Friday, 3 June 2011

In my previous life

I hope you don't mind me indulging in a bit of nostalgia here, but Maa has posted some photo's of trucks on her blog, and I've come over all sentimental like. So I've dug a few pics out of my hundreds, and scanned them.

My trucks were the love of my life. I say 'my trucks', I never owned them but treated them as if they were my own. Polished them, looked after them, and fell in love with them. If it was a contest between which I liked best, men or trucks, the trucks always won. So here we go...

I loved my job at Leicester Heavy Haulage. Every load was different and you never knew what you were getting on your trailer untill you arrived at the collection point. Here we have semi step frame trailers stretched out to 50feet. Having a break in a layby, waiting for an escort.

Goodness knows what this was, again a step frame trailer to keep the height down. Notice my name in the windscreen and the Lady Truckers Club sunstrip.

This monster thing was a water filtration plant. There was two loads and we had two mates riding with us. We picked them up in Gloucester and took them to Goole Docks where they went on a boat, or maybe it was a ship, ha ha. Quite an eventfull journey, I broke down in the Gloucestershire countryside. A terrific bang came from the back end, I though a tyre had blown but it was an air bag which had disintegrated.

We were under police escort and the cops took the other truck further on, I had to wait for assistance. My firm sent a man in a van. I broke down at 4pm, eventually we were ready to move at midnight, so I rang to ask the police to come back for me. They said they would come in the morning. I said they have to come now, I am blocking the road, I have all my hazard warning lights on plus the orange beacon on the roof, and I want to go to bed. They came out to me and took me to a parking place, I got to bed at 1am.

Also during the journey we were parked on the Leeds Ring Road, changing escorts, when a woman drove her car into my load. It ripped the whole side of her car out, but just scratched the paintwork on the massive iron girder on the bottom. I felt a bit sorry for her.

This is a low loader trailer with a brand new All Wheel Drive tipper truck on the back. I picked it up at the NEC after the motor show, and took it back to the factory at Dunstable where it was made. With a low loader you have a donkey engine at the front. After starting it up you lower the bed to the ground, knock a few pins out with a big hammer, and the neck splits in two. Then you build up a ramp with timbers and you can drive your load onto the back. Connect it all together again and bingo, ready to go. After chaining down of course, don't want the load to fall off the back, ha ha.

Sometimes I went to a job without a trailer, because the load was the trailer. I picked up this machine in a quarry. It had been there for some time so they usually send a gang in first to dig it out, clean it up, put the axle and wheels on, and make it fit for the road. I come along and hitch up to it and put my light board on the back.

You can see that it is very low on the ground, only a few inches clearance. To get out of the quarry I had to go over a hump back bridge, tricky. I ran one side up onto the pavement, and built a ramp up with railway sleepers for the other side. Just made it over without scraping the bottom on the bridge.

Intercity railway carriages. There were eight of these coming into Felixstowe Docks, every two months, from Italy. We had to have eight vehicles parked by the side of the boat, trailers stretched out to 60feet, and the crane lifted them out of the hold. We took them to Metro Cammel in Birmingham to be completed. They were just empty shells, so quite light. Overall length 95feet.

These concrete panels were being lifted off the trailer with a tower crane, and bolted straight onto the side of the building while they were hanging. We transported them from Nottingham to the centre of London, just off Fleet Street. The orange frames stay on the trailer so we couldn't pick up return loads with these.

Can't remember much about these, but we used to transport a lot of second hand tanks and vessels. Somewhere in Norfolk possibly.

On my days off I used to play with trucks as well. I was friends with the driver of this truck and he told me of this load he was transporting. It sounded exciting so I went out to meet him on his journey, and my friend Polly came along. It was a huge push and pull job, the company is Abnormal Load Engineering (A.L.E) It was my ambition to work my way up to drive vehicles of this size. Alas it didn't happen because the men love their trucks that much no one ever leaves.

Here's one make of truck that Maa might recognise, a Western Star. My friend Geoff Byford owned this truck, he named it Lady Louise after his daughter. Sadly his daughter died at a very young age in Great Ormond Street Hospital, so Geoff had posters printed and sold them at Truck Shows and donated all the money to the hospital. I went to the Savoy Hotel in Lady Louise, for the Women of the Year Luncheon. This beautiful truck won all the top prizes at the shows for Best Custom Truck.

What wonderful memories I have. I hope you have enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane.


  1. What fantastic trucks. You must be one hell of a driver. It looks like you've had a fabulous career.
    Love from Mum

  2. I've enjoyed the trip down memory lane!

    That job doesn't appeal to me at all but i do always thing lorry drivers must have an intersting job, always seeing different places and such!

  3. I am also impressed. This is what my son does for a living so I know the expertise and skills involved.

    He got all his driving skills in the army and was a member of 15th Tank Transporter Squadron, now he's up and down the country moving loads similar to these.

    You have a past to be immensely proud of. No wonder you have so many happy memories.

    Sue xx

  4. What an amazing job you did! I bet you never a boring day. The logistics of getting those huge loads around the country are very impressive.

  5. Whoah! you need to sign up for the next series of Ice Road Truckers!

  6. Fab post - what a fantastic achievement to drive those huge trucks. You are totally awesome Ilona!

  7. It's good to see a few more pics of the mighty ERF and the special guest appearance of the M.A.N.
    Wagon driving mates of mine who were trucking during that period were very complimentary about both of those makes, although they always lusted after the Volvo F88.
    One friend worked for a firm that punished their drivers for poor performance by making them drive a D registration Atkinson Borderer; harsh but fair, I suppose.

