The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 7 Part 3

……Right then it’s out with the snow chains and a shovel I haven’t used chains for nearly 10 years which was during my second week driving class 1’s when I was 21 and everyone was trapped in Tibshelf services by the snow.….. (That was quick, dramatic Ice Road Truckers previous episode recap – TB)

(I was driving the white MAN in 2009)

This was a lot harder than Tibshelf! the chains were a nightmare trying to fit and I couldn’t drape them over the wheel and roll backwards or forwards onto them. I do my best digging up the ice to get back to the road surface, to try and help myself get a bit of traction but it doesn’t work. I actually end up going backwards even more, so I decide to get the jack out and lift the axle to help fit the chains. Once this is done I try again but the chains have now dug away the ice underneath them, but left the inner wheels still spinning on the ice. I’m so tired and feel like throwing in he towel and get in the cab to have a drink and warm my hands up and try to think of what else I can try…..

….Then I remember that letting some air out of the tyres can help so I deflate the inner tyres to 40 psi jump in the cab say a prayer and give it a go. It starts picking up traction and I’m able to rock myself free!! I’m so relieved with and quite proud of myself as well (So you should be! – TB). I’ve never had any advice on what to do in this type of situation, as drivers nowadays would rather mock someone for getting into a situation like this, rather than give advice on what to do if you do end up in my predicament. The only advice I had was from the instruction slip that was in with the chains to tell you how they’re fitted.

So I’m free to take on the last 20kms. I decide to leave the chains on and I’m glad I did as there were some steep hills so probably would have needed the chains on eventually anyway. I arrived at the delivery point at 1819 and 1 minute over my drive time but I can live with that as I’m here! So as I haven’t eaten since breakfast on the boat the stove is straight out and it’s chicken tikka masala for tea and a can of 1664 before bed.

I have to say look, I’m getting a bit carried away by the romance! You have shown you have that pioneering spirit of a proper Old Skool driver. No doubt you would have made it as a Middle East Driver back in the day. It’s exactly that “never give up” attitude that drivers had to have to get through to there destinations back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Well done!!!

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 7 Part 2

…….60 kms later and my moment comes time to turn right! My initial thought is “bloody hell that doesn’t look like I should go down there!” I’ve got very limited experience of driving in heavy snow, as for the last 10 years I’ve been driving trucks I’ve always happened to be on a job in warm climates whenever there seem to be a big snow dump, so this is new ground for me quite literally!

I start heading up the road keeping it nice and smooth and at a steady 60kph everything feels ok. Eventually I come to a t-junction and that’s where the fun starts. As I’m approaching the junction I see a car coming that is about to turn left onto the road I’m coming up and I make the school error of stopping and giving way to him. Sure enough when I try to get going again I begin to slide to the side. I put on the brakes and the truck keeps sliding….. I’m just a passenger heading for the bank and then I’m in it!!

Right then it’s out with the snow chains and a shovel. I haven’t used chains for nearly 10 years! That was during my second week driving class 1’s, when I was 21 and everyone was trapped in Tibshelf services by the snow……….

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 5, 6 & 7 Part 1!

Day 5 and 6 are nothing special. Just waiting for the boat from Rostock to Hanko. The boat is a freighter so it’s a similar experience to spending a couple of nights in wormwood scrubs!

Day 7 (Where it gets interesting!)

Up at 0500 for breakfast and a shower ready to get off of the boat at 0600. The sat nav makes depressing reading straight away telling me it’s a 10.30 drive to the delivery and I was hoping to get the load tipped this afternoon so have a quick check of the maps and it appears to be taking me 60 miles around the house to get there so I input the new route and it becomes a 9.10 which I can live with as it usually knocks time off on route.

Everything is fairly easy going for most of the day pretty much like driving up to the Mont Blanc tunnel in the winter. It isn’t until the last 100 kms that the conditions begin to change and I start wondering what’s in store in 60 kms when I have to turn right off of the main drag.

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 4

Tuesday 5th March

I managed to get about 4 or 5 hours of sleep during the day and wake up at 1700 so make myself something to eat then go and use the typically poor showers in the services (might as well have been in Moto Thurrock with the state of them!)

I get my card back in at 1830 quick check of the load and the truck and set off for Rostock 484 miles away. As anyone doing Germany regularly will know it can make or break your delivery schedule with some of the epic traffic jams they tend to get so I’m glad I’m running through the night probably the best way to travel in Germany. I head to Liege then onto the border at Aachen where I stop for 15 minutes for the mandatory brockwürst mit brothen and a großr kaffe and crack on. 

It’s fairly run of the mill stuff on the drive nothing much exciting to report. I arrived in Rostock at 0530 and head on into the AS24 pumps to top up on the much cheaper German diesel as I don’t fancy paying the extra 9p per litre in Finland.

Then it’s on into the port to check in for the boat when the offices open. I’ve got 18 & 1/2 hours to wait until it’s time to board so it’s time to have some breakfast and get my head down for a few hours once I’m checked in I’ll take a walk into town this evening to find a beerhaus and a good schnitzel! before boarding the boat tonight.

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 3

Monday the 4th of March 

I checked out of my hotel at midday and walked back to my truck to be greeted by the Douane’s who ask to take a look in my cab and the back of the trailer and to check my CMR’s. They’re satisfied and leave me, they go and start knocking on other doors even though the curtains are drawn and the drivers could have been driving all night for all they know. 

