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!


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; 

Small is Beautiful

We are now 10 years down the road here on the blog and if there are any of you first blog readers still here, then it’s time you…….no no, then most of you will know that I love a little truck with a big cab and the icing on the cake is one that does international work! For me the perfect example are the two little trucks you see above. A good pal of mine spends many a Wednesday doing what we’d all love to do, he stands on a bridge over the M20 in Kent photographing all the trucks, mainly those heading to or from the UK’s main link with Europe, Dover Docks. All of the photos in this blog are all taken and copyright to Neil Jarrold. Without Neil I’d struggle to see quite so many of these delightful little motors from my office in Ipswich! The little Italian TGL LX above just oozes something that flicks my switch, big cab, smart paint, tidy bodywork, big fuel tanks and foreign number plates! You could get me into that truck and send me to Italy everyday even if you offered me tractor and trailer instead. Bellissimo. 

So it needs a big cab, it needs to be international and the only way to hit perfection is add on a little fridge body. Bingo!! I know the little Pulleyn Ategos used to go far and wide hence the TIR board but once again the little MAN just looks the ticket. Maybe as I had a little MAN 7.5 tonner I’m a little biased but the little German is the best thing in the MAN range by a very long way. 

How about a little DAF? Well the small problem with the LF is that they don’t do their own big cab, you need to look for an aftermarket one. A local company to me Hatcher Components do a marvellous twin bunk “Sky Cab” conversation for the little Dutchman and I have to say it is once again rather splendid. Painted properly the DAF is as gorgeous as it Dutch roots, a real head turner. 

I still don’t really get why I like them quite so much, even a mini artic does the trick and has that certain, Je ne sais pas quoi. The one thing I do know is, every time I see some of Neil’s photos capturing their journeys doing as many miles as any of their bigger cousins across Europe, it always makes me want to get back to it. As I have certainly said before, if I’d managed to stop in my little MAN and actually speak to another now friend of mine, Steve Marsh, then just perhaps I could still have my own little big cabbed truck. I like it when I get talking to some of you lot and I often get the impression we could be talking about any hobby or passion. Some of you like heavy haulage, some tippers, some Foden’s and I guess for me, my “speciality” is little big cabs. But then again as with anything, variety is the spice of life and trucks are no different. I’d be a boring old truck show if we all liked the same thing! Thanks to Neil Jarrold for the photos. 


The Golden Days with a SuperMAN! 

Watch out it’s going to get rather romantic I think! I wasn’t about in the golden days of trucking I was a mere ankle biting pain in my parents backside. As a lad and as I’ve told you many times before I longed for my driving licence and to be heading off to far flung places but I admit my golden days are very different to the general term of the 70’s and 80’s and also very different to everyone’s own good old days. No matter your age, country or work, if you’re a driver you’ll have your own favourite job, workplace and truck. Not necessarily your first or last, or even the most expensive but the one job you’ve loved, the job that made you think; “I love my job!”. I maintain to this day that if you haven’t had at least one day like that then more fool you for doing a job that underneath it all you don’t enjoy. For me those days were the second truck I owned as an owner driver at the tender age of 20ish, an MAN 8.163, 7.5 tonner. 

The little German really earned her keep. No speed limiter back then meant there were plenty of days that packed the best part of 1000km into my “10” hours driving. I’m no hero and don’t claim to be a nonstop 24 hours a day at the wheel type, but most of you at some point would have and probably have found the old fashioned ways of bending the rules to get a job done, or to get you to a load point or even home. This little lorry never let me down and got me to different places day in day out. Various jobs entrusted to me meant that I was the only truck on the job and often I’d have deliveries to the same destination one week and then onto another project the next week. Maybe Braintree to Cheltenham and Gloucester and back. Maybe Chelmsford to Swindon and back. May be three days of Braintree to Carmarthen and back. 270 miles one way, that’s 4.5 hours at 60mph. I could just about do it in 9 hours and I think the worst day was a 10 hour drive. Thankfully I am just on the edge of remembering the good days of the M25 when you could get round it without stopping at most times of the day. The little MAN was up for it all. If only there had been more European trips I really would have been in seventh heaven. 

This was my second truck so perhaps as the whole driving thing and freedom had passed and I was just intent on doing as much work as I possibly could. This was where I adopted the phrase “Long Days, Late Nights” a sticker of which would appear on the doors of all my other trucks. At this point I’m not sure anything could have stopped me loving everyday on the road quite so much. We all love the open road and seeing the world go by through the windscreen otherwise we wouldn’t be doing the job. Getting up to Larkhall in Scotland three times a week and reloading from Newcastle-upon-Tyne back to Essex and Suffolk, it was awesome. How much I picked up on these trips from old hands who really had been there and done it and are probably still doing it! For me part of the job was the people you met and what you could glean from them. These days it drives me nuts that the majority seem to park up and go to bed or plug in their Playstations. When I did park up I’d get out the cab and go and find a like minded person to spend the evening with and chat. You could learn new routes, new ways to do things, even learn about delivery points,  all info that isn’t written down but is (for want of a better phrase), driving folklaw. A new one GW!. All this just made me love the job I loved even more. What wasn’t there to love?? and ontop of all I was making money. 

