I knew that taking in a box of Jaffa Cakes everyday for the gaffer at work was a good move – today he presented me with my new toy, this Scania R114 wagon-and-drag six-vehicle transporter. His presentation speech wasn’t quite as tearful as Gwyneth Paltrow, but emotional nonetheless. “Anyone who’s put up with that bag of shit Iveco for 2 years deserves something decent.”
The truck is quite something, being conceived as a drag-and-draw for a much larger four-car twin-deck trailer, but the order was cancelled half way through. Consequently it was completed as a five-car rigid, with the trailer being added later. This itself has three axles and is suitable for vans and large four-by-fours as well as the new god-awful Renault Scenic and Espace ranges that are the size of a small county – although still powered by an AA battery to keep costs down.
Being designed as a larger vehicle, the Scania has a whopping 380 bhp (compared to my current 180 bhp in the Iveco, which breaks into a sweat at the thought of negotiating a speedhump). It has a six-speed manual 3 / 3 gearbox with splitter to give it 12 gears – an arrangement I’ve not come across before. The decks go up, down, extend forwards, backwards and probably sideways and can transport just about anything anywhere. I’m looking forward to
playing with driving it, but as luck would typically have it, I’m now off for a week long holiday! And I’ll be more than a tad annoyed if I spy someone else driving it while I’m travelling up and down the A1 next week on several trips I’m making to Sunderland for various reasons. I’ve noted the mileage, lads …
The new arrival does spell the end of my trusty Iveco that I’ve been driving for the last 2 ½ years. Although I got my class 1 last year, my primary role has always been deliveries with this lorry and I use the class 1 to fill in or cover other drivers from time to time. A new rigid was essential given that we deliver cars to places that don’t have artic access, as well to an increasing number of customers (those who pretend to be car dealers but actually trade on Ebay) who live in places accessible only to skateboards, usually located in between a 13 foot bridge and a 3 ton weight limit on double yellows outside a school opposite a Police Station. Although as the latter are only open Mondays and Wednesdays 10 – 3, at least they don’t cause us too much trouble while we unload in the Bus Lane. I reckon I’ve taken part in more impromptu photoshoots that Naomi Campbell, except that she gets paid for hers ….
Anyway, I’ve been to some rare old places in the Iveco from Gateshead to Peterborough and Mablethorpe over to Wrexham. The engine blew up; I’ve lost all the air with a burst pipe which stranded me on a busy road in Peterborough for six hours; the turbocharger packed up which meant the underpowered engine suddenly took on all the zest and agility of a Custard Cream, and a tyre blew out on the A46, fortunately on an empty run back from Leicester - but nevertheless, brought back memories of ‘full-nappy-syndrome’ from my early years. Despite all this, like many blokes who work with machines day in, day out, I’ve developed an understanding with this truck. In fact, to the amazement of my fellow drivers, I like it. Yes, it’s old, has the turning circle of Jupiter; is noisy and rough and has all the torque of a Kenwood mini mixer. But it’s mine, and I know its follibles inside and out. Changing gear is all about luck and not skill; getting any gear is a bonus whilst getting the right gear is a moment of great triumph in the cab – bit like getting the ball through the windmill on a crazy golf course. You know it’s technically possible, but you’ve seen anyone actually do it. I know that it is next to impossible ever to get done for speeding in it, no matter how hard I try. I know that the brakes are a tad spongy, and slowing down is something to be considered the previous day, never at the last minute. I can load it blindfold and know exactly where every car needs to be and where to stop it during loading. All of this comes from working with it, coaxing it into life and keeping the bugger going for ‘just one more day.’ Naturally, you develop an affinity with such a machine, so in a way, I’m sorry to see it go. But I almost can’t wait to get back in a week’s time and crank up the new Scania. Best start marking the locations of all those previously ignored speed cameras in my map book while I’m off, I suppose …