Europe…. Go Big or Go Home

Here we go people, a new blog contributor and what a belter of a blog cherry popper we have for you. Some of you may know this particular character, he’s one of those quiet, keeps himself to himself and gets on with the job in hand types, well he certainly gets on with the job that’s for sure. Away for over seven weeks working for one of the best international hauliers in the country. Essex International need no introduction what so ever, 100% an international haulier from the roots up, now part of the Grampian Continental group, they cover all four corners of Europa every week. To be fair this particular trip has pretty well covered three of the four corners. To start I’ll put up the map of the “outward” leg, but please ignore some of the route as bloomin Google maps wouldn’t take the boat routes that were actually used.

Starting point was head office in Aberdeen, down to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to load for Motrin in Southern Espania. An easy enough run down to Portsmouth to catch the ferry across to Bilbao, please ignore the map for the ferry part! The good old days were back, with a six truck convoy and much to our mans joy all six had CB radios so you can imagine the banter, just like 1986! Off the ferry boat in Bilbao and straight down through the glorious middle of Spain to Motril. A decent enough trip for most of us but this was of course only the first leg of this one.

Having tipped Motril, sadly the convoy dispersed in various directions and we are off to Bourg en Bresse, France for a trailer change, destined for the Greek / Turkish border. From the middle of Spain’s southern coast across to the Turkish border, very nice. Add another couple of weeks to the tally but off we go. Living the dream springs to mind, well for those who dream of weeks away behind the wheel, covering the whole of Europe. What the old school saying?? “You’ll never earn a living looking out of a window son!”…… balls to that, what a way to earn your living. Anyway trailer swapped and keep heading east up and over the Alps (always stop for a photo going over the top) to the Italian port of Ancona for the Minoan Lines ferry to Igoumenitsa, Hellas.

The motorways of Greece look awesome although surely not enough traffic for us Brits. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take to a motorway network, like Spain and Greece that aren’t rammed packed with traffic, idiots and whatever else, so you can just get on and get your days Kilometres under you belt before a pleasant evening meal and a bottle of wine for €15……sorry I was close to getting all romantic there. Once into Greece it was head yet further east across the north of the country to the Turkish border town of Kipoi. Due to the nature of the load, it was virtually a single lift off at the delivery point and job done. Lovely jubberly.

Reload details are through and it’s time to head back across Greece to Igoumenitsa for the same ferry back to Italy (ignore the map for this bit again!) Once off the boat, it’s reload in Ancona itself and then northbound and down. A full load of pipes destined for………. Aberdeen. The whole way round Europe and reload back to your home town. Awesome. Perhaps a little easier as an awful lot of oil related work comes in and out of Aberdeen, but even so, that must have been nice to hear for our man Stan. I’m sure the big Scania S730 must know it’s way back to Scotland from most places in Europe by now, so back over the Alps, stopping for the obligatory photo of course, then back up through France to Calais. I have no doubt at all that after a few thousand KM’s of fairly trouble free trucking, with in an hour or so of getting off P&O’s pride and back into Blighty, the wheels would have ground to a halt for some reason or another, most of this reason being the M25.

If you’re lucky enough to have a job like this, you will get to see the whole of Europe. This of course does mean lots of time away from home and the loved ones. That said if you are going to do it, do it with a professional firm such as Essex International they will look after you and of course you’ll end up piloting a top of the range motor for your troubles. If your going to do proper old school European trucking, then do it like they do at Essex International, it’s the only way………

Short truck, Short trip, Short blog

Morning All, it’s been a little quiet on the blog front for a couple of weeks due to one thing and another. The Long Distance Diaries of late have proved very popular with you lot and I still maintain it’s due to the good old LDD’s that used to appear in various magazines 10-15 years ago. One of the blogs contributors is Luke from Tudor Services in Bristol. When look offered a mini artic blog this week I of course said yes please!…..

