It’s a New Year MAN

Spare a thought for all the lorry drivers who had to work over new year said a small article in one the papers. There was me wishing I had a reason to get away from the chaos of kids and big family do’s over the festive period!!

Our regular blog favourite Steve Marsh was in Dover in the early hours of New Year’s Day getting on the boat to Dunkerque and off to Germany, no rest for the wicked as they say!

Having managed to get himself most of the way to Aschersleben, Germany on Saturday after a good run. It was time to park up until today where Steve has cleared customs in Aschersleben. Having waited nearly all day today for clearance, Steve is now on his way to Hannover for first delivery tomorrow after a delivery to Munich was cancelled. Then it’ll be back to Blankenberg for another drop and on to a reload. A nice quick trip to get the new year going, Marshy spends a lot of time in and out of England. Often on routes to Ireland as well as mainland Europe. I really should give him a plug as he is the best in Express work and dedicated hot shot loads. If you have such a requirement please call him as he or his team of dedicated subbies will genuinely give you unrivalled service.

If needed please email Steve at; cab@stevemarshexpress.co.uk

Or visit his website for full contact details; www.stevemarshexpress.co.uk

Trucks of The Year 2021

It’s been another funny old year and I haven’t actually done many shows sadly. There have been plenty of new trucks about despite the various cancellations and seemingly endless restrictions, and a lot of shows were still able to go ahead as they were outside. My annual trip to a foreign show was once again put on hold, but hopefully next year I can take my own truck abroad for the first time since UJN 509V back in 2009! Anyway I digress. Trucks of Year really comes following the week in trucks idea, which despite contrary belief first came about on TB and not elsewhere. I wanted to point out a few stand out trucks for me this year in the hope you will all share photos of some of your favourites too in the comments below.

I’ll start with Coles & Sons New Old Skool. Coles never disappoint and they really are no show ponies, they spend a lot of time abroad and do a lot of high profile work. For me I found this truck to take Coles back to their roots and back to the family business colours, but at the same time wowing us all as always. Just for info the Coles & Sons page released the first photos and videos of the truck back in January this year and have since had over half a million views, most of which came in the first week.

Next one worth a mention is this Volvo FH V1 restoration my Bert De Mooij and Bert De Mooij. I love the Retro Truck Show in September and for me this truck is 100% what it’s all about. The retro trucking scene is for trucks that have been restored and put into the glory of years gone by, perhaps with a modern twist. If we cast ourselves back to 1993 when Volvo launched the version 1 FH, this truck would have been spot on for a Dutch flower truck. Not over the top by any means, just clever use of paint (of course it’s Dutch!) and a few accessories that are easily accepted as being period. It looks spot on for me, love it.

©️Tim Andrew

Next a couple of personal favourites. The above Actros Edition 2 special Edition with all the boxes ticked is an amazing truck. Once again MB Trucks are pioneering the way with technology, which whether you like it or not is coming now the majority of manufacturers are now copying and offering similar. This Actros is my favourite new truck delivery of the year. Everyone loves new truck day, but perhaps because of how passionate Wilkin & Sons are about Mercs or perhaps because it was the first Edition 2 on the road in the UK, for me my favourite work related truck.

Next up…. The Gr814. My own truck, bought and imported from Germany in February. I love little sleeper cabs, I love mini tractor units and when I bought my first truck in 1997 I couldn’t afford an 814! This has had two owners since 1989 and has done a genuine 260,000km from new. It has nearly all the available factory options from the time, which really just leaves me only to do a little titivating and then hopefully get it painted before 2022’s show season.

