All About Me

  

There’s been a lot of new recruits to the blog this year, on the www, Twitter and through the Facebook page so I thought I better tell you my credentials as I’m not just a wanna be trucker (although I do wanna be one again!), I have been there and done a bit. It goes something like this. Now this is a story all about how, my life got flipped-turned upside down, and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, and I’ll tell you how I became trucking nerd…… Oh no hang on that doesn’t rhyme!!

At the beginning of 1997 I was tasked on a college course to formulate a business plan that would or could work. It turns out the plan worked and the bank were keen so before I finished college I got a DAF 45 on order and started looking for work. In October ’97 I started as a Subbie for DFDS distribution in Coggeshall, Essex. I was soon covering….. 

 On a daily basis with anything between 15-20 deliveries and collections. What a way to learn my way about (no Sat-Navs then younger readers just a box of maps!) maps I hear you say?? Yep read THIS BLOG.  I still use some of the short cuts now! A year or so later and DFDS moved to Purfleet and I didn’t follow. Local business soon started giving me work and I was soon UK wide with loads of virtually everything and anything. The poor little DAF couldn’t keep up and 2-3 years after getting her I traded her in for possibly my favourite truck from the BJS fleet, an MAN 8.163 with a Hatcher Space cab.  

 This little German served me very very well and in our prime we were doing Braintree, Essex to Larkhall, Scotland 3 times a week even now and again with a reload of lead rolls from David Park Transport in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 3 pallets just over 3 ton. From day one I had done the odd run to the Continent but never enough. I was so busy running round the UK that I only ever got to wave as we passed to Steve Marsh as he was also the owner of a smart Hatcher canned MAN. A massive if only, but I believe if only we had stopped for a cuppa I could have still been doing the Continental with a little Tonka you. Along with, tail lifts, computers, baseball hats, Chinese menu’s, supermarket light fittings, industrial door fixings and 50-75kg sacks of hand loaded hessian sacks of malt to name but a few commodities I took on a driver and put the real show truck of the fleet on the road and passed the MAN onto my only ever employee Steve Shackle.  

 The Atego was awesome and again worked hard across the length and breadth of mainland UK. She was well recognised and got in quite a few magazines. This lead to the start of some Mercedes-Benz friendships that continue to this day. A very big customer went pop with no warning and I was literally in the proverbial dirty river with no oars. So goodbye to the MAN, the Atego and Steve. At the same time I was offered traction work although I didn’t have a class one license at the time. I ordered a Mercedes-Benz Actros of the same man that sold me the MAN and the Atego and two weeks before it went on the road I passed my class one with no minor faults.

  
I can safely say that living in this Actros (Claudia), turned me from boy to man. I lived in her virtually for the three years I had her and the long distance lorry driver life was what I hoped it always would be. Bloody hard work, great friends, some crazy trucking about and much to my delight a lot more continental. Nothing silly by most of your standards but, Belgium Holland and just into Germany on a very regular basis. Amazing the things you see and the situations you can find yourself in, some good some bad, some exciting and some ‘kin scary and eye opening but none the less it was awesome! I bought and restored a Scania 141 the same age as me and had agreed with the people I was working for that they’d give me trailer with no more than 15 ton on so for odd weeks I could run the 141 on the continent. Sadly it never happened. The 141 did, the work didn’t and not long after I had to make the hardest decision I’ve ever made and had to give up BJS International. 

  
The 141 got me going and the pinnacle was taking her to the Truckstar Festival in Holland. In the real world I got a job with a local firm driving an 8 wheeler around Essex for GB Finch. A fun job and I’m told I still hold plenty of fleet records. Drifting an 8 wheel tipper in wet mud is always good for morale.  

 I landed a job at HC Wilson Transport in the office and this was close to being what I wanted to do. Great people, great job and a great fleet. Routing trucks and securing loads all over Europe, Scandinavia and where ever the customer would pay, there’s a lot to learn in the world of international abnormal loads but it was rewarding. Oh the romance of international trucking! 

Moving on from Wilson’s having sold the 141 to raise a family, I went to Kersey Freight as fleet manager and holiday relief driver! Long days and on call 24 hours a day was rewarded with the odd spell back on the road doing two trips to Paris a week. Good times although I have to say back then crossing the channel was a breeze. 