Monday 15/04/19
Leaving the yard at 0500 to head to Heysham to get the 1415 crossing to Douglas on the Isle of Man hooked up to a 33ft urban trailer loaded with the kitchen for a new premier inn hotel being built on the island.

I arrive in Heysham at 1200 to the devastating news that the boat has been cancelled as they are carrying out repairs on the backdoors which are not closing properly. So it’s off the truckheaven in Canforth to park up and wait until tomorrow’s 1415 boat!

Tuesday 16/04/19
Head to the port for 1200 again and thankfully the boat is now running so board at 1330 and arrive in Douglas at 1800 and park outside the port and go off into town for a little walk around.

Wednesday 17/04/19
Up at 0600 to drive all of 0.8 miles to my delivery. Once I’ve tipped I decide that it’s an absolute must that I drive a lap of the TT track as it’s pretty much the only thing that’s going on here so I check the tyres lower the suspension and head for the start line!

I have to say after a drive around the circuit I really do take my hat off to the maniacs doing 130 miles an hour it’s not like your nice smooth race track with good visibility it’s truly deadly from what I made of it. Once I complete my lap it’s back to the port to let my tyres cool off while I wait for my boat back to the mainland.

My lap time was 69 minutes and 55 seconds so there’s definitely room for improvement if I’m gonna take the record but it’s not a bad first attempt I don’t think! – Luke, sadly you can only up the speed limiter on an Actros to 130kph. Although it will help with your lap time I’m not sure the Police will be willing to write you an exemption letter!! TB.

The Race to The Finnish Line – Days 11 & 12

Day 11 – Tuesday 12th of March 

Up at 0530 for a wash and hit the road before 0600. My toll box give me a red X when I tested i,so I stop at a garage and get it reactivated while I grab coffee and a French hot dog. Nothing much to report on today fairly boring. I arrive at Port 2000 truck stop near Swiebodzin at 1730 and get the truck washed a top job and only £18 a thousand times better than the dirty water washes in the UK!

Then into the restaurant for the Polish special … pork and potatoes! Then off to bed ready for an early start before loading in the morning.

Day 12 – Wednesday 13th of March 

I think this will be where I finish the diary as I predicted the best is behind me now sadly. 😢

I’m up at 0400 for shower and breakfast and out the door at 0540 my first port of call is the AS24 at Słubice to top off on the cheaper diesel. I arrived at my pick up in Luckau for 0755 just as they’re opening up to load a section of a crane for Sheffield. Another truck arrives to collect another section for the same destination and to my surprise it’s a Cypriot in an ex Waberers unit pulling a Dutch trailer! Makes a nice change from it being a Bulgarian unit stealing the western work I suppose!

I’m booked on the Thursday night boat from the Hook of Holland to Killingholme, so have plenty of time to get there. I call it a day at 1330 at BS-OST autohof on the A2 near Brunswick where I can enjoy a leisurely afternoon with a beer and a truckerpfanne for my tea.

Thank you to everyone who had read he diary hopefully you’ve enjoyed it and thank you to Ben for choosing it to feature on truckblog.co.uk for the past couple of weeks.

TB – Awesome Long Distance Diary Luke. Loved every day, especially the snowy bit! Badge earned.

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 10

Day 10 – Monday 11th of March 

Alarm goes off at 0600 feeling refreshed after my day of in Tallinn. I open the curtains to see that it’s been snowing all night so I hope it’s not been to heavy and cause any delays today. It turns out I’m not the only one who’s a long way from home as I spot this Iranian truck waiting to check in for a boat to Finland just before I set off.
It’s a easy going even with the snow coming down and makes the scenery very nice on the drive. I eventually make it out of the snow after a couple of hours. I stop at the Latvian border to get my road tax, just as I’m setting off the snow starts coming down again.