Next a proper big hitter and a worthy truck of the year mention. This DAF by Paul Cecil is simply awesome. Even if you’re not a DAF fan, or a fan or green trucks you have to appreciate this Gloucestershire beauty. I don’t know Paul too well but we have the odd chat and I remember a few years back at Assen, Paul saying the truck was in build and was having a few paint issues, but those have all been overcome and the result I’m sure is exactly what Paul and family were after. One thing to remember is that building a show winner takes time and patience people. That said it is a hard working truck, it covers all of Europe on a regular basis and is cleaner than nearly any other truck you’ll see. It is also clearly appreciated by the European show circuit too, picking up trophies at both the Nordic Trophy and the Powertruck Show in its first year. Well done Paul.

Attention to detail.

For me I think this is my truck of the year 2021. A boy hood dream and poster truck for lots of us. I have been doing the Centurion list with Richard Payne and hopeful of getting a publisher for ‘22, but finding out this truck was being restored back to its original glory and then seeing her in September will take some beating. I have spoken to Michael Taylor during the restoration and was also privy to seeing the artwork being done by Matt during the painting process. I have even spoken to John Philips and he is over the moon with it too. The truck is as good as I’d hoped, the attention to detail is everywhere. Note the Keltruck mudflap’s have the 1991 phone number not the current one. I also love the artwork, we all know Matt is a true artist and should be recognised in the art world for his masterpieces. I also like that the artwork is a modern take on the original, as in the images aren’t quite as they were in 1991 but are Matts take on them. A real dream truck for me and once again well done to Michael and all involved, I really look forward to seeing again in 2022. They say you shouldn’t meet your hero’s…… certainly not trucking true in this case.

My son took my picture next to the truck I had on my wall as a boy.

The Gr814 – D to GB

How do you solve a problem like Maria getting a truck from Germany to England on a very tight budget?? Call in a load of favours and ask those close colleagues from 25 years in the transport industry what they can do to help. So I have a best mate who was shipping more JCB’s out the country than anyone else for a few years. Said BM was able to negotiate a very decent package for shipping the truck from Bremerhaven back to Harwich, but at the shippers discretion. Meaning when the boat was empty and wasn’t pushed for space. This also meant that it would be down to the shipper to tell me when he wanted it. Not to bad at all other than the truck was still 102 miles away from Bremerhaven.

Time to bite the bullet. As I had half a plan I went back to Tobi (the seller) and put the current plan to him, thinking he might be able to make a suggestion or suggest a company close to him who may be able to move the truck for me. Tobi came back to me straight away and offered to drive the truck himself to Bremerhaven as it would be a nice little “good bye” drive to a truck that had served him very well. Once again a great help from Tobi. The only downside was it meant having to buy some export plates so the truck could driven after Tobi had de-registered it from his name which we had to do so I could arrange customs, don’t forget this was a month after Brexit as well as the Covid effect. You see it really wasn’t the best easiest time to be buying a new toy! About a week after the plan was hatched, the call from the shipper came and they wanted it on the sailing out of Bremerhaven on the 16th February. This gave us a little time for Tobi to do the necessary at his local tax office (such a great and seemingly easy way to do everything vehicle related in a local office rather than dealing with a single national association based in Wales!!) and we opted for 2 week Transit plates just in case. Tobi planned to take the truck up to Bremerhaven on the 15th February so it was there ready and waiting for the boat to arrive the day after.

As you can see from the photos this would have been as easy 102 mile ride apart from the snow came down in Germany and made for some very tricky driving conditions. Being an expert racing driver Tobi had no real issues apart from needing a little help from the Polizei to get over the brow of a hill! Having made it to Bremerhaven Tobi checked in and was asked to drop the truck on the quay for the night so it was ready to load in the morning.

The following day, the 16th February, I heard nothing so I’ve always been a “no news is good news” type of chap and I assumed the truck had made it onto the boat and left Germany for the UK. I was correct and the next call I got was to say the truck was sat on the quay at Navyard in Harwich, 30 minutes from my house. Customs was done and paid for while the truck was enroute and I was therefore free to collect the truck on the Saturday morning and take it home.

