South West England to South West Australia

You’re young, You’re truck mad, your dad’s truck mad, you drive a truck, your dad drives a truck, but you live in Taunton. Not exactly the home of UK trucking or indeed road train trucking, so what do you do??……. Yep that’s right, head off to warmer climbs where big trucks roam free across the endless expanse of dirt tracks, tarmac, desert, rainforest and what ever else is in between, you guessed it, Bristol sorry, sorry I meant Australia of course! If you want to see some big trucks and get to work with big trucks why not do as our man in Kangaroo country has done and sign up for a farming team in Oz. Young Jack Rigby is truck mad, having an owner driver for a dad, did Jack ever stand a chance of having a career doing anything else? No of course not, every Owner Drivers child wants to grow up like their dad don’t they???

Not scared of a gear stick like many new/young drivers are, or indeed hardwork, Jack has been hard at it with his team harvesting Australia’s crops and getting to ride and also drive some absolute beauties. As is the case these days in Oz, there seems to be a real mishmash of American type and European type trucks. Luckily for Jack he’s tried all of them and none better than the triple trailered Kenworth above. The beauty of this all is that Jack can utilise both his agricultural skills and truck driver skills all in one. Just listen to that engine grumble away, you can virtually feel the ground shaking as she picks up speed. Time to give Jack a pat on the back with those gear changes, as you may have noticed he’s not using a clutch pedal. As Jack is at an age of post gear lever trucks here in the UK it’s nice to see a young whipper snapper with such great skill. I think just one little missed gear is perfectly acceptable considering.

Lots of European trucks over in Oz these days. Traditionally big American trucks have always been most popular but these days it seems to be much more of an even split between American and European trucks. The team Jack is working with are clearly fans of European trucks as they have a good number of Volvo’s and some ageing Scania’s still in use. If I know Jack a little then he’ll be keen to try as many as he can and hopefully he’ll collect enough photos and tales of the Australian roads and farming that he’ll write some blogs himself when he is back in Blighty. Due to licensing the tidy Volvo below with a single trailer is one of Jacks regular seats.

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Small Town Southern MAN

Once again our man Steve Marsh has been celebrating the seasons festivities with a run to the sun. I knew Marshy was heading south between Christmas and new year as most years the cheaper Eastern European competition goes home but the jobs still need doing. The destination was Marbella, Spain and the delivery date was December 29th. Honk honk lets go Christmas trucking! As ever, Steve Marsh or as I like to think of him, the original Logistical Magician, started the New Year run by reloading on December the 22nd in Deeside on his way back from Holyhead and a trip to Ireland. This gave Marshy the chance to enjoy some roast turkey with the family before setting off on Boxing Day (avoiding turkey overload) for Douvres and then southbound and down for Marbella.

Above, the number 1 member of the #littlebigcabclub is unloading in the glorious Spanish sunshine on Friday 29th December, the little MAN may only be a 12 tonner but she regularly clocks up the same miles as her bigger brothers. Having tipped the logistical magician loaded 1/3 of a load from Marbella itself before starting to head north. Being the new year weekend a driving ban was due to kick in in France at 10pm on the 30th for 48 hours, so having made good progress The Marsh MAN got all the way up to Haute-Garonne just south of Toulouse before running out of time. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were spent in the services before running up to a small village 80 miles north of Toulouse to load two farm machines for Lydney in Gloucestershire, UK. I say this even though, Steve sent me the below photo asking “Notice anything slightly unusual about my reload?” I don’t think it’s worth me asking you to put your answers on a postcard, your right the reload dims were clearly lost in translation. Never mind, where there’s a Steve there’s a way! Loaded in Morlon-le-Haut on the 2nd January. Deliver first drop the farm machines to Lydney on Thursday 4th January. Back North on Friday to deliver 2nd drop to Warrington. Empty Warrington back home to……Warrington. Change of pants and socks, weekend at home, load at Bromborough Monday then onward to tip Amsterdam today (Tuesday 8th January). Who knows where the reload will be, but knowing Marshy it’s not likely to be any further from Amsterdam than Schipol!

Русский йойо

Here he is again, our man Mat or as he is now known at work and at home, the Russian specialist. Since we last heard from Mat at the beginning of November he has managed to slip in another trip to Mockba just to finish the year off. Such is the mad world of showbiz, Mat was off to do two dates for one of the UK’s biggest pop/rock stars and a performer that is well known world wide. I guess with such a celebrity at the top of the tree there is the purse available to fund such a trip. This time Mat loaded half a load in London then out to Switzerland to load the second half. Having loaded he travelled up to Hamburg for the first of two performances. From the Hamburg arena it was over to Hamburg airport where Mats load was flown out to a gig in Libya. While that was going on Mat had to hot foot it up to Moscow (empty) to meet the plane to reload and take the equipment on to a venue and Mats final venue of the year in Moscow. As they say their in no business like show-business!! After the Moscow gig all there was for Mat to do before he could finish for the year was to run back. Oh yea, run back from Moscow to London via Switzerland. All in a few days work for Mat and in all honesty as we could all predict the only difficulties with the weather and conditions was once he was back here in the UK. In fact the mud on the trailer was mostly from a visit to J26 Truckstop on the M25 on the way home to Suffolk. It is fair to say that Mat is beginning to make this international lorry driving game look some what easy. Russia is but a motorway trip away for those with know how and those who aren’t phased by bad drivers, poor roads, bandits and winter weather. Perhaps as Transam Trucking use Mat for most Russian trips and also as Mat has made Moscow a regular run this year, has led to Mat getting his second Russian number plate in his windscreen. What I want you all to tell me is what the number plate says. Please leave your answers in the comments box. Here it is…..In fact those of you who leave the best suggestions will be in the running for a TB sticker! So that’s it now for Mat until the new year, where he starts at the end of January on a UK tour for a comic Druid! As is the way with real drivers, those who love the job, Mats eyes lit up when he told me the longest leg of the tour is a run from Glasgow to Truro. As we both agreed, unless you are a fish truck or ex Brian Harris driver, there aren’t many who have done this particular route. I for one look forward to more trips and tales around Europe and beyond in the big black DAF next year. I think Mat said he had visited 24 countries this year. This includes Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, all of Scandinavia and of course Western Europe, bring on 2018 is what I say!

