“Well thank fuck that is over!!” I said to myself as we came to a stop at the top of the exit ramp.
For those of you just catching up I am driving a Volvo FH16 700 horsepower truck, behind me is a steerable, widening low loader, with seven axles and a dolly connecting it to my truck. On that trailer is a 155 tonne, four meter high power sub station which we were transporting a thousand odd kilometres to a remote mining town in the Aussie outback. Behind the sub station making this big rig complete and about eighty metres long is an almost matching Volvo tractor which was pushing the load and helping my truck get it where it was going.
After a slow and easy trip with only a few issues we’d parked the rig up on the freeway and were about to prepare for the last leg of our first night’s journey, the nine kilometres of three lane free way to our rest stop.
Stopping the vehicles and getting out obviously meant smoko for the three smokers in the team but thankfully our boys were adept at working and smoking. It wouldn’t be a long stop and we didn’t have a lot to do at the top of the ramp but with only nine kilometres of easy travelling ahead of us the temptation to do things quickly and forget things was ever present.
We of course had to lower the trailer back down on the air jacks. Because the freeway for the next nine kilometres was for the most part three lanes there was no need for the trailer to be higher than any Armco or other such barriers. As with any stop where we got out of the vehicles during the stop at the top of the freeway ramp we’d check the load and how it was travelling. Having only given it a thorough check at the bottom of the ramp the top of ramp check would only be visual, unless something stood out but we’d still do it.
As Pete retied the warning flag that we’d torn off on the way up the ramp the rest of us walked around the trailer looking. The morning was getting lighter as we approached day break but with the lights of suburbia behind us and the glow of street lights around us day break wasn’t making a difference and probably wouldn’t for another hour.
With the quick checks all done we all headed back to the vehicles to continue on our way, there was no need for walkers on such an easy run so the front and rear pilots both held four men and Corey and I took up the two rigs as usual.
I was climbing up into the cabin of the truck when over the rumbling of the idling diesel engine underneath me I head a voice of the radio.
“Hang five fella’s we’ve got a fucking flat!”
Because the noise of the engine drowned out the voice a bit before the door was shut I thought the voice I heard was Corey’s and was wondering how we’d just managed to do a visual inspection of the load and not pick up a flat on the push truck. But I was thankfully wrong, not that a flat anywhere isn’t a pain in the arse but a flat on a tractor we supposedly just checked meant someone wasn’t doing the job.
The voice on the radio had come from Pete in the lead pilot vehicle, between parking the thing and walking away from it ten minutes earlier the tyre had gone flat and needed replacing, like I said a pain in the arse but better than a truck tyre and with four of them up there they’d have it changed in no time.
You could be excused for thinking that we could go ahead without the front pilot given that in front of him there was one police car and one roads corp vehicle both with flashing lights, but rules be fucking rules and without a sign on the vehicle in front of me saying “Wide Load Following” we were illegal even on a road that was only one direction.
I suppose if there is one small mercy about getting a flat tyre where we did it was that we’d be able to call our regular tyre service and have them send a mobile crew out to replace the tyre when they open rather than rely on some local monkey that arrives when he feels like it. Don’t get me wrong I’m not painting all service companies with the same tarred brush because some of them are good to deal with but there are others that are downright pricks.
We always carry spare tyres for everything we run but once a spare gets used we try to get it replaced as quick as possible. Whether it be a repair or a replacement we’ll ring ahead to the closet town and ask a local tyre service to meet us with exactly what we need, given we can’t always get close to their workshops. Most of them are good, and service is great but we’ve been in places where we’ve called for the local tyre bloke and given him twelve hours to get us a tyre, or meet is to repair on site and they still manage to fuck something up. It’s not like our tyres are unique or specific to what we do but I can tell you if there is a chance we can use our regular service we do breath a sigh of relief.
As I say we do carry spares and in most cases we can fix things ourselves especially out in the middle of nowhere but getting a truck tyre onto a rim and the bead to set can be a real shit of a job. I hope for our sake during this trip we don’t get to show you Millie’s old trick of how to set a bead on a truck tyre with a cigarette lighter and a can of WD40. Partly because we don’t need to go through the rigmarole of putting a new tyre on a rim but also because it’s downright fucking dangerous…that’s why we let Millie do it!
I told you it wouldn’t take the four of them long to fix the flat on the pilot vehicle and I was right because within five minutes of getting in my rig and hearing the call across the radio the boys were back in their vehicle and calling out that they were ready to roll.
Previous Heavy Haulage story here.