Once in Harwich I was greeted with the above. I cannot tell you how nervous I was, from the point of view we hear so many horror stories of vehicle sales where people don’t view the motor first, but I was more than surprised and more than happy. Tobi Marggraf from Racing Team Marggraf had been true to his word and the truck was in great condition. All the paperwork and German registration documents were in the glove box including some original owners paperwork, more than I needed but again proved how honest Tobi had been. I needed all the original copies of the German paperwork to make the UK registration as easy as possible. This just left me to start her up and take a very very enjoyable trip back up the A120 and A12 home. Thanks Tobi you know I will look after her!! One truck purchased and shipped back to the UK for a touch less than what the truck had originally be advertised for. Happy blogger.

The Gr814 – The Deal

I’m sure during lock down all of us spent more time scrolling through Europe’s used truck ads than ever before. I’m sure during lock down all of us spent more time buying things online than ever before. Add these two scenarios together and can you guess what happens??

On the 24th January at 2049hrs (iPhones save the date and time of images!) yet another search on mobile.de threw up the image above. How could anybody resist! I ran through the photos on the ad and the truck looked immaculate and claimed a genuine 260,000km on a truck made in 1989. The truck is an 814S sleeper, which had a factory conversion into a 7 seater, 3 singles in the front row and a 4 person bench seat in the back. Through the nature of my day job, I checked the original build spec and the truck is as it was the day it left the factory, even the paint colours are still the same.

I’m a sucker for a 7.5 tonner and sleeper cabbed one at that, add in the mini artic bit and it’s like Christmas Day all over again. I had to have it!! I WhatsApp’d the seller (Tobi) straight away and he replied with some detail and some more photo’s- the deal had to be done and it was within my very small budget and if the seller was being truthful and the photos weren’t hiding anything then the truck looked pretty straight. The truck has spent its years pulling race trailers around Europe so the mileage would be pretty low bearing in mind all the sitting around between events and also when at events, so the mileage could be genuine. Maybe a few days later and a deal was struck, we were still in lock down here in the UK which meant I couldn’t get out to collect it so a plan had to be worked on to get her back to the UK. Was I nuts? Buying a truck over the internet, from Germany, from a man I had never met or actually spoken to, in lock down….

….who cares, sometimes a risk needs to be taken. The seller Tobi, was very helpful and gave me copies of all the paperwork by email and also sent me a receipt for payment on his race team headed paper with all the official details. Tobi also said the truck could stay with him for as long as it took me to come up with a pick up plan and he was happy to help in anyway he could. So finally I was a truck owner again, with what looked like a genuine mini artic tractor unit and all I had to do was get it from Bad Fallingbostal, Germany which is approximately halfway between Hanover and Hamburg. The only thing I knew at this point was, sadly it wouldn’t be me driving it back due to lockdown restrictions.

I wish I’d been too…..

As a driver I never did enough European work. I always wanted to take my 7.5 tonner all over Europe but back then the opportunities just didn’t arrive. I was kindly offered various odd jobs through Kevin at Delamode but they never seemed to fit between my regular UK jobs at that point. The photo above was my very first trip to Europe at 18 for DFDS delivering herbal stuff to Boxmeer, NL. Look at me, couldn’t take a photo but living the dream! I did various other trips to Belgium and Holland with the 7.5tonners but not enough and certainly not to all the countries I wanted to get to. I have always wanted to drive to Scandinavia and got close to a once a month contract delivering race suspension parts from my home town of Braintree to Stockholm but again it didn’t quite come off.

