Written by Tudor Services: We are almost at the end of one of our most frustrating experiences in transport and possibly the longest post Brexit delay for any company so far. I would like to be very clear that this was not our customers fault in any way but the importors fault. 22 days in total from the load arriving in Santander port to the truck boarding a ferry back to the UK with the load having never left the port.
Five different agents from the UK, Spain and even one from Portugal as well as a Spanish transport company that we work with were consulted to try and get this load into the country and with pretty much no feedback from the importers the whole time. It was hard trying to find out exactly what was delaying us. As it turns out the importer had adopted an attitude of burying their head into the sand expecting the paperwork to sort it self out and they will get their goods in the end which of course there is no possible way of this happening as their are documents that have to be signed by them with a notary meaning there is no way around it they cannot have an agent or anyone else to do it on their behalf. So this affair started when we got off the boat on the 3rd of February the boat was like a ghost ship going out with no more than 12 trucks on board which is unusual for this route. The driver was not allowed to stay in the port overnight so was allowed to leave without the trailer where he parked at a well known stop in Hoznayo 15 minutes away. When he arrived there were several other trucks there without their trailers who had been there for several days and as some eventually got cleared to leave some had to wait a few more days and every time a boat arrived more trucks would turn up to fill the spaces left by the person who had been waiting before them. After waiting for seven days we decided to leave our trailer in the port and borrow a trailer from a Spanish company so the driver could come home and returned a week later to return the loan trailer then to head back to Santander to see if we could finally push the trailer on through with some fresh agents involved who eventually got to the root cause of the hold up and they explained to us that the importer is doing absolutely zero to assist and do their paperwork that they are legally obliged to do if they want to import the goods.
Very frustratingly on the 22nd day the truck is now boarding a ferry back to the UK loaded with the goods all for the sake of something that would have taken the importer half a day maximum to get sorted. The ferry coming back is absolutely packed to the rafters as the case is that bringing goods to the UK is still reasonably easy and smooth but as many like us are finding exporting to the EU can be a very different matter. To say we are annoyed would be an understatement at the moment. Again I want to point out that our customer has been great the whole way through and has been doing everything they can to try and get to the bottom of this mess and has taken care of us and kept us informed along the way. I’m sure the remainers are ready to chime in about Brexit and though these new measures are here because of Brexit it is not the root cause of the issue with this load this is down to overwhelming incompetence and unprofessionalism on the importers part. However this ordeal will not deter us from the international transport market as this is the doing of an individual not a country or industry as a whole and although there are some hurdles to deal with now with new paperwork and guidelines it’s nothing that cannot be learned and streamlined with the right attitude from the people involved.
I’ve never parked up with a frozen load on so the fridge is starting up much more frequently than on any fridge work I have done before. Not being that used to it I’ve had a pretty bad nights sleep and am feeling very tired this morning, but nevertheless I am up bright and early after a nine hour break ready to get going. I have over 500 miles to cover today. My only concern was getting around Bordeaux, which I manage easily enough before 0730. From there on it’s a fairly straightforward day to the port until I arrive to be told I was booked on last night‘s boat. This panics me to begin with, as I am worried that tonight‘s boat could be fully booked and I’ll be stuck here. As it turns out it is like a ghost town. I am able to make a reservation without any hassle and I am ready to catch the 2345 boat back to Portsmouth.
Thursday 24th December
I arrive at Portsmouth at 0645 to disembark and mercifully it’s nice and quick and I’m out of the port within 20 minutes, which most will know is very quick for Portsmouth. All that is left to do now is head back to the yard to give the truck a quick rinse off and I’m done. The reload isn’t due delivery until the 28th of December, so I’m off to enjoy Christmas with the Mrs and my little girl. Merry Christmas everyone and happy new year 🥳.
I’m up and keen to start work at 0800 hours only to find out the delivery is not until 1200 so the waiting game begins. I eventually get onto a bay and I’m unloaded by 1400. It’s 4 hours and 45 minutes drive to my delivery in Portugal so it’s going to be another late one today. As I’m heading into Portugal I am glad that 12,500kg of the load has already been delivered and all I am left with is 650 kg for the next drop as the hills here are brutal and I wouldn’t of fancied carrying any extra weight up and down them especially in the dark and foggy conditions that we have tonight. I make it to the delivery at 1830 and within 10 minutes I’m unloaded and on my way back to Spain to collect a reload from Valladolid the next afternoon. I find a nice truckstop that is open 24 hours that I am able to get food at when I arrive at 2200. I’m going to bed a happy man not having to eat a microwave meal in the cab for my tea.
Tuesday 22nd December
I wake up to the news that the French have closed the border for trucks coming back from the UK. This turns out to be good news for me, as a lot of the boats have been fully booked going back to the UK for weeks and getting a reservation has been near impossible. A lot of people from the continent started cancelling their bookings as they would not be able to return after making deliveries in the UK. I set off at 0900 and arrive in Valladolid at 12:00 for my reload of meat free meatballs…..what a grim thought!! The loading is fairly quick and I am back on my way by 1330 heading for Caen. I make it to Irun for the night where I park in one of my customers yards. The lockdown rules changed here this morning so I just about managed to sit down for some food at 1900 and have a meal before they have to close for their new curfew at 2030.
