27th July The UK leg nearing completion.

Goodaye all. Yesterday I returned to Taylor’s Transport at 6AM and met with Luke, one of their local lorry drivers. He had been with them for about 4 years and previously worked shorter hours at McDonalds, but had always loved trucks. He spent a total of well over 3,000 pounds to gain his Class 2 (rigid) license, then his Class 1 (Semi/ HGV) license, doing the medical first and also the CPC.

Even though he did gain some knowledge from the CPC, he doubts anyone who has been on the road for more than a couple of years, would gain much from it. In discussing his move up to trucks and his earlier car license, not only was he taught nothing at all about trucks in that car license training, he was told specifically by the trainer, that he was being taught to Pass the test.

I have said that I fear this is what is happening in Australia, that instead of teaching people to survive safely on the road for the next 50 years, we are teaching them just to pass the current test. We do now, after me writing to the state road authorities many years ago, at least have some questions on trucks in the license test, but my aim is still to have a short 10 minute video, filmed from within a working truck, as part of the training and testing of new drivers.

We checked the Scania out, the Mercedes Luke usually drives had a gearbox problem when he came back from holidays and is still in the shop, then headed off a short distance to the trailer yard to pick up our part loaded semi. There is a system called SNAP and you can park at truckstops, or even in other transport company yards for a fee, so there were a few other company trucks and trailers on-site.

Luke hooked up, checked the pin (and the trailer connections are similar but different to ours) then ignored the que for the bowser as Luke said we had heaps for what we had planned, then headed off for our first drop, a delivery to a Tesco DC, one of the big retailers in the UK. Eddie Stobart have the haulage contract for Tesco and there were plenty of their trucks with the TESCO signed trailers as well as full Stobart rigs.

We were early, but Luke is a regular here and we were allowed in and backed onto a door. Even in a tautliner, we backed onto a door and after asking how they were going to unload based on Aussie Chep pallets, I learned that UK ones are open both ways, so can be unloaded through the back doors. The strap from the back of the pallets had to be removed and then with the doors open and trailer backed on the dock, you go into the office with your paperwork and sit till it is empty and you are called.

With only 10 pallets, we were not there long, quicker than most of the DCs I visit, but one driver had some problem and was told he would be at least 45 minutes before he got a dock. I chatted and gave him a card and he was still waiting when we left.

Two separate pick-ups of bricks for a local transfer, both not only tight spots, but with tight access were next. I must say the public do seem both very patient and accepting of delays and wide trucks in narrow streets. They seem to manage to stop and or move over where needed and it has to be done, as you cannot fit past on the narrow roads with cars and trucks parking on the side as well.

After discussing load restraint and how in Europe it is much more stringent than the UK and not having seen any loads from there, I can only take Luke’s word for it, but I guarantee you, what I saw and spoke with fellows about at both loading sites, would not be legal here. Gates are not used and the only thing of note, was the rubber coating on the timber floor, no coaming rail or raised edge, no straps on rails anywhere and curtains deemed to be load restraint, that are just curtains.

In his 4 years on the road, all with Taylors, he has never been stopped for an inspection or got a ticket and there are more cameras and average time cameras about on the M1 than in most of Australia if the signs are true. So many different things, that I will have to consider as to how they vary from what we do, then decide which is better or worse and why. Luke dropped me back at the yard so I could borrow the wi-fi and he could get paperwork copied and I thanked him and offered a small new “TRUCK That Australia Drivers Club” keyring which we have done for members.

I have stayed at a quaint little pub, where the owner Paul was a drinker there and then bought it. He is 74 I think and was very affable. The dinner every night, included with the very reasonable tariff (continental breakfast as well) was bloody beautiful and the meat nearly melted in your mouth. The best feed I have had here.

Succumbing to a cider each evening was my only extravagance and I was kept chatting by some of the locals for hours. On my return for the last night, my new fan said, “They don’t know how famous you are, I checked up on you on the net last night and you are big on there”. He has vowed to follow the blog and keep an eye on me and I thank him for his company and conversation, along with all at the White Swan.

I am at Heathrow and due to fly out to Seattle tomorrow and whilst I have tried to keep up with my diary and am already doing my Churchill report, to write it all down, will take me awhile, so I had better get into that and catch up on the UK part, before I go. It has been very interesting and will give me a lot to think about, but I do think there are some things, particularly for drivers, that I will follow up on and hope to possibly help them here. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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