Then I head south on the A1 towards Riga running right along the coast of the Baltic Sea. Next stop is the Lithuanian border where I stop and fuel up and get my road tax once again. I set off on the A10 heading towards Kaunas then on towards Poland, as I’m pulling out of the garage the snow is back! I get to a place called Jeziokri just over the border and park up for the night in a TIR park have a bit of tea in the restaurant and a quick look around the truck store at all the toys before getting back in the truck to go to bed and you guessed it, it’s snowing again so looks as if this weather is going to be following me back to the UK I think.

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 9

Day 9 – The tourists segment of the diary!

I’m taking my weekly rest in Tallinn I was debating on weather to take it in Helsinki and get a boat Monday morning ive been to here 3 times now but normally I’ve only had time to roll in and get on a boat.
I’m glad I elected for Tallinn now! I had a leisurely start to the day and woke got up and out at 1030 my first stop was the garage outside the port to find out how to pay my vignette for Monday and the cashier showed me how to do it online. Next stop is the Irish bar for a fry up and after that I go for a walk around town. 
This place is incredible it’s so beautiful I’m pretty much walking around everywhere open mouthed catching flies. The old town has been preserved so well to maintain a medieval feel to it with old cobbled street and narrow alleyways. 

Everywhere you go you can smell food coming from an awesome looking restaurant and the bars all look brilliant and even the shops are worth a walk around. If you are planning a mini break with mrs or a weekend on the ale with the lads this place needs to be at the top of your list! I can’t recommend it highly enough. After hours of walking all over Tallinn it’s back to the Irish bar at 1830 for Man Utd vs Arsenal. 

The Race to The Finnish Line – Day 8

Saturday 9th of March 

My alarm goes off at 0630 and there are some aching joints after yesterday’s action in the cold! I get dressed and do a quick walk around check and head to security to get checked in to tip the load. I pull up where I’m tipping and get everything unstrapped and ready. The forklift driver takes the front two crates off with a small tele-handler and I then wonder how he’s getting the main machine of seeing as it weighs 16 ton. An enormous forklift arrives to take the last piece off, the paperwork is signed and I’m free to go, job done!! Before leaving I get my airline out to pump up the tyres that I deflated yesterday to get out of the snow and then I’m ready to rock.


I receive a picture from my driver Steve who is delivering to a cruise ship in Cadiz, Spain. We are separated by 3149 miles and 30 degrees celsius with Steve being the lucky one enjoying a nice 26 in his shorts!

I decided to head back the route my sat nav originally wanted me to take yesterday to see if it’s any better. I’ve still got the chains on from yesterday just in case but after a few kms the surface seem better than it was yesterday and the noise is driving me mad so I stop and remove them and set back off again. Within 2 minutes I’m driving into a blizzard of snow and wishing I’d kept the chains on! The road isn’t any better than the one I took yesterday and got stuck on so don’t know why the sat nav chose it especially with it being 100 kms longer.

I’ve been getting a lot of flashes and a wave or a thumbs up from a lot of the Finnish trucks which I wonder if it’s because of the truck. There aren’t a lot of DAF’s here and any you do see are white beaten up eastern block motors. Maybe it’s because they’re spotting the GB plates which I’d assume is a very rare site up hear too, especially in the north. (There’s the possibility they follow Truckblog and it’s like seeing a celebrity! But if that was the case I doubt I’d be getting a thumbs up more likely a p*** off! 😂) – ((of course they follow TB!! – TB))

I eventually make it back onto the main drag and can get a bit of a move on. I’m reloading in Luckau, Germany on Wednesday morning so will be heading back to Helsinki to catch the ferry to Tallinn. I arrive in Helsinki at 1730 and get checked in for the 2030 sailing. I’m starving so go to the hotel just outside the port that I’ve stayed in whilst working on a conference here a few years ago. I know they serve reindeer steaks, so I go stuff myself before the boat arrives. I get off the boat in Tallinn at 2300 and park up in the port where I will take my 24 hours off and set of again early on Monday morning.

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!!!