem a little low, but after checking with our resident mechanic we decided it was probably the sensor at fault and we would check the tyre on disembarkation. Being sent onto the top deck I was directed to park in between two of the ships internal walls, leaving only a few inches to open the doors a crack and squeeze out of the cab. It was certainly tight and I was glad I’d been on a diet recently, but I really had no idea how I was going to get back in! On board we secured a cabin and went for a coffee in the truckers lounge. The ship is quite luxurious for a ferry and is very comfortable, I opted to use my meal voucher for a breakfast instead of evening meal and soon retired for a sleep.

After a lovely breakfast we docked in the Hook of Holland early in the morning and disembarked and exited the port. One problem that had been given to us during the crossing was that the office had failed to notice another driving ban, well two in fact. Austria had a Saturday driving ban from midday on the Saturday, and Hungary also had a ban! We should in theory be clear of Austria well before midday so it was just Hungary to worry about.

 The tyre pressure warning alarm stayed silent thank goodness so we assumed it was a glitch in the system, in fact it was now telling me that the ‘problem tyre’ had increased in pressure since Harwich! We had had several conversations amongst ourselves as to the best route to take once off the boat and I had decided on the A12 going via Utrecht and Arnhem which then turned into the A3 once into Germany. I followed several of our trucks out of the docks and soon changed my mind about which route I would take. I decided to go via Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven and Venlo. We hit heavy morning rush hour traffic around Hertogenbosch and Eindhoven, and eventually stopped at the border at Venlo to buy our German Toll Collect road tax. It was then my co-drivers turn to have a drive and he soon settled into the Volvo, noting how quiet and smooth it was. We went to Duisburg where we turned south onto the A3 towards Koln. It was at this point my colleague in the other floor truck rang me and it turned out he was 2km behind having taken the Arnhem route. We rounded Koln and headed south for Frankfurt and suddenly found ourselves in very heavy holiday traffic that lasted all the way to the outskirts of Frankfurt. We had to pull onto the hard shoulder at one point along with dozens of other trucks where we changed drivers. From here onwards we were crawling along in traffic, not helped by the constant road works that seem to be a permanent feature across the whole of Germany. Late in the evening we had to use the hard shoulder again to perform a driver change, the traffic was horrendous all day long. Around 2am we finally pulled into the border area at Suben to park for the night, we were hours later than we should have been. This now would mean we would be caught in Austria when the ban kicked in, we were told to meet to discuss tactics at 11:00 so gratefully crashed into bed.

It seemed like I’d only just gone to bed when the alarm went off. At our informal meeting over breakfast we were told we would run to Vienna individually as soon as we’d had 9hrs off and meet at the S1 service station on the outskirts of the city. From there we would run in convoy so if one truck was stopped, we all would be, and nobody would be left stranded on their own. After a cleanup of the cab as soon as 9hrs clicked around on the tacho I switched it to other work for 8 minutes just to show a walk around check, then set off, and immediately hit standing traffic for yet more road works! The traffic was heavy still with holidaymakers making their way south, and with still an hour to go 12:00 showed on the clock, we were now running illegally. About half an hour later we spotted a police car sitting at the bottom of a hill, and we passed him without him even giving us a second look. Pulling into the service station we were second from last to arrive, and made our way to the fuel pumps to fill and top up the dreaded AdBlue. The lads with company credit cards were busy inside the garage buying everybody’s Hungarian road tax for them. Once we had filled and were all ready we set off as a group. The rain poured down as we rounded Vienna and headed for Hungary. We didn’t even see a single police car in the remainder of Austria, and as we approached the border it all looked very quiet. We passed slowly through the customs area and out onto the motorway, only one of the last trucks was stopped by a policeman running out who asked if he could have a cap or a t-shirt, which we don’t carry. Traffic was lighter in Hungary and the rain still continued to pour down, we reached the Budapest ring road without seeing a police car, and were soon nearing the circuit. We turned off the ring road onto a dual carriageway and amazingly, as with Monza, the Hungaroring is not signposted until you are right on top of the circuit, and at the entrance to a parking area is a small sign advertising the circuit and a water park. Just by the exit of the lay by is a small road branching off into a wooded area, and this is the main road into the Hungaroring, you could easily miss it. We drove through the paddock area which was busy with parked trucks, the lads from Williams were keen, they were out washing their trucks in the rain, and we parked on a run off area on a sweeping bend on the track itself. We had made it without incident or fine, and felt relieved. 

After an hour our riggers mini buses arrived from the hotel, and we set off for what is one of the best hotels of the season, the Hilton. Situated on the Pest side of the river in Budapest it is a luxurious hotel and gives spectacular views over what is one of my favourite cities. That was another drive over. We would fly home the next day, I would have a day off and then return to the less glamorous world of container haulage until the next trip.

TB – I don’t like to add anything to Nicks blogs, but I have to make you all aware that these photos were expertly taken by both Neil Jarrold and Andrew Doggett. 

Retro Truck Show 2016

Still the best show in the U.K. 

Oh do I have to say anymore?? Much like another excellent show this is run by Truck enthusiasts for truck enthusiasts, I don’t think there is a better way to run a show. It’s so so not about the money it is just all about the trucks and truck people. I made a point this year of making sure I got the whole of Saturday and Saturday night at the show before a very early dash from Gaydon to Snetterton at 5am Sunday morning. 

When you arrive at Gaydon you could be mistaken for thinking it’s not a very big show, the venue seems quite small compared to others. Once you have walked down you instantly realise that much the same as Lopik in Holland, this show is all about the quality. There is quality every where you look. On the Saturday there are still lots of trucks arriving and there is never quite as many trucks as there is in the main show day of Sunday but none the less it’s still the best show to be at on either day. One thing you notice is that your actually glad it’s a relatively small show as you meet so many familiar faces that you have more chats and conversations than the WI’s annual conference. 