 
Once again I got itchy feet and have now changed to the other side of the desk if you like and I have great job, spending my time talking about trucks to hauliers. Although not long after starting this dream job I did get offered the chance of being an owner driver again with a mini artic moving flash cars all over europa but age brings a certain amount thought and reality over what your spontaneous side wants to do. Funny old game, but I am a firm believer that once you get diesel in your veins you can’t get rid of it, hence the reason I’m trying to encourage my son to continue with his love of the local zoo and animals, but that’s the start of another hot topic in the press this week #lovethelorry. I now have friends across the UK and a couple else where in the world  through the blog and I find myself taking a big interest in driver friends daily trucking exploits to satisfy my never ending urge to go back on the road. I’ve not been a truck owner for a few years now and I feel like I have to say that in an AA meeting style! Hopefully in the next year or so I can get another retro show truck to help my marriage and stop me annoying Mrs Blog every weekend!! 
Anyway that’s me. Happy to talk trucks with anyone and I always question those who spend every day and night involved with trucks but still say that hate them.

“Ever see a duck that couldn’t swim?!”

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Quiz Time: Guess the Permit

  
A man after my own heart, Jonathan Campbell of Essex. A man with a 15 ton Mercedes-Benz Atego, that probably gets around Europe more than most of the rest. Recently covering Ireland, Turkey and Greece to name a few. With a good size box body, good customer contacts and years of European experience Mr Campbell is the man that can. The Atego has had a few additions recently in the way of auxiliary roof cooler and a tidy Kelsa light bar. 

  

I’m pleased to say Jonathan is one of the “lucky” few who are sporting a Truckblog sticker on his motor and as you can see the sticker is in good company. As it goes that sticker is the only one I’ve genuinely seen on the move. Spotted late one evening on the M25 coming back into Essex from Dartford, I have to say I was quite chuffed, the kids got excited and the wife didn’t care a less! Anyway I digress. 

As you can see the Atego is sporting a slightly rare sticker, a P30 Permit sticker to be exact. Not one I had come across before, although I now remember I did have to quote a job in my days at HC Wilson that would have required the same permits. Here’s the question;

Where abouts was Jonathan when he took these photos, that required him to have the P30 permit? No Googling the answer!!!

Has anyone else got a photo of a P30 permit on their truck??

  

Mini Artic – Atego

  
It’s been a while since I did a bit on the delight that is a mini artic and I have a fairly valid excuse to do so, well three excuses. First one being its my blog and I can write what I like! Second isn’t quite so playground, I found this gorgeous little 7.5 ton Mercedes-Benz Atego up for sale. A while back I didn’t a number of blogs on mini artics as we were trying to confirm what the combination weights would be. This particular dealer obviously decided it would be a good idea to stick up a photo of the weight plate as I can only assume that he knew he’d get asked by many what the max weight was. Well as the plate below confirms, the Atego has a permissible maximum weight of 7,490 as expected. The permissable  combination weight states a total weight of tractor, trailer and load of 18,725kg. I think that’s fairly decent? Even if you said 4 ton max for the weight of the tractor, the trailer won’t be more than 2 / 2.5 ton so you have the potential for a payload of around 12 ton, now your talking!  

As you can see this little Atego has all the bells and whistles including twin bunks, air horns, shiny wheels and clearly a keen ex driver as there is nearly a shiny fuel tank too. I have a couple of exoctic plans for my mini artic career. The plausible idea would be to work for one of the car carrying companies. A twin car trailer with sloping floor, side doors and a small fridge motor to keep a constant temperature for those that need it or a load of race tyres. Even with a decent spec trailer, 2 big cars at 4 ton a piece would still be achievable. The other idea, not so plausible, would be to get a single steering axle, extendable flatbed to move around over length things, ideally sailing boat and ship masts to all the posh marina destinations across Europe – keep dreaming that’s what I say!!

 
My third and final reason for doing a bit on mini artics is because I came across one of the German companies who build a lot of mini artic trailers. The company is called Eisel and along with normal trailers they appear to be quite the people to see for your minisattel requirements. Whether it’s a flat or a box what they manufacture appears to be of typical decent German build quality.  

   
I’ve still not checked Friday’s Euromillions ticket, you never know I might be off to Germany by the end of week to order up the dream machine. I know mini artics aren’t quite the same as their bigger brothers but as Mrs Blog says, size doesn’t matter it’s what you do with it that counts! Down to Eisel Nutzfahr Zeuge to get the flatbed and the box on order it is then, you have to agree the box van below does look pretty dam smart and all the more appealing now we know the payload potential.  