Good old days indeed. I’d spend my money on what I thought were decent accessories for the little MAN. I think it started with a box full of lights and stainless steel from the then biggest name in the USA, Panelite. Then came new stainless steel rear door hinges, handles and brackets. A set of Speedline alloy wheels from Tyretracks of Eccleshall. Always Michelin Tyres. I know some of you even remember the “barbers pole” I painted on the prop shaft?! and so it went on. I’ve always been of the mentality that the truck is what sells my company to those who don’t know me. Definitely the case when the airbrushed Atego came along. I like to think the truck wasn’t over the top but showed that I cared for it and in turn cared for people’s cargo. Regular cargos of sunbeds, to tail lifts to computers and farm machinery. Often with comments on how smart the little truck was. Add everything together and I think it’s fair to say that you can see why these were my own golden days. At the end of the day I was young, successful and driving what I thought was the best looking 7.5 tonner in the UK, apart from Frank Hudson Transport of course! 


Ibiza Weekender MAN??

Once again I got trumped on a bank holiday weekend by Mr Marsh! At the beginning of May Marshy spent the bank holiday on the delightful island of Guernsey In the English Channel and then last weekend for May’s 2nd bank holiday (UK bank holiday) he was back on the white isle in the Spanish Mediterranean…….Ibiza. 

As can often be the way with express work, the schedule was a tight one and relied heavily on catching the right ferries at the right time. If you need someone to meet such deadlines then Steve Marsh is your man, sorry MAN! Here’s the basic schedule;

– Load Sunday Evening Nr Spalding, GB.

– Catch the ferry Tuesday night from Barcelona to Ibiza. 

– Tip & ReLoad Ibiza Thursday. 

– Catch the ferry from Ibiza to Barcelona Friday daytime. 

– Deliver back to near Spalding, GB Sunday afternoon. 

Last August the little MAN delivered down in the south of Ibiza, This time around it was a tip and load in the North East of the island. Surely that is the mark of logistical excellence? Tip and load at the same place on a Mediterranean island? The stuff the romance of the road is made of! Although I have to say keeping an eye on Facebook there are a load of UK people out and about at the mo, Iceland, Ibiza and Sardinia to name a few destinations. Perhaps the UK transport scene is moving into the specialist market more and more, hence the more exotic locations?! 

I’m sure Marshy has definately spent nights in far less glamorous locations with far worse views! Oh life on the road, if ever a Destination Doha phrase should be applied it should be here; “The sun never sets on a long distance lorry driver” – Well if ever it did, that is the place for it. Look at me getting all romantic, hmmm more like missing life on the road to be fair. 8 years off the road and I still miss it, so please keep sending your pics and stories. If anyone else wants to write a diary piece or anything please feel free and then email me words and photos or like Marshy, you can send details and photos and I’ll do the words. My email; – come on get emailing you’ve all got a story to tell. 


Guernsey MAN 


I haven’t seen my old pal Steve Marsh for a while now, so as I had a spare ticket for Truckfest I thought I’d ask him the question, being the generous type that I am! Now usually when Marshy tells me where he’s off too I get a little envious, but he’s reason for not coming to Peterborough turned my envy into more of a feeling of the big green eyed monster.

 “Sorry but I’ll be on the boat to Guernsey on Sunday morning.”

I could just leave the blog there but I’m not sure that’s utterly fair so I’ll go on for you my dear readers sake. Firstly I’d love to go back to driving a little 12 ton rigid around Europe this is the reason I enjoy Marshys reports so much and secondly I spent an awful lot of my teenage summers in Guernsey and I can’t think of a nice place to be heading for on a bank holiday weekend, let alone getting paid for it. Some of you will understand that in the world of hot-shot and express work, sometimes reloads can be some distance from deliveries but as long as the miles are paid who cares?? Here is the itinerary for starting from  the Wednesday before last (remember Monday this week was a bank holiday in the UK); 

Wednesday: Load Weymouth – A Printing machine.

 Thursday:  Deliver Zundert NL

 Friday: Load 20 miles south of Strasbourg – Security Doors

 Sunday:  Ferry from Portsmouth to Guernsey via Jersey (Condor Ferries)

 Mon: Lounge around in St Peter Port

Tue: Deliver to Guernsey Airport with motorcycle outrider escort. 

The original plan was to catch the boat from St Malo but the load wasn’t ready in time near Strasbourg. Even though it sailed 3pm Saturday you have to check in at 8am and Steve couldn’t get there till 10:30.


Nice work if you can get it! Being some what of a Guernsey fan I suggested that as it was bank holiday then there was bound to be some Motorsport event on the island and much to Marshys enjoyment they had a hill climb race going on out of St Peter Port. This whiles away a few hours on bank holiday Monday. On Tuesday morning Steve was collected from the Port by his motorcycle escort to drive the 4 miles upto the islands airport and to make his delivery. The escort is required due to the little MAN being 2.5m wide and the width limit on Guernsey is a narrow 2.3m wide. 