What I love is that everyone at the show is there because they love trucks, some will tell you til their blue in the face that they aren’t, but they are still there looking at and talking trucks. I met plenty of friends and old faces and not to mention new ones. One particular ex Ralph Davies driver springs to mind (not you NLG!), that I am resisting the temptation to call and text every 5 minutes as I know one conversation is not going to be any where near enough to share his stories.  The thing I struggle to get across to Mrs Blog is how friendly and open truck drivers can be, we all can lead a lonely existence as a driver and when you meet other like minded folk (not those who park and draw the curtains) it’s nice to have a good chat and a drink to share new or old tales of the road. DANGER: This could be getting a little romantic. What this gathering has achieved is a group of people who through a single connection, pretty well know everyone there and the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. 

As I am a mere whipper snapper, it makes me think that Gaydon is much like one of those well known, golden era truckstops where everyone stops as there will always be another Brit there. It’s a hard thing to imagine these days but the main stay of drivers I know would stop if they saw you pulled over on the side of the road and I think it is one of the positives of Facebook. At least now those who are made of old school stuff can see who else is in the same place through the power of the internet and I have often seen that friends I have on Facebook are meeting up at the few Truckstops or parks that are still open, which must be the modern take on camaraderie. Not quite the same as the 70’s and 80’s but as close as it’s going to get. To this end Lee Herbert has managed to create an event which for me at least gives me what I think is a slight step back in time to the golden era I missed out on. 

The trucks on show are a real mix of everything that made the trucks of today what they are. The general premises is that all entrants must have been built before 2001, with a few exceptions. I love to see the F series Volvo’s, the 2 and 3 series Scania’s as well as the slowly increasing number of Mercedes SK’s, this is what I spent my child hood dreaming of and spotting on the road. I am certain that the amount of retro trucks is growing at a fair pace each year and there are always new trucks on the scene. The fact the trucks are coming from further and further afield is both testiment to the show itself and the fact that more owners are wanting to show off their pride and joy among like minded fans of commercial vehicles. I have to agree with the shows stance on not giving trophies, as it would just be impossible to choose any winners. Every truck has a story and tale to be told whether it’s the trucks history or the work it’s taken to get these old road heros back turning a wheel. If you could see the photos of when Nobby Caister found his F88 and how long it has taken to restore it to its former glory, well, the man deserves a medal!!

A few beers Saturday night unfolded plenty of tales and I wish every driver could tell his tale but there just isn’t enough time and I have no idea how to record everything, but if your a young driver you need to sit and listen to some of the 50+ year old drivers as most could tell you a good yarn worth hearing and passing on, like trucking folk law! I woke at 5am Sunday in the cab of a Scania 141 top bunk, still wondering how they were ever double manned, and I wandered towards the gate just looking at all the sleeping trucks and a I had a crazy thought, how many miles/KM’s have all those truck covered between them??! Answers below please. I turned the corner to the gate only to be greeted by Eoin McGinnity and his beloved ex Astran 143. Eoin was on his first leg of the aid run to Belarus and I have to say it couldn’t be a better end to 24 hours at Gaydon. The thump, thump, thump of a warm 3 series V8 is a sound I’ll never tire of hearing. 

Last year Truckblog readers voted the Retro show as their favourite of 2015 and I can’t see the result being any different this year. For me the best show in the U.K. By far (bar one!) and I am already planning to try and spend the whole weekend at 2017’s and I can only suggest that you do the same. You will not be disappointed. 

Scania S Series wins IToY 2017

Scania’s brand new S series wins the International Truck of The Year 2017 award at the IAA in Hannover. 

Scania’s new truck generation honoured – The S series elected “International Truck of the Year 2017”
Scania has once again won the prestigious “International Truck of the Year” award. The jury’s motivation emphasised the new truck generation’s driver comfort, safety aspects and its positive impact on haulers’ overall economy, among other factors.
“The award is the leading recognition in the industry that all our engineers and in practice the entire Scania organisation have done an excellent job,” says Henrik Henriksson, Scania’s President and CEO. “Our goal is to always meet our customers’ expectations and needs and the jury’s motivation is a clear confirmation that we have also followed the right approach with the new truck generation.”
The jury, which is today composed of 25 leading European trade press journalists and chaired by the Italian automotive journalist Gianenrico Griffini, wrote the following in its motivation:
“With its new range, Scania has delivered a truck that represents a real “state-of-the- art” offering in the heavy duty segment, capable of satisfying not only today’s but also tomorrow’s transport needs.”
The IToY jury also highlighted Scania’s tailored service offering, which is based on the fact that more than 200,000 connected Scania vehicles are out on the roads.
The award is for the S series − the new sleeper cab with a flat floor that is mainly intended for long-haulage trucks and that Scania has just introduced within the framework of its new truck generation.
“The S cab, with its flat floor, offers a truly car-like driving experience,” says Griffini.
Besides offering exceptional comfort and unrivalled space, the S cabs can also be fitted out with dual side curtain airbags, a safety feature, which Scania is the first in the truck world to be able to offer.
“The new truck generation, which will be honoured was developed by our 3,500 engineers in Södertälje together with other Scania employees and in close dialogue with our customers,” says Henriksson. “The award shows that Sweden is still a leading industrial nation and that we can compete in the world markets.”

Scania’s investment in the model range is the largest ever in the company’s 125-year history. In total, SEK 20 billion has been invested in the development of new products and services, including in the adjustment of production.