  8. You had some amazing loads, beloved is currently driving a 60 ton flat bed with a hi-ab crane on the back x

  9. What machines Ilona. I can truly appreciate your skill and judgement in driving these things, if you remember I have driven an artic and also a 6 wheel tipper (Foden) but nothing like you have done.

    Queen of the Road!

  10. Seeing the photo of you in your new dress it's hard to imagine you behind the wheel of one of those things. I don't like driving the car so am always mega impressed with people that can control big trucks.


  11. Cyberkim, ERF was my all time favourite. The guys used to complain about the twin splitter gearbox, but I loved it. The best thing about the ERF was the brilliant brakes, and you always felt like you had something solid underneath you. I have some photo's of the factory somewhere, taken when I went to have a look round. I was a member of REVS, Register of ERF Vehicle Society.

    My friend, a lady owner driver had an F88, her pride and joy. I never got to drive one myself, but ended up driving the much more modern F10, F12, and F16, towards the end of my career.

    Sed Atki, horrendous. I had some pretty ropey Leyland trucks in the early days, the Marathon, Mandator, Riever. Awful, couldn't reach the pedals. I rattled around in them, standing up to turn the non power steering to go round corners. Ha ha, plenty of times when I wondered if I would make it, or take a lamp post down. Oh happy days. Blimey I feel like I'm back in a transport cafe talking trucks with my mates, you've brought it all back. Ilona

  12. Great post and Synchronicity came across this by chance 5 minute ago
    and thought of you - cheers Danny

  13. Thanks for the pics Ilona, I'll show Petal when he comes home.
    He did a stint taking heavy loads up to a mine in QLD....too much sitting around for him. It felt like one of the longest trips I've ever been on. It was too hot, the a/c was broken, we had to negotiate a 'goats track as they hadn't laid the roads into the place yet, go across country and take fences down -then put them back up again. He likes to be moving and with stock you can be going all night. Right up his alley. I have some pics but I need to load them on to my pc. When I get around to it I'll let you know.
    It's certainly a way of life some can't understand. Did you see the pics of his 'rollover' on my blog? Took him two years to get over it and he nearly gave the job away.
    I can see why you like to ramble on foot nowadays! haha!
    Take care. Maa

  14. great post and great pics! beats a 9-5 boring office job anyday!

    Josie x

  15. I'm impressed! I'm getting ready to take a 1,000 mile road trip in a car and not looking forward to it. Wanna come drive for me?


  16. You're a star! Makes my son's keen interest in Land Rovers and 4x4s look a bit tame by comparison.
    I noticed at least 3 registrations in those pics, an "A" plate, a "B" and a "C"; did you get a new tractor unit every year?

  17. Hi Albedo. The company had about 35 vehicles, plated for different weights. Some were 55 tons, then 70 tons, 75 tons, 80 tons and so on to 165 tons. They had inhouse maintenance and servicing so tended to hang on to them for a long time. When any new ones came it depended on the weight they were plated for, and who was the most long standing employee in that bracket. Top man moved up, then those below moved up to a heavier vehicle. The biggest truck, the 165 tons was one of the oldest, and the driver even though he had the most experience, never got a new truck, because you move up in weight. I started on 55 tons and got to 80 tons, which was the MAN.

    Darla I would love to drive for you.

    Maa, I know what Petal means, heavy haulage is not every drivers cup of tea. There is a lot of waiting about mainly because cranes cost so much to hire. You can't keep a crane waiting for a truck to turn up, the truck has to get there first and wait for the crane. Also travelling speeds are so much slower. I have been in a convoy of six, at walking pace, with a police escort and British Telecom using poles to lift the phone wires up so we could pass underneath. It sounds very boring, but the degree of concentration needed leaves no time to relax, it is very tiring.

  18. Thanks for the link Danny. What a coincidence that you found that picture, I don't remember the company.

  19. Wow! I'm impressed! I retired from driving after 35 years of driving a semi truck around the Los Angeles area. And believe me, that was no picnic! When I started driving it was rare to see a women truck driver. By the time I retired in 2005 it was very common.

    Thanks for this post and your great photos :-)

  20. Great photos and a very interesting read Ilona.

  21. I never met Geoff Byford, but the Lady Louise was bought by Blu Flight, a transport company in Ireland in the 1990's and was re painted and named the Blu Flight Eagle as a PR vehicle.It wa sthen repainted and used in an ad for Coopers Cider. I later purchased the truck and was going to do another paint job on it and use it to promote my transport company, but that never came to pass. I then sold the truck to the American Circus where she is still working today.

  22. Your story about your previous life is great! I can feel how passionate you are for your work. I think one advantage of being a trucker is that you can travel from place to place, and at the same time, do your work. It definitely seems like a fun job! When was the last time you drove a truck?

  23. thank you - a wonderful story that will always be rememebered and talked about... thank you for the strength ---- its been see by Sydney Australia

  24. Hi there , lovely to see this , I just wanted to say I bought this truck B370OFD arround 3 years ago , it was painted up in a lighter blue and done the job I bought it for perfectly , and just to let you know , the truck is now for sale again on eBay at this very moment


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