I get to spend the morning with my girlfriend and daughter taking her to visit Father Christmas which was a nice bonus getting to do that before going back to work over the weekend. At 1830 I am back in the yard ready to head to Leigh Delamere services to meet Pete who has loaded the trailer for me with one of his trucks and take it off of him to head on down to Portsmouth ready to catch the 0800 crossing in the morning.
Saturday 19th December
Up at 0600 to get checked in for the boat. Once on board I go to the restaurant for some breakfast then back to my cabin and back to sleep for a few more hours to be rested ready for late drive that evening. The boat gets in at 1530 and I am clear to hit the road straight off of the boat I head to Castets to park up for the night and make good time I managed to make the drive in 8 hours 30 which I wasn’t expecting as I’m used to doing the drive in the day and losing the best part of an hour going around Bordeaux.
Sunday 20th December
I get up for 0800 for breakfast and a shower but much to my shock the restaurant is closed now for Christmas which seems a bit early to me given that there is almost a week until Christmas day. I have to settle with a McDonald’s breakfast from across the road and will have to stop for a shower en route when in Spain. I make a quick stop at the services in Oiartzun for fuel and a shower then get straight back on the road. I feel quite tired today for some reason and haven’t done this road going straight across the northern part of Spain before. I’m not sure whether it is just because I am tired but it just seems to go on and on and I began to get quite bored in the last couple of hours of the journey and cannot wait to park up for the night and get my head down. I eventually arrives La Coruna and park just around the corner from the delivery at 2000. The only thing open for food is a Burger King so that will have to do for this evening.
Sat at our yard in Bristol patiently waiting for the clock to hit 1508 when my weekly rest is up and I can set off for Padborg in Denmark to check out some trailers I want to buy up there. Once my break is complete I set off solo to Harwich for the 2100 boat to Rotterdam the sat nav tells me it’s 4 hours 30 minutes to the port. I’m going to need to make it in one hit as there isn’t time for a 45 minute break on route. Predictably I get on the M4 and there are closures from J8 to J6. I’m feeling up against it but luckily enough I make good time anyway and arrive at the port at 1955 and check in. What I didn’t realise when I booked this crossing was that it’s a freighter which was a disappointment as I’d been looking forward to a nice draft pint and a good feed once aboard. Also I paid the same price as it would have been on the Hook of Holland boat so lesson learned there for next time! Still there’s always the Autohof tomorrow to look forward to.
Monday 14th December
A fairly straight forward and uneventful day off the boat at 0730 straight to Germany via the border at Meppen into the Hoyer autohof at Cloppenburg to top up with some nice cheap German diesel and back to it up through Hamburg before calling it a night at an autohof in Busdorf 40 km’s from the Danish border. It’s good to see in Germany that during the Covid pandemic drivers are still being treated well as we’re still allowed to come sit in the restaurant to eat on an evening and the showers have been made available to us free of charge.
Tuesday 15th December
I arrive at the trailer sales site at 0800 to begin checking over the trailers. There’s always a slight worry when buying second hand especially when you’ve had to travel 700 miles just to come look at it as it’s a long way if it turns out to be no good. The first thing I noticed is although the trailers are 9 years old they all have full sets of Michelin tyres so I get the impression the previous owners we’re happy to spend proper money maintaining them. After a couple of hours thoroughly looking over the trailers I pick out the one that I want and pay the invoice ready to get back on the road. It may seem a bit extreme to be going all the way to Denmark to buy a trailer but the reason for this is the bespoke nature of the equipment we need. The trailer I have chosen is a Krone mega coil-liner. Mega trailers are very few and far between secondhand in the UK so your best bet is usually to buy from abroad and with the current situation with Brexit and not knowing if we will get a trade deal I had to make the decision to just get on and buy one as I don’t know if I will be able to just head off into Europe and buy a trailer without any tariffs etc next year. Once the invoice is paid I set off back to Germany heading for Nettetal to collect big bags of plastic to bring back to Lydney. I head down the A7 towards Hambug and the satnav tells me there is a 19 minute delay on route and after three hours sitting in the traffic I start to question whether the satnav might be lying to me! I eventually managed to divert off of the motorway and bypass the traffic finally making it to an autohof in Bremen for the night at 2200 where I am very glad to put the handbrake on for the evening after sitting in standstill traffic for so long.
Wednesday 16th December
Up at 0600 for a quick shower then hit the road to go and collect the reload. I arrive at my reload at 1330 where they were ready and waiting for me. I was on my way by 1430 heading for the Hook of Holland to get the correct boat this time and redeem my meal I had been salivating over a couple of days before. This boat costs quite a bit extra compared to Calais and others but there are currently 30 km long queues at Calais to get onto boats and trains so it is a no-brainer to go this way as I’m keen to get the load back and delivered.