    
 

Big Boys Toys

I have a son who is 5 years old and for a couple of years now he has been the proud owner of a Bruder Toys fire engine. It’s a big bugger and takes up a fair amount of space but what I really admire are the working parts. The turn-table ladder extends up to over a metre, the stabiliser legs extend out and take the weight off the wheels and best of all there is a fully functioning and usable water pump that shoots water out of the long rubber hose. If there was a small fire in our house I have no doubt that this machine would easily cope with the emergency. If you watch the first video above then could easily be forgiven for thinking that it’s a promotional video about the Arocs range by Mercedes-Benz!

This leads me nicely onto another chance mention of Bruder Toys I had on a training course at work. One of our top trainers who works with people all across the UK and is is regular liaison and consultation with those at world headquarters in Germany, made me aware of the Bruder videos and was quite insistent that I have a good watch. Now I’m please to say that following Mr Nick Smiths advice, my son and I spent the best part of 30 minutes (father and son bonding time of course Mrs Blog!) watching through loads of videos on the Bruder YouTube channel, including the tractor and combine harvester ones, you’ve got to have a look. Not only are they big boys toys in the true sense of the phrase, they really are, or could be a useful working truck! If only they came radio controlled, now there’s an idea Bruder, then you really could have a fleet of working vehicles to help with the gardening or building jobs. The cement mixer can even pour out its load and the gritter below does actually spread grit out the back, what more could you want?? Oh you want it big enough so your gorilla hands don’t stop you playing, well as the 8 wheelers are over half a metre long I don’t think you’ll have an issue.

It just so happens that I have a birthday coming up in the next couple of weeks and for the first time in a good while I think I will have something affordable that I actually want on my birthday list. For boy or girls, for truck lovers, young farmers or what ever, I strongly recommend having a look at Bruder. If I get one for my birthday then I’m sure said truck will last for a good number of years and will get a few metres under its wheels on family jobs and beach holidays! Great work Bruder, now how about the radio controlled versions??…….

 

Boys & Their Tonka Toys

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You all know I like a mini artic. You all know I like a Mercedes-Benz. You all know I like a little sleeper cabs and you all know I like a bit of retro trucking. Roll these all together and there is only one result….a Mercedes-Benz 814 with an L Cab Twin sleeper. I think the range was called the LN2′ first launched in 1984. This little machine was once the king of the 7.5 tonners and many of us could only dream of driving such a truck but just as many of you were lucky enough to drive one. I remember being aged 17 and parked at McDonalds in Braintree, while all my mates were checking out their new stereos and who had the best pair of 6×9’s, so I wandered across the car park to talk to the driver of an 814 (might have been an 817). I had a MK1 Williams Renault Clio so I had nothing to prove in the car park show down! If I remember rightly the little Merc was white with maybe a red and blue stripe and a small crane mounted on the flatbed body. I think it was from the Nottingham area, although the driver said he spent most of his time doing oilfield work running between Scotland and the Mediterranean. Wow. Anyone know the description of the truck??

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As I am now working in the three pointed star stables, classic Mercs come up from time to time and as I spend to much time searching for old trucks for sale across Europe in my spare time, I have recently been searching for a decent 814 L Cab Twin sleeper. The reason I look for used trucks is just in case one day my numbers do come in on the Euro Millions! So I found this little blanco frigo and it got me thinking. From now on take this as fun subject to be enjoyed and for you to add to in a constructive way if possible. If I was to buy an old 814 sleeper, could i convert it to a 6×2, tag axle tractor unit??? I know I’m odd but that’s the way my mind works. I’ll only find a 4×2 truck for sale so to turn it into a tractor I’ll have to get the gas axe out and cut the chassis. I reckon the tag axle should be fairly straight forward, using another 814 axle? Should be possible, shouldn’t it? Then the big thing I would need your advice on would be the engine. Most LN2’s were fitted with a 5.96 litre straight six, a nice little engine I’m sure, but if I’m going so far as to cut the chassis and add a rear lift axle. I want a decent power plant to take me all the truck shows. Can I replace the trucks factory fitted engine with a 5 litre V8 Diesel engine that was once fitted in various big Mercedes-Benz cars? The main reason I’d want to do this would be the sound of course, all show goers know the importance of a good V8 noise. I’m no mechanic but if the engine is just used to drive the mini tractor unit and not used to pull any weight or a load, would the engine have enough guts to power the little unit around? And would it be physically compatible/possible?

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All clean comments and thought appreciated as I have a mind full of what seem like crazy ideas and sometimes I like to try and find out if any of them are possible. Just look at that little cab, gorgeous little thing, if any of you have photos you want to share then I’d love to seem them. You can email me at ben@truckblog.co.uk and I’ll post some up on the blog at a later date. Anyway the mechanics among you need to get your thinking hats on please.

