“Fuck that’s big!”
Oh we’ve been through this haven’t we, swearing truck driver, big truck, long trip, big fucking load yadda yadda yadda.
I wasn’t far off getting in the driver’s seat of the big Volvo FH16 heavy haulage rig, connected to the back it was a 155 tonne power sub station and connected behind that was an almost identical FH16 tractor connected by solid steel bar which would act as a push truck to take some of the load off my rig.
I was currently enjoying a home, well office, delivered meal from the local Chinese restaurant with my family. It would be the last meal I’d get to eat with them for at least six days because that’s how long it was going to take us to travel the 2500 kilometre round trip. Since I was sitting in the conference room with Sam, and our twelve year old son Zakk, I was away from the trucks, close enough if the boys needed me for anything but far enough away that I wasn’t adding to my log book hours.
We had about three hours until the 8pm curfew for leaving town was lifted and the last thing I wanted to do was spend that time working on the load and the trucks because working on or around the truck counted as driving hours in our log books. Although we didn’t expect to push our allotted log book hours on the first night saving what we could just in case the shit hit the fan was wise.
There was going to be a few times over the next five days where we were going to be restricted to travelling only during certain hours. Because driver’s log books weren’t as straight forward as drive twelve hours with two hours of breaks then sleep for ten hours we had to be as careful with our hours. The problem was unforeseen issues, flat tyres, mechanical issues, etc could easily throw all that careful planning out the window. In some cases it could throw things so far out of whack that new permits had to be organised and we could be parked for up to a week while those issues were resolved. Sounds kind of melodramatic doesn’t it but unfortunately it can happen and the bigger the load in either weight, dimensions or both the more permits and authorisation a truck needs. Sometimes I think we create a full time job for someone in the paperwork department of the roads corporation whenever we put an oversize vehicle on the road.
By getting on the road at 8pm, when over sized limits were lifted and our permits allowed it, we were hoping it would give us the time we needed to travel the twenty four kilometres out of the city before 5am tomorrow morning when the curfew was again put upon us.
Why so long to travel such a short distance? It all comes down to logistics. You see it takes quite a bit of planning to get a twenty metre trailer connected to two seven meter tractors and a four metre dolly, with a load that is seven meters wide, including the flags and warning lights, down a suburban road. Most suburban roads are designed for cars and normal sized trucks, each lane is usually about three and a half meters wide and there may be up to four lanes on each road. Take into account kerbs, speed humps and traffic islands and you can see why careful planning is needed.
Now take into account how many corners there are in suburbia, even at large intersections where the roads could open up to four lanes in each direction, corners just aren’t made to easily steer a forty meter long vehicle that doesn’t bend in the middle around them. While our pilot vehicles, and the police when we’re required to have them escort us, are able to clear intersections there is just some places even we can’t get a vehicle so large.
There is also the possible problems with trees and over head power lines. Sometimes clipping trees is unavoidable but given they can potentially damage our loads it’s not something we do deliberately. And while we always do cold runs on our route long before we apply for permits sometimes trees get missed, some times they grow and some times the contractors we have to hire to lop the trees don’t do the job they are asked to do. Power lines are a different bucket of monkey shit, we obviously can’t cut them down and hitting them is a real no no. So where they are an issue our only choices are to have the power companies either lift the lines where they can, or turn off the power and drop them until we’ve been through at which time they can put them back up.
Now you might have noticed there is one potential hazard I haven’t mentioned, bridges, and there is a good reason for that. While we do navigate under three bridges to get out of suburbia we scrap under them with about two hundred millimetres to spare. That can still be brown trousers time and we obviously drive slowly under them in case they’ve shrunk but generally the bridges to get us out of town give us less stress than the roads themselves.
Another reason it takes us so long to do the twenty four kilometres to get us out of the city is because to do that twenty four kilometre we actually have to travel thirty eight kilometres thanks to roads on the direct route that we just can’t use.
So welcome to my world, the world of the steering wheel attendant. A world were we have to pay to have things moved out of our way, pay to have things cut down, pay to have things put back up and paid to be led out of town like we have no idea where we are going. On top of that we are operating more than a million dollars worth of machinery that no matter how well it’s maintained can and sometimes does breakdown. Then on top of that, literally, a client trusts us to cart their item, an item which in this case is worth nearly four million dollars, to where ever it is they want it delivered and they want it there in one piece.
So when you hear the term phrase ‘money makes the world go round’ it certainly does in this line of work.
Well that certainly took a detour didn’t it, kind of like we have to later tonight. Somehow I started with dinner and waiting to depart the city with a 155 tonne power sub station on the back of my truck and I still haven’t left. Oh well you might be happy to know I finished dinner!
Next time we’ll hit the road, I promise.
Previous Heavy Haulage story here.