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! 

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well what more could a non-driving ex lorry driver want for his 38th birthday?!!? Yep your right I’m easily pleased. A little birthday treat from top blog contributed Steve Marsh and his delightfully gorgeous little MAN Hotel on wheels. Thanks Steve a much appreciated bday treat. 


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. 


Not Just a Van-MAN


Can’t beat a little truck with a big cab! I’ve long been a fan of a Space cabbed 7.5 – 12 tonner, whether it’s an Atego, a DAF or the delightful MAN TGL. Having run both a MAN and a Mercedes myself, it’s very difficult to pick a winner between the two, they are both great trucks and full of big truck feel. The likes of DAF don’t do their own big cab but the Hatcher Components  conversion is very good but isn’t factory finish and then there’s the Iveco. Anyway back to the little truck in the photo, you’ve probably seen it at one of many Truck Shows last year where owner Brian Hill picked up more than a couple of decent trophies including a number of 1sts. I’ve been trying to get to see the truck for a wee while now and of course meet Brian. The truck is used by Harrison Commercials to collect and deliver vans to and from auction houses and the like and their Newark base. 


The truck was once a boggo standard TGL LX with a matching black box body. Fancing a new challenge and a change from the Italians Brian bought the truck and soon set to the bodywork. A local chap put together a fag-packet proposal for the beavertail bodywork and feeling brave Brian said yes! If you get a chance to look at the body it is a masterpiece in cutting and welding. As for the rest of the outside, a whole host of marker lights, spotlights, home made half shaft covers and some custom made graphics. The full set of light bars down the down and round both the top and bottom of the can were custom built by Jimbars. A small one man band is Jimbars but he does seem to be a favourite with the owner drivers, having even supplied a few bars to other MAN TGL ambassador, Steve Marsh Express.  I have to say the exterior of Brian’s little MAN is one thing but oh the interior is something else. My photos are rubbish and just don’t do any justice whatsoever to the one off,  cosy black leather lining that luxuriate the little German. 



You’ve got to see it for yourself! Door cards, quarter lights behind the main Windows, the seats, the fridge, the engine tunnel, etc etc have all being given a very gentle covering of black leather to match the outside. Wanting something different a shoe maker friend of Brian’s suggested just straight diamond padded panels rather than the big button leather interiour that is fairly common place in custom trucks. I have to say once again the subtle approach wins my vote. I know it was dark and wet when I met Brian but not only did sitting in the pilots seat make me want my own Tonko Toy again but it just gave up that classy cosy, could-drive-all-night feeling. The whole thing edged a lovely set of Tartan curtains with blackout insides, perfect a for night out now and again. The engine tunnel that is pictured above was stitched free hand by the afore mentioned show maker and what a unique job he has done, Brian is rightfully well chuffed! 


Great bloke and great truck. The more time I spent round the both truck and driver the more I liked them, so I had to leave Brian to his cosy night out in the leather luxury of N8 BPH. There might not be quite as many show appearances this year but if you get the chance, this truck is as good as any of its big brothers on the show circuit. It’s individual, unique not to mention very subtle and you definitely won’t find a better polished cab in the UK!



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?!”




Here’s a truck we’ve not seen much of recently, Steve Marsh and GB14 STE. I think things have been a little quiet for Marshy of late, with mainly local runs to the North of France, Ireland and the Benelux countries. These locals are not worthy of blogging Mr Marsh’s eyes (I disagree), so when I received a photo of an Um Bongo vehicle followed by “Guess where I am?” I instantly thought back to the last time I spoke of and saw anything to do with Um Bongo; Portugese-MAN-O-Juice


So how does the master of international express hot shot work carry out such a job and how does it pan out? I’ll tell you how, just read on. All KM’s paid too. 

Friday: Load ADR cargo from Runcorn, GB. 

Ship: Douvres to Calais (no Spanish boats available)

Tuesday: Deliver to Um Bongo, Carnaxide, Lisboa, P. 

Top Spotting: Activ Cars, Mini artic in Burgos, E. 

Thursday: Load aerosols in La Fleché, F. (1664KM North East of Carnaxide)

Ship: Calais to Douvres

Friday: Tip Newcastle Upon Tyne, GB

Saturday: Home for Nougat Chocolate pillows (breakfast!), Warrington, GB. 

Round Trip Approx 5,240KM.



The eagle eyed Marsh-MAN fans amoungst you, might have noticed a little bit of new bling on the still relatively new MAN. Marshy is a modest man when it comes to blinking up the hard working wagon, but after a little trip to Jimbars in Cumbria, a little light shine was added to GB14. A full front bumper and a very tidy little rear brake light bar, both fitted with additional LED’s. Very subtle but very smart during the hours or darkness I’m sure. Anyway, back to business, Destion Denmark.