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. 

SCOOP!! Scania S730 in Stock

In stock here in the U.K., ready for delivery and registration. Spec as follows; 

  • Scania S730 High Cab
  • 2 x 6×2 and 1 x 4×2
  • Left Hand Drive
  • 2 peddle opticruise
  • V8 leather package
  • Premium radio with sat nav
  • Fridge
  • Led spotlights in roof and grill
  • 9ton front axles on air
  • All the toys you could want!

Need I go on?! Get yourself something nice with your Christmas money, surely Nannie gave you some vouchers??? Get yourself onto www.moodyinternational.co.uk and get yourself a happy new year. Love them or hate them, there aren’t many stock units in the U.K.  so I can’t imagine they will be around for long. First come first served give Mr Moody a call……

Transam Pre-Christmas Trucking by Mat Ireland

It was one of those trips. I received a call from a good friend of mine asking if I would cover for him for a few days. He lives in the south of France, and his son’s 18th birthday was the day the tour was scheduled to finish. Originally his brother was going to cover for him, but he was so busy with his own work he could not take the time off, so I happily obliged. The schedule was easy enough. Take my friends car to the 02 in London, and take over the truck. Go to Dublin for two shows, ship back, tip off at Heathrow for the equipment to be air freighted to the States and go home, what could go wrong!

   Well we didn’t even leave London before it all changed! Just before I went to go and load out sunday evening I got told by our lead driver to go and wait at the coach parking as Dublin may well be off. Sure enough, due to illness we were not going to cross the Irish sea this time. Come the morning a desicion will be made what is happening. I was asked if I had my passport as there may be some equipment to go back to Holland, no problems, I would be happy to get back across the water one more time this year, where as everyone else had their sights set on home having been away for some time at this point. The first part of the new plan was to head north to near Wakefield, where several trucks would be tipped and the loads shuffled about depending on what would be going where. A few of us (myself included) were told to wait at Markham Moor truckstop initially as the loads we had would not be required initially. I decided to stop at Stibbington diner en route to eat as my culinary experience in the past of Markham Moor has left a lot to be desired, and sadly i think this is still the case, the place could do with a overhaul. We soon moved onto the Stockyard truckstop, which was closer to Wakefield and also Robin Hood airport, where the airfreight was planned to be going from instead now. Close to 5pm, I got the call from the lead driver. “I have just finished loading the trailer for you, you have Germany Belgium and Holland to tip, I will be with you soon to swap trailers” quite a change them, and as yet no details where exactly but they will follow tomorrow. So after swapping trailers I headed back to the yard to swap into my own truck for the trip, and made my way the following evening to Harwich for the night ferry out.

The Germany part was to just outside Stuttgart, over 8 hours drive from the Hoek of Holland. Upon disembarkation and with my split ferry rest finished I was off southbound. I decided to head across towards Nijmegen and then south towards Venlo as a couple of months previous one of the main motorway bridges to the north of Breda had been closed to anything over 3.5 tonnes, clearly some cracks had been found. It was a fast and uneventful route across, and with a 15 minute stop at the German border for a brew while my German OBU toll collect unit fired into life I was off again south. There is a choice of 2 routes south from here, either the 3, which is busy but generally 3 lanes, or the 61, which is a tow lane most of the way and a lot is no overtaking for trucks, not ideal. I plumped for the 3 because I did not want any hold ups. Luckily for me, the traffic flowed well, I think being so close to christmas helped. After contacting the company I was heading to I was going to get there just before they closed for christmas, but they would wait for me! Sure enough, 5:45 in the evening I arrived outside their gates, they had to unlock the back gates for me to get in as some builders had decided to park opposite their gate so I had no chance of getting in that way. Straight onto a bay, and within 5 minutes their equipment was off, probably one third of a trailer maximum. I decided I would be best putting in a 10 hour day with 3 drops still to do tomorrow I may need all the help I could get. I got back between Karlsruhe and Mannheim and managed to squeeze across the back of some parked trucks in an Autohof with about 15 minutes to spare on my time. Across the road I had noticed a 24 hour truck wash, that was plan one for the morning then as both the truck and trailer were dirtier than a tramps pocket!

After my 9 hours off, freshly showered and fed I rolled around to the truckwash at about 4am. two trucks stood in front of me, and before long a few behind, yet not much seemed to be happening. After a brew I wandered up to the front to see only one man working that i could see, I decided to give him a bit longer to see if things got moving, which they did of sorts, we all moved in front of one of the doors, but by now, with almost an hour lost nd still 3 trucks to wash i had to abandon my plans. After having a quick work, I drove straight into the wash, and straight out the other side and off north, sadly I didnt have the time to wait about and get the truck clean. Thankfully despite the lost hour i didn’t suffer with traffic issue. I had opted to return back via the 61 as I was heading to a small town called Tildonk just outside Brussels. I arrived here just before 12, and after backing in the man in charge said to me “Ah we were just about to go to lunch as the boys are hungry, but we will offload you first. Would you like a coffee?” English companies take note!! This is how to treat drivers, with a little respect, not disgust! With drop 2 prompty off, I now had the afternoon to get to Utrect and 2 deliveries fairly close to each other, but first I had to have a 30 minute break as I would not quite make it otherwise, so I opted for Meer truckstop. After a wander around the shop and in the rather empty parking area with my camera I was off again. The first drop was not easy to find as it was in a transport yard but the signs saying they were also in there were not too obvious. once again, straight onto a bay and with 5 people in the trailer I was almosty in the way trying to help!

With that done, one was left to do, so straight ‘around the corner’ (about 5kms roughly) to the last drop. A good friend of mine now works in the office here, and was shocked to see me appear at 4:30 on their last day before christmas! They had actually forgotten that any returns would be coming back. He made me a coffee and we chatted about work and also his newborn son, I dont think I have ever met a prouder dad! By the time the coffee had been downed, their warehouse staff had offloaded the trailer and I was empty and good to go. 

All that remained to was get to the hoek for the night ferry home. The traffic there was really quite busy, but I managed to make it in and park waiting with about 20 minutes driving left on my second 10 hour day, good job I decided to do one the day before too. 

Whilst on the boat I bumped into a friend of mine who works for a company I do casual work for, he was on his way back home for christmas after being away for the last 6 weeks. Once off the boat in the morning it was just a case of straight back to the yard, empty the truck and go home. That would have been it for christmas, but being very bah humbug and with a holiday looming I had volunteered to another company to work if need be, so christmas eve found me back down Harwich picking up a Visbeen fridge but loaded with post from holland for Hounslow and Slough and collecting mail to return, a nice easy run to round the week, and also the year off.