My perfect destination would have been something like Interlaken or perhaps even Cadiz. All of us must have destinations you wanted to get to but never have, even those who are regulars on the long distance routes, you must have, perhaps more specific destinations you want to get to. Of course when I had my tractor unit I would have loved the opportunity of Turkey or further afield but I made do with weekly trips to Belgium, Holland, Germany and the odd little bit of France. Of course doing the Middle East would have been on my list but realistically in my time it was dying out. Of course going to Doha like my Uncle Dick Snow did would have been awesome, following in the footsteps of those drivers would have been amazing. But most of the places I realistically wish I’d got to would have been in the little trucks. In no particular order my top three places I wish I’d got to in any of the trucks pictured would be;

  • Interlaken, CH
  • Cadiz, E
  • Guernsey, Channel Islands

So here’s the question, be honest as you can be, and no matter how far you have been where have you always wanted to get to?? Near or far I’m not fussed but I’d like to know. Karl Skiltons answer will be interesting I’m sure and I know the three Matthews will have interesting answers too! Come on, “I wish I’d been too…….”

Spotted: My Old Atego!!

Spotted this morning getting on the M5 at Taunton, only my old Atego!! I’m so excited. It must have released a load of racing pigeons as it was in a mini convoy of other bird carrying trucks. Jack Rigby was quick enough to get some video coverage and I’ve no doubt it is AV52 KGU, now taxed until April 2022. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can someone tell me more about who has it, who runs and what the new reg is. It’s probably heading back up the M5 and M6 as we speak back to it’s north west base. Come on truck detectives, tell me more!

European Boat-MAN – Part 1

I think it started on Instagram and the rest is history! My love of the #littlebigcabclub trucks, is becoming the stuff of legend, so when asked by another member of the club if he could send in a guest blog, what else could I say but yes. George Turner or @european_lorryist as he’s know on Instagram spends a lot of his time driving an LX cabbed MAN TGL collecting house boats from Poland for his business in Portugal. To good a story to miss right?? Over to George for Part 1, Part 2 will follow in due course.

Wednesday 6th January – The truck is always at home with me which is a nice little bonus with this job. I pop out to the little MAN and fire the night heater up, its the first time since living in Portugal its cold enough for an iced over windscreen. Card goes in at 9am and I head off in the direction of Lisbon. A quick pit-stop in Torres Novas to exchange a drop link for my own van, and onwards down the A1 to the capital. My company franchise & transport house boats, and I arrive in the marina in good time without issue. I’m only here to pick-up some paperwork and a few interior fixtures for return to Poland. All this only amounts to around 20 minutes and I’m back up the road and home by half past 1, just a little food prep and laundry to do for the off in the morning. 283Km today.

Thursday 7th. January – Not a particularly early start, loaded the last of my bits and bobs into the truck and I’m on the road at 08:30. Its always quiet on the A23 heading up to the Spanish border at Vilar Formosa, just a quick stop to drop in 50 euros of diesel to last me to the AS24 at Salamanca, AS24 are a bit thin on the ground in PT. Arriving in Salamanca I fill up with 250L worth of diesel, which is not far off what it holds, running a bit close to the wire here! I carry on another hour or so and pull in on 4h29, half way to Tordesillas. A quick bite to eat and back on the road, N/E direction, Burgos, Vitoria-Gasteiz, AP 1, AP 8. Plenty of snow over the hills at Miranda de Ebro, but its all running smoothly thankfully. A few days before this they had been over run with snow and shut the motorway, as they do in Spain. On 8h48 driving and at a quarter past 7, I pull into Itziar Services just before San Sebastian and make use of the empty car park as all truck spaces are occupied. One thing about being in a little truck is not needing to worry about parking, one can manage to find something suitable regardless! 757Km today.

Friday 8th January – 11h off and on I’m the road by 06:30. Cross the ESP/FR border at Irun still in darkness and not bothered by the Gendarmes this time. Usually they’re quite perplexed why an Italian truck with an English driver with Portuguese Documents is heading for Poland empty. I’m usually asked 3-4 times if I’m carrying more than 10k in cash, and then subsequently searched for the said non-existent cash! Carrying on I feel a bit tired, putting it down to having a month out the saddle and a relatively early start, I stopped just after castets for a quick 15 minute snooze. Still dark at this point, but the gendarmes are set up in this particular aire and doing checks on unsuspecting drivers, fortunately again, they left me alone. I clear a traffic free Bordeaux nicely by 10am and head east for Clermont Ferrand. Pick up some more diesel at Perigueux, then over the hills of the a89, snowing at points but all good and keeping at 90ks for the duration! I have to make a bit of a detour to avoid the closed N79 west of Moulins, but then rejoin the n79 for a frustrating 70kmh drive through the road works. I pull in on 10h03 at the last aire before the A6. Loads of space here, but then I suppose its friday night in the middle of france. 833Km today.