Thursday 17th December
Off the boat at 0500 and I was very lucky that I was positioned right at the front of the boat so I was out of the port within 20 minutes. I plan to pull in to South Mimms services to send off some emails and make calls to arrange work for myself and our other trucks for next week. Just before I arrive I receive a message from Pete White of Whites Transport to ask if I can do a load to La Coruna and Porto for him, leaving early on Saturday morning. After a quick look at the diary I see that I can do it on the basis someone loads the trailer and brings it to me. This way I can take a 24 hour break on Friday and with that the job is confirmed, so it is straight back to Lydney drop the trailer to the customer and back to our yard to begin my break.
Eventually all good things come to an end and the adventure is over and we arrive in Portland, Oregon for the last race, but not before dinner at Hooters and a walk around town to see what’s going on. As it turns out it has more homeless drug addicts than I’ve never seen before.
So the journey ends here and it’s been a brilliant and eye opening experience as I mentioned earlier the team was badly managed but having spoken to others in motor sport since who have told me it’s better at other places but not by much so I’ve concluded that Motorsport definitely isn’t for me.
I’d like to say thank you to Dave Nickalls who I shared a truck with and who I have known for a few years now. We had a chance meeting 4 years ago in a German autohof, when he worked for Red Bull Racing. Dave has become a friend and worked for me driving my trucks a few times. Dave was also the one who invited me out to America and gave me the opportunity to take part in this trip.
Once the race is over and the trucks loaded it’s the last drive the big one! 2050 miles in two and a half days. I haven’t written much about the actual driving yet so here it goes, how I see it.
Most of the roads are straight flat and there isn’t much to look at so it’s necessary for the trucks to be able to do the same speed as cars as 56mph would be torture. The drawback is that it’s a lot more tiring as your always on it, trying to pass some or being held up by someone albeit not much as the car drivers in America get a move on as well unlike home! You’re not likely to encounter many people dawdling along in the middle lane at 50mph and if you do there doesn’t seem to be any rule against just undertaking them. In most places you can just use lane 3 in a truck anyway. As a result after 11 hours (which you can do every day of the week!) driving you do feel properly f**ked you can see why some drivers here feel to use amphetamines to stay awake when driving. As for the speed it work’s for the reasons mentioned and because of how the trucks are designed with the double drive bogies and axles on the back end of the trailers, they are surprisingly stable when tanking along at 75mph or even 92mph which I reached (accidentally honest) at one point.
The cabs are brilliant to be honest. I think what we had was technically a fleet spec motor but still better than anything we have in Europe, the space is awesome and so comfortable it’s like driving around in a studio flat. The Freightliner itself is a nice truck, we never found out the horsepower of the trucks as it’s not written on the side of the motor or on the engines. The Detroit engine pulled well still doing 50mph loaded at 36 ton up some big hills easily as steep as Bourge-en-Bresse and as I said before they have the Merc gearbox working better than Mercedes do!
The last 4 hours of the drive are the best by far. We travel on the I84 which runs along the Columbia river and runs side by side a train track the views are stunning. It is up there with the best roads I’ve ever driven. The freight trains you run alongside are incredible we counted one to be 90 carriages long at least 1.5 miles but more likely 2 miles long!!
The next day at the track we get our duties over with a lot quicker than we’d like, then go for a walk to see the sights. As you can imagine with the size of an Indy Car event, there are loads and loads of different trucks and vehicles. Race teams the world over use high spec, top quality trucks and Indy Car is of course no different, some may even say these are better than the rest! Big trucks, big paint jobs but still a few oddments. Just when you think you have seen an amazing cross section of US trucks, you come across a Ford Cargo!
The day cabbed Ford Cargo may be a rarity but not unique. What I am sure is unique in North America is a fully liveried in Liverpool Football Club colors, Volvo VN. Soccerball is not my sport, but some of your are football crazy, so if you move to the United States and want to personalize your truck…….well, paint it red and add some famous Scouse names and phrases and Robert is your mothers brother!
So the next day it’s onto the racetrack to repeat the whole process again in St Louis. We did manage to get one afternoon off though where we went to visit the Gateway to the west a 630ft arch that you catch a carriage to the top of and can get a view of the city.
Eventually once the torture is over, the race is cancelled 30 laps before the finish due to the weather, so it is time to pack away ready to head off for the next race. The next drive is 877 miles which is do-able on a double drive but not necessary so we are stopping in Indiana where most of the other teams are based. We are taken out for the night by Geoff, a former truckie for Carlin Motorsport who now works at a different team based in Indiana. Geoff takes us to a place called the 1911 grill which is a really cool sports bar and includes a ski ball alley, a shuffle board table and a go kart track… yes that’s right a go kart track!! Believe it or not, the best meal of the whole trip, a steak to die for!