I take a walk back over the road to get some provisions for the week at the supermarket and head back to the truck to count down the remaining 7 hours of my 45 hour break! I call my uncle and business partner Mark to check how he’s getting on today as he’s the one bringing the Finnish load over to meet and swap over with me.

1915hrs and I’m finally allowed to put my card in and I’m chomping at the bit to get a move on now!

Me and Mark were originally going to meet in Calais to swap trailers but due to the delays I suffered on Saturday in Barcelona we will now be meeting in a routiers in Cambrai. I do my walk around checks, grab a coffee and set off into the night.

I made it to Cambrai at 0415hrs and me and Mark swap trucks. I am now swapping from my new Mercedes-Benz Actros into my old DAF XF as the trailer that I have hired from Karl Skilton is a standard height trailer and I don’t have a dual height 5th wheel fitted to my new truck yet. 

Once my break is finished I set off towards Mons in Belgium to get the maximum out of a 10 hour drive for the day. I had originally planned to drive through Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to get to Finland but I’ve been over and over it and there’s no way I’ll make the delivery on time thanks to the hold up on Saturday (loafing in Barcelona) so I’ve booked the boat from Rostock to Hanko which I’m not looking forward to as I loath sitting on the boats for 30 hours but it has to be done to stick to the delivery schedule. I’ve eventually parked up In Aire de Says at 0730hrs on 9.59hrs driving so hopefully will makes Rostock tomorrow in one shift. Now all that’s left for me to do is have something to eat and get some sleep.

The Race to The Finnish Line

After the success of recent Long Distance Diaries, imagine my delight when I get a message offering another one for this week, straight after returning from Hellas with MJC. I’d be a fool to say no, so welcome to the blog Tudor Services from Bristol. This diary is a little different as we are starting outside the UK. Luke (The MD!) from Tudor Services has been out and about and is down in Barcelona awaiting the load out on a recent exhibition.

Day 1 – Saturday 2nd of March
Starting today in Barcelona where I will be loading at 0900 from the Mobile World conference that has just finished. I get up at 0700 for a shower and put my card in at 0740 to head up to registration and get booked in by 0810.

At 0900 I get a call from the people I am loading for to tell me they now won’t be loading me until 1300 which comes as a massive blow and has now put me well behind schedule so it’s back to the drawing board for the Finnish load!

I’m finally loaded and on my way by 1430 so its pedal to the metal to cover as much ground as possible as I also need to take my 45 hour rest when I park up today as well. I eventually park up in Aire de Saint-Rambert D’Albon est at 2215 and will check into the Ibis hotel 1 mile down the road so as to stay onside of the law for taking your weekly rest in the cab. I know a lot of people still ignore it but I have was asked to produce proof I’d taken it away from the cab a couple of years ago and was glad I had the proof to show I had and avoid what can be a devastating fine.

Meanwhile back in Caerphilly another Tudor driver James, is loading a trailer for Luke with a machine to go to Thukakylä in Finland. Luke will be doing a trailer change in Calais on Tuesday morning to swap over and then carry on himself upto Finland. Now you can see why this is a little bit of a different diary. The next diary entry probably won’t be until day 3 says Luke; “As I doubt there will be much to report from my hotel room.” – Even if there is I’m not sure this is the right blog to be reporting it on!

The Only Way is Full Tilt! – Part 3

Tip right next to the Corinth Canal on Tuesday. Another full strip out but hopefully not another new phone required! Young Matt did say that although it was only 15’c he was still breaking a sweat so just imagine the full Middle East heat that the haulage elders had to put up with! Unloading went without a hitch and it was straight back to the boat to Italy as now the pressure is on to get home before the weekend.

Back on the boat once empty and head up to Modena to load the dreaded tiles. As it is Matt does have a pressing engagement that he has to get home for. On and off the boat on Wednesday, back into Ancona and up the road a little to Rimini for Wednesday night supper. A true retro job like this wouldn’t be complete without a little bribery and corruption. This came in the form of an over confident parking attendant at Rimini Nord trying to charge Matt €10 for the pleasure of free parking. To save any injuries or hospital visits Matt settled on €5 to get a quiet night!

So into Modena on Thursday morning for what turned out to be a quick load up of tiles for three drops in the south east of England. The rates on times have always been horrendous whether they are from Italy or Spain but as with most backloads they serve a purpose and get you home with diesel paid for. In this case as tilts of a certain age aren’t necessarily the driest then a load of tiles was a safe bet and there are plenty of loads available. Once again open up both sides of the tilt, this is a lot easier as tile pallets are low so you only need to pull the TIR cord, open either up half way up and then drop the sides. I’d still give most of us a quick workout and a moist brow but simple enough for an experienced hand.

I have no doubt that once load MJC was off and into a foot down Friday although it’s still early Thursday. The old DAF would have been puffing a bit up through the mountains but once down and into France it’s a straight run back to the UK.

Yet another good trip for the man from Delmonte Essex. For those wanting to run your own truck then there is a huge element of making your own luck. Put the hard work in and with the right contacts it can be a very enjoyable way of life. With a supportive and understanding family behind you, the only restriction is how long you are happy to be away for and those who know, this too is in the hands of the rates and your customers.

Hopefully a new long distance diary to come next week as I have a new volunteer. I say volunteer as I didn’t pester for it like I do with Matt and Marshy!