Saturday 9th January – Another 11 hours off and card in and I’m away by 05:30. It seems like what trucks are here, are all leaving as well, quite a busy rest area for the time. I crack on for an hour and a half along the A36 heading for Germany, when again like yesterday, i’m feeling pretty tired! I pull in for a 45 minute snooze this time, by which time its daylight again, albeit still white and frosty. Its a fairly long and boring road the a36, but I eventually cross the non existent border and head up the 5 towards Heidelberg. Another road with not much to see on it, as well as being a quieter than normal saturday morning. At Rastatt I pull up for a supermarket sweep, I just end up buying mostly alcohol for home and the lads in Poland though. The supermarket is quiet and i’m back on the road in 20 minutes. A quick AS24 diesel stop at Karlsruhe, then up to the 6 and heading east for Nuremberg. Fairly uneventful drive apart from a small detour north of Nuremberg to avoid an accident. Parked up at half 5, pitch black and again i’m pushing the boundaries on 10h 02. I’m about an hour south of Leipzig. Living the dream on a saturday night so cook some super noodles, hot dogs and had a can or two of Desperados. 856Km today.

Sunday 10th January – Its a half past 4 start on a Sunday, but i’ve only just over 600km to do, so it wont be a particularly strenuous day. 1H30 drive down, I top up the tanks again, plus remember to fill the separate night heater tank this time, its been working over time the last few nights! Onwards and up to Berlin, then east across the border into Poland at Frankfurt-Oder, never any police or problems here. 20Km along the A2, a quick interval for a ticket at the toll booth, then onto the hugely uninteresting drive to Poznan. A little snow in the air again, but solid KM covered, I head north after Poznan on the S5 and stop at Marathon Int. Transport for a final diesel top up, then just 1hr30 left up to Bydgoszcz. A little detour for the new motorway roadworks and I’m outside the boatyard nice and comfortably at 13:30. I Start my 24h rest and immediately set about changing the drivers front wheel as a previous small crack in the alloy has developed into a crack across two of the wheel nuts! Its a quick 30 minute job with the use of a long bar, it takes longer to get the spare wheel off its hanger! I stay put for the evening, cook some more dinner, a few cans and an early night ready for loading in the morning. 662Km, 7h48 drive today.

MAN and Machines

It’s been a fair while since I have been able to do a good blog on the logistical magician that is Steve Marsh of Express fame. Recently the Marsh MAN has been seen frequenting the A55 and the green roads of Ireland, in fact this week he has two trips to the Emerald Isle booked. Last week however it was a different story. A lovely little bit of logistical excellence with minimal empty running. Load Northern England, tip and load Italy, then back to Northern England.

Marshy is based near Warrington in the North West of England, not a million miles from Liverpool. The job started on Thursday, with the loading of a transformer housing from Sherburn in Elmet in Yorkshire. The little MAN TGL was built to Marshys own strict requirements and although it added a fair amount of weight, the importance of a sliding roof on the 12 tonner has been proven over and over. The truck has everything required to load a large but sensitive item through the roof and transported over 1200 miles to its destination. Once loaded it’s off down the A1, A14, M11, M25, M2, A2 to Douvres. Boat to Calais and then off down through France, up and over Mont Blanc and into Italia.