Russian About 

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. 

Truck Provenance 

Is there such a thing? – Discuss. 

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. 


Retro Show 2017

Last year blog readers voted Lee Herbert’s Retro Truck Show as their show of the year and I think it could well be in the running again this year. A small show with bags of quality, plenty of trucks and enough truck enthusiasts to sink a battleship. The one thing this show seems to attract is proper truck nuts, those who know their trucks and those who don’t want tons of commercialism. If you like trucks and you like looking at and talking trucks from the golden years then this is the show you need to put in your diary for 2018. Quite often it would seem that all the retro trucks are Scania’s as they seem to have lasted and are obviously very popular. This year there was definately a few more Scania’s but what was very noticeable was the increase in all other marques. Plenty more Volvo’s, DAF’s and of course the rebirth of the original Italian Stallion, the Iveco Turbostar. What can you say about them?? They have a reputation as a flying machine with their monsterous 17 litre, V8 engine and getting up close they do give a feeling that they just want to fly! You could have taken your pick from black, blue or red and they were all in full “Iveco Special” livery. Even though I’m not a lover of red, the red one just looked the business in my book. Perfecto!As I mentioned earlier there were a number of other marques that haven’t been at the show in the last few years and it seems a wider variety of trucks are now being saved from the rust devils. Bedford, DAF, Ford, MAN loads of  ERF and a few others. All the trucks at this years show bought back many memories for all I’m sure and this is really the essence of the show. In the least geeky way possible this really is an enthusiasts show. For me the highlight of being there is meeting the people who lived and worked through the golden years. I could listen to drivers stories for ever. The images that are conjured up in my mind can’t be far from the truth and it just makes me wish I was 20 years older!! Ex Middle East stories, Astran stories, Ralph Davies stories (someone needs to write an RD book!), Scottish stories, Irish flyer stories and of course good old English stories. It’s a weekend of talking and enjoying each other’s company even if the weather tried it’s best to ruin it, although I’m pleased to say without success. One thing I must add is that this year I took my first truck to the show and what a truck it was. I was privileged and honoured to be asked if I would take the delightful new Scania 143 of Ken Thomas to the show. Truck owner one John Thomas (son of Ken) was due to go to a road run with some other trucks so asked if I wanted to take the 143 on its first UK truck show outing. How could I resist. Much like a kid in a sweet shop is how I managed. The truck is a dream to drive and the paintwork, well what can I say. More than anything, everyone made a comment on how good the paintwork is. A full custom leather interiour finishes the truck off. I would personally like to thank John for trusting me with his new pride and joy and I will happily volunteer for more Show duties if needed. Thanks John. As for the rest, please click HERE to see the other photos I took. Just to many good trucks to put on here and all a credit to their owners and restorers. One thing I like more than anything about restored trucks is the provenance some of them come with. By this I mean there are just a few ricks at the show that have lived the life and been there and definately done it more than others. To see these trucks at the show is awesome and just proves that UK truckers were and still are the best in the business, well the true core drivers are! There were a Ralph Davies Volvo and Scania at the show and to sit in the Scania and just think where they have been to and returned from year in and year out is mind blowing. As for the Astran Volvo, still in working condition but who cares! She’s lived the life and deserves to be a little scruffy round the edges, although Karl does say she’ll get a little touch up sooner or later.That’s it for another year and I will defo be back in 2018. Whether I have a truck to take or not is another matter, but I suggest every one of you put it in your diaries. True truckers will be there enjoying what’s left of drivers cammoraderie and talking about the trucks that gave the UK it’s pioneering name in road transport. Well done Lee and team, excellent show. May be, just may be Truck Show of the year 2017??! 

MAN in Madrid

It’s been a while since we had Steve Marsh gracing the pages of TB with his little MAN TGL 12 tonner. Last week was ideal for a little blog trip with the little MAN, saying that it actually started at the end of the week before last. As is the nature of international express light haulage, when done properly by a proper professional (that’s you Steve!), no job is ever the same. This time round it was UK – Spain Express. Ready? Set? Go! International light haulage is go…..

– 6 collections Thursday afternoon and Friday in the U.K. Also squeezed in a UK job on the way round. 

DFDS Sailing from Dover to Calais Friday night.

– Parked up just south of Bordeaux Sat night till Mon morning.

– Drove from Bordeaux to Madrid Monday. 

– Delivered to IFEMA exhibition centre in Madrid Tuesday.
– Loaded cardboard packaging near Le Mans, France on Wednesday afternoon.
– Spent Wednesday night fending off the migrants at Translay services on the A28 (even though its 1hr 40mins from Calais, don’t park there northbound!!).

– Delivered to Howden, Yorkshire on Friday morning. 

Having arrived in Madrid Marshy sent me the above photo of the number 1 member of the Little Big Cab Club. It had potential so I tweaked it a little and repaid his photos with a little Touch Note postcard! I’ll say it every time I blog about the little MAN but I love a little rigid truck, a 12 tonner is spot on. The blog tends to keep my urges to go back on the road and without the likes of Steve Marsh’s trips to write about I think I’d struggle to get through the working week tied to my desk. If any of you want to offer a long distance diary then please do email me. Photos and a description of what you got up to is all it takes. My email address is; ben@truckblog.co.uk