My pal Mat Ireland derserves a little mention this week I think. I’m sure he does realise this, but Mat has now become one of those drivers that I know he loves and enjoys talking to and meeting. Mat is a proper full on International truck driver. No country to far and no border to difficult, everything taken in his stride and what’s more he always remembers his old buddy and brings me things for TBHQ! Mat has had a busy year with Transam Trucking, no fewer than 24 countries have been graced with the black DAF’s presence in the last 11 months. Two weeks ago Mat arrived back from yet another long tour of Europe only to asked if he would to go straight back to Russia. We all know the sun never sets on a long distance lorry so off he went. One show in St Petersburg followed by one in Moscow and then home. Easy. Mat was treated to a Hoek Harwich ship on friday, so it gave me a chance to meet him on his way down to London Friday evening. Fresh as a daisy and clean as a whistle, were both driver and truck respectively. A little disappointed that the truck wasn’t covered head to toe in Russian dirt but then I guess that’s a sign of the times, truck washes and easier journies. Any way there I stood chatting with Mat and the truck just sat there barely warmed up having only done 30 miles off the boat. I always find myself treating trucks like dogs, giving them a stroke (no jokes please!) and feeling the heat from the grille like the breath from it’s nose. There is still something about trucks that gets me, no idea what it is though. In years gone by when a truck returned from Russia, much like many of the Peterlee Trucking trucks I would see in Braintree when I was a boy, you would have known about it, the truck would have looked like it had been to Russia and back if you know what I mean. But Mats DAF was fresh out the box, even though it was last washed at the Nevada Centre in Polska on the way back. Is this a sign of the times? A sign of better trucks? Both? Or just the sign of a driver at the top of his game?! Mat has created another of his trucking great videos. The trip from the UK to Russia is one many of us will never undertake so it’s well worth spending just under 25 minutes of your time watching the Kilometres tick by. Please click HERE to go to the video.
According to the Oxford dictionary the meaning of the word Provenance is as follows; “a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality.”
Firstly to get this out the way, I’m sorry to use a Scania in this blog but it is the perfect truck to discuss my point. Having been to the almighty Retro Truck Show and speaking with various people about various ageing trucks I find myself more and more interested in the trucks history. Working trucks are exactly that, even when they are retired and restored they still have a past much like all of us. For me as you’ll know I love long distance stuff so those trucks that have been further than some are what interest me. Much to my delight my good friend Mr Nick Garlick is the very proud owner of L500 RDF, an ex Ralph Davies International Scania 143 500. As anyone with a trucking brain knows Ralph Davies have been there and done pretty well all of it. I also know from talking to Nick and others that L500 is a well deserving retiree. There is plenty of photo evidence of L500 out on her travels and this is where my interest comes. With all the lovely trucks at these shows, no matter how much has been spent or no matter what they look like now, I can’t help thinking about where they’ve been. The provenance that L500 has is huge and while sitting in her while ticking over in the dark got my mind wondering some what. Yes I’d had a few but, the truck looked black in the mirrors and the dash lights were on she was purring. I was sitting in a drivers seat where a number of proper drivers have sat before me. Famous fridge trailer attached heading for Moscow, Novabirsk, Lisbon or Athens this truck has done it. To me having a truck with such a rich past or provenance is worth more than money can buy. Yes you can pay for anything to help restore a truck or make it look better but you can’t buy it a new past. I’d rather have a truck with this than anything else. Speaking with Karl Skilton of Astran subbie fame, he pointed out a number of things on his Astran Volvo that only a true Middle East driver would know about and most replica Middle East trucks will never have. Why? That Volvo has a true provenance, a past, it’s actually got the Tshirt. That to me also gives it the allowance to look a little more worn round the edges (no offence intended Mr Skilton!). So back to “provenance”, I’ve used the word enough I think but what does it really mean? To me it’s the proof of a working truck. It’s the value that truck has earn’t during its life, I honestly think I’d pay more to own L500 (no matter what state it was in) compared to an identical truck that has only ever been a UK truck. Does that make any sense? Preserving a truck that has been a part of the UKs golden age of long haul intercontinental trucking, to me is worth doing and I wouldn’t mind paying a premium for it. I wouldn’t tell Mr Garlick any of this but to me, in the case of classic trucks provenance is everything. No matter what it is or where it’s been it’s worth saving, afterall we all like different makes of truck and even different sectors of the transport industry. I pity Mrs Blog as and when we win our mega lottery win as I will be “saving” trucks left right and centre! The meaning of Provenance is as follows; “a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality.”
Just for the Antiques Road Show or the great works of art by Monet or Van Gogh and friends?? No not at all, a record of ownership can be interpreted as the history of the truck, the life it’s led, owned by one of the greatest, most well known names in road haulage. To me this can 100% be used to prove its authenticity or even the quality.
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…….
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.
This was my first truck. I ordered when I was 18 and about to leave college. I bought a DAF as they were the only ones who would sell to me at that age. Incidentally the photo below was my first European trip aged 18 with a load of Herbal teas out to Venray near Venlo in NL.
Please post your photos and tell us all a little about it. Looking forward to lots of retro 7.5 tonners!
Perhaps being away on tour for months on end can take its toll on ones marbles!! If your one of the few lucky drivers to be touring Europa with a huge international band then it can be all go go go, not a lot of sleep some nights, odd days off, time to mooch about all the cities you can mention, so be prepared for anything. So if your travelling between Hungary and Italy then why not stop off in Slovenia on your way through. Just because I was stuck in the office in Ipswich on an overcast morning last week, shouldn’t make me jealous, but I was. Mat Ireland sent through these photos of the lads from Transam Trucking on a stop off and fuel stop.
If your a Facebook user then you can keep up with Mat and his truckspotting as he travels around all of Europe. Go onto FB and in the search box type “Mats Trucking Photo Page” – there you will be able to see everything that catchs Mats eye. Hopefully as the tour continues the photos will keep coming and we can all take our shirts off to celebrate!!
If you want to join the tour, you can buy tickets I’m sure and all the info and dates are here on The Cures website.