Break time in the Alps

Once into Italy, time was ticking for Marshy to take a weekend break. Having got most of the way down towards Subbiano in Tuscany, Steve parked up Saturday afternoon in the last services before the delivery point to take a well earned rest through to Monday morning. Up and away Monday to Subbiano, tip the transformer housing off for testing and then straight on to the reload. What a nice little reload it was! So a little empty running from Subbiano upto Comezzano-Cizzago near Brescia, just the 246 miles, to reload a small aeroplane back to the UK, loading Monday evening.

Loading finished Monday PM, then it was back onto the autostrada and head towards the Blanc and a full retrace of his steps back to Calais. A couple of stops along the way to make sure the plane hadn’t moved were required by Mr Conscientious as you can imagine. The plane was only 300kg all in, made from carbon fibre and fitted with a litre 2 litre engine. The hardest part of the load were the wings according to Marshy as they were so light and couldn’t rub on each other.

#volvogate

Another Calais Dover crossing and then back up North to Kirkby near Liverpool. The plane was delivered on Thursday last week to a flying school on a farm, so the final stretch was probably the hardest part, down through a farm track, plenty of bumps and pot holes and not to mention the low trees! All said and done, it’s all in a days work for the little MAN and it’s pilot. Another round trip complete and another couple of happy customers. The trucks capabilities, the sliding roof, the tail lift to load and unload the plane…..experience is key people, experience… is… key…

A little mileage breakdown just for fun? Yea go on then, why not!

  • Empty – Warrington to Sherburn in Elmet = 72 miles.
  • Loaded – Sherburn in Elmet to Subbiano, Italy = 1230 miles.
  • Empty – Subbiano to Comezzano-Cizzago = 246 miles.
  • Loaded – Comezzano-Cizzago to Kirkby = 1002 miles.
  • Empty – Kirkby to Warrington = 19 miles.

To sum up then;

  • Total miles = 2569 miles.
  • Loaded = 2232 miles.
  • Empty = 337 miles.

Pub Quiz – Rear End Wednesday

A great little quiz for the middle of the week. We all know our front views but how about your rear views??! Not quite rear of the year but Marshy sent in this photo on the ferry back from France earlier today.

The question being; from left to right what manufacturers are the three #littlebigcabclub members in the photo??

First to get all three correct wins a #littlebigcabclub sticker or two!

Italian MAN of Mystery

There is a bridge in Kent near Junction 9 of the M20, that has been known to have one of the longest serving truck photographers in the UK on it doing his thing. Mr Neil Jarrold has been photographing trucks since the 1980’s up and down the UK and across Europe, he is one of the originals and most of us at some point have seen or unknowingly shared some of his photos. I have known Neil for about 10 or 12 years now I guess, since my days at HC Wilson Transport when he used to call in to take a few photos, believe it or not. Realising Neil is a bigger truck perv than myself we soon became well acquainted. Here we are so many years later and Neil is still sending me awesome photos of my favourite kind of trucks…. #littlebigcabclub members from across Europe.

Neil sent me the above photo after his first visit to his beloved bridge for some time. This was two weeks ago today, so the little Italian MAN in focus is still a regular visitor to the UK. What a great photo and what a cracking little camion. This Italian company having been coming to the UK for a number of years now as Neil has sent me photos of this truck and others on the fleet before.

All three photos are of CT168JF and have probably been taken over the last 3-4 years. Very slight changes to the cab over that time but it’s still in great condition and well look after. According to the company website, Trea Á Trasporti are specialists in hanging garments and clothing. Bearing this in mind where do they go to in the UK? Does anyone else regularly see this little Italian stallion in the UK maybe at it delivery point? I’d guess it’s probably a regular job so hopefully one of you bloggers can tell me a little more. Maybe someone can even tag the Italian driver, Biondo, on Facebook. This truck is definitely worth a #littlebigcabclub sticker!

Neil keep the awesome photos coming and keep updating your Facebook page with your sightings; View from a Bridge Junc Nine Bloggers get hunting for this little MAN TGL while it’s here in the UK.