The boat back to England wasn’t until Tuesday night so Steve had the rest of the day to mooch about. I suggested the delightful Petit Bot Bay just outside of St Peter Port. Judging by the photo below he took my tourist advice and enjoyed  one of the best little beaches on the Island. Anyway back to work, but still it’s always nice to get a little treat I guess! Beats the Bruxelles ring road any day. 



MAN Down on Shap (Nearly!)


Back when I were a lad and a fairly infant owner driver, I remember a time that certainly put hairs on my chest if nothing else. When we all start out as young drivers we are entrusted with a truck and asked to set out on our own across the UK or where ever. Naturally there is a learning process, somethings are common sense, some things are taught by others, some taught by making mistakes and some taught by Mother Nature! I’ve always been one to listen to older drivers as in my experience what they have to say is worth listening too. Most older drivers have been there and done it and I think they have nearly always been in a situation that the younger generation will learn from. I’m all for learning and all for taking advice and it’s only natural that as inquisitive beingswe might not always make the right decision when faced with a situation we have not encounter before. It’s called thinking on your feet. 


Having delivered another load of new sunbeds to Larkhall, Scotland there was a single unpacked, salon ready sunbed to return to Braintree. I strapped it against the headboard and headed south. Just enough time to get back Penrith Truckstop for the night. Overnight the wind got up. When I say it got up I mean it was howling! The buzz around the Truckstop was a couple of trucks had gone over on the A66 and drivers were trying to decide whether to wait it out or head off into the wind. Now here’s the decision for a 19 year old owner driver. I had to get back to Braintree that day to get my next job loaded, but I had to go via Manchester to collect some parts. Penrith to Manchester is a beautiful drive on a lovely day but for those who don’t know the UK, driving the M6 motorway between these two places involved probably the windiest section of motorway in the UK. Near the town of Shap the motorway claims no end of trucks during the year, with high winds, ice, snow and what ever else comes out of mother natures purse! So I had on an expensive piece of electrical machinery that couldn’t get wet, I had to get back to base to load, I also had to go over Shap to get my second collection on. Should I go or should I stay?? I decided I’d give it a go.   

If my curtains had been like this and I wasn’t loaded, the worst would have been losing the fibreglass sheet roof, but as I was loaded the curtains were shut. Off I set out of Penrith Truckstop and south onto the M6. A mile or two south and I was already thinking I had made the wrong decision, the wind was strong, stronger than I’d felt before and it seemed to be directly side on. A 7.5 tonner with closed curtains might as well be described as a kite. A couple more miles passed and I passed some over turned trucks. I have to say not many vehicles were on the motorway at all, I slowed right down and was struggling along at 20-30 mph at most. I caught up with another 7.5 tonner that had lost its roof and was taking shelter under a large bridge over the motorway. Perhaps that’s were experience should have taken over. I carried on and was virtually at Shap and the worst weather I had encountered, howling wind and rain straight from my right had side. A few gusts really knocked my sideways and I was on the hard shoulder, managing to get back to the main carriageway another strong gust caught me so I eased off the throttle and then a second huge huge gust hit and put me up on just two wheels. You know the saying “time stands still”, that must have been the longest few seconds of my life!! Luckily for me the gust passed and I managed to get the little MAN back on all fours, so close to being blown over is a feeling I won’t forget and in someways I don’t like to think would could have happened. Anyway there was no shelter what so ever, so I carried on trying to get my heart rate back down to normalish and work out what I should do. Just then I noticed in my mirrors a truck catching me up. It turned out to be a couple of Irish fridges. Known for running at full legal weight these two were obviously not as affected by the wind as I was in m my little German kite. I grabbed my CB in the hope these two may be on channel 19. My luck was in, truck 2 replied and asked if I was alright. I noticed when they were passing I was clearly in the safe zone and taking the brunt of wind, lightbulb moment!! “Can you stay in the middle lane and I stay on your inside until we get further south?” I asked. The reply was “of course” so off we went. Me in my little truck being chaperoned by these two big Irish fridge trucks taking the wind on my behalf. I stayed there for the 35 miles or so to Lancaster and I was more than grateful to the two Irish drivers whose names I can’t remember. Thank you. 

Anyway it just goes to show that driving trucks is a permanent learning curve no matter what your age. Yes I was young at the time and perhaps a few years later I would have made the other decision and stayed put at Penrith for a few hours til the wind dropped, but without a bit of comradeship the job can be a lot harder. It saddens me to think that  my friends who still drive say there is no comradeship in the UK anymore. Just remember if you see a driver struggling and your thinking “what a plonker why doesn’t he/she just do that?” Perhaps take five minutes to help them or pass on what you probably learned from someone else. There are enough pressures and deadlines to make the job of driving trucks theses days hard enough, perhaps if more drivers helped in other out it would make your day or there just that little bit easier. 

Oh look a step down off this soapbox…..