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Retro Power Lining

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Last week I had an enjoyable couple of days on a course up at Wentworth Park near Barnsley. The idea was to learn all about the wonders and advances of Mercedes-Benz trucks compared to it competitors and even from where I’m standing it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t run MB on your fleet in some capacity. Everyone knows and thinks it’s funny I’m such a Scania fan but I work for Mercedes-Benz, but as my regular readers will know back in the days of running my own trucks Mercedes were the only choice for me. I’ve ways maintained that if I was ever to start again I would have an all MB fleet but have some old Scania or two for the show circuit. The only thing that has changed since my time at Orwell Trucks Mercedes-Benz is that I think if probably have to have an old SK or Powerliner for the show season too.
So imagine my delight when parked close to the entrance of my training course was this delightfully restored 1834LS. The vehicle has been restored by MB and is to be kept and used at various shows, in fact some of you would have seen it at the Retro Truck Show at Gaydon last year.

The vehicle was originally sold by Rygor Commercials to a company called Premier Waste. It must have then been returned after contract hire to Mercedes-Benz where it was once again purchased by Rygor Commercials (this was likely to be a paperwork exercise and the vehicle would have stayed at Rygors). In 2003 Rygor loaned the vehicle to SDC, a division of Honda at Swindon, where it was used as a shunter. Then in 2009 it was bought again by MB Approved Used Commercials. Since then the truck has been restored and repainted using genuine parts where possible. I think she’s lovely although I’m sorry to say we didn’t have time for a lesson in driving an EPS gearbox correctly….one day. I have found a nice LHD 1953 for sale in Holland, tempting. The truck spec is listed as follows;

– 1st registered 6 November 1995 (N reg)
– Engine V6 Turbo 340hp
– 8 Speed Split EPS Gearbox
– L Sleeper cab
– ABS brakes
– Drivers electric window
– Electric rear view mirror
– Luxury suspension seat for the driver
– Sunvisor
– 400 Litre fuel tank

What a little gem. I’m back at Wentworth Park in a few weeks so I hope to achieve the EPS training, if your reading Nick Smith?!? Any way this not the only retro truck, there were also two original Long Distance cabbed Mercedes-Benz Actros. Both trucks have genuine mileages of only a few hundred thousand Kilometres on the clock and are in great condition although I had forgotten how garishly awful the original seat covers and door cards were. Any way lots to see on this course so I hope the next one is just as enjoyable.

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My Best Truck of 2014

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For me this is the best truck I have seen in 2014. It might not be the newest, it might not be most practical for most of Europe and it certainly won’t be everyones taste but for me, spot on.

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If you live in the UK and haven’t been to one I strongly advise that you make 2015 your first trip to a European truck show, the standard of trucks is amazing. I can’t deny that the trucks here in the UK are getting better and better but the Europeans just seem to have it right, they all look good. To me the best trucks have always been out of reach of what I could afford or achieve and the T560 is no different. We all joke about winning the lottery but a Tcab would be very close to the top of my list. It’s blue, it’s got two sets of pipes, it’s got a subtle custom interior and enough lights to make it look good but not over the top. As with anything I would make a few subtle changes as I’d want to put my mark on it.

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2014 has seen a big rise in the blogs popularity through all mediums, the Facebook page, twitter and the good old fashioned http://www.truckblog.co.uk website. I’m not going to link to any of those this time round as I’m sure you all could do with a break from the ruthless links and plugs for the blog. I have no idea where the blog will be in another 12 months, hopefully you’ll all still send me stuff, photos, info and the odd piece of trucking memorabilia to decorate TBHQ and I’ll keep bugging the TV companies in the vague hope they’ll see that we need Truckblog TV!

Hopefully I’ll be visiting, Truckfest Peterborough, Crowfield Truck Rally, Gathering of the Griffin, Retro Truck Show at Gaydon, more than likely (and hopefully) Truckstar Festival at Assen as my foreign trip, although I have heard on the grapevine that there is quite a convoy of English motors heading to the International Trucker & Country Show held at Interlaken, CH. I have always wanted to go James?? Finally if the offer is still there then I might just make it to Belfast too.

Anyway thank you for following and thank you for making the blog what it is, without your contributions I’m sure you’d all be bored silly of 143’s, MAN TGL LX’s and Mercedes-Benz photos! As we all do secretly say now and again Keep on Trucking!

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