After more than two years since getting my Class 1 LGV licence, I finally drove a lorry in anger last night/this morning.
Nigel, a bloke who goes to the same gym I do, offered me the opportunity to drive a lorry back from a trip down to Portsmouth to deliver some car parts destined for the Isle of Wight, Jersey, and Guernsey to get some proper driving experience and see if I enjoyed it. It’s a trip he has done five nights a week every week for the last three years, so it’s all pretty routine to him.
It was a 60 feet long Mercedes curtain sided articulated truck and the tractor unit was a 06 registration, so it’s quite a modern cab.
He drove the lorry down to Portsmouth and we arrived at around 00:30, having set off at around 21:30 from Coventry. We grabbed a coffee whilst a guy in a fork-lift unloaded the lorry and replaced the full crates with empty ones. It took around 45 minutes for this to be done and then I took the driving seat, following a quick can of Red Bull.
I was a little nervous initially. Negotiating some of the tighter bends around Portsmouth with a 60 feet of lorry behind you requires special awareness for a rookie like me. The people who drive these lorries all the time make it look so easy and I’m sure it does become easy with practice, but, having not driven an artic for over two years, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t cause thousands of pounds worth of damage through a stupid mistake.
Once we were back on the motorway, I was able to relax a little.
The Mercedes lorry was a bit more up to date that the class 2 and 1 lorries I had learnt to drive in. It had a straight 8 speed gear box, exhaust braking and, rather usefully, cruise control.
The speed limits for lorries are 40 mph on A roads, 50 mph on dual carriage ways, and 56 mph on the motorway. The Mercedes was restricted to 56 mph, so there’s no danger of speeding on the motorway.
Ordinarily, when Nigel does the Portsmouth run on his own, he grabs a couple of hours’ sleep before heading back to Coventry, but there was no need today, as I took over straight away. However, by the time we got to Bicester, he was starting to fall asleep and so we swapped back again and he drove the last leg of the journey to keep himself alert.
Once we got back to Coventry at around 04:30, I reversed the lorry back into the parking bay and detached the tractor unit from the trailer under Nigel’s supervision. Finally, at 05:00, I headed home, just as the sun was starting to rise.
I enjoyed the run, albeit a little nervously at first. I can definitely see the appeal of the work, especially at night when the roads are so clear. And I was bunged some dosh for the privilege of getting some practice in. Looks like Nigel, who runs his own company, would be happy to put weekend work my way in future, as he’s having to turn it down at the moment.
It certainly makes a welcome change from sitting in front of PC all day!