I turned up at the bed factory early (5.45am) to make sure I could park ok.
I met a couple of workers who started to explain the whys and wherefores of the job. I basically had to drive a large 7.5 tonne truck full to the brim with beds and mattresses and I had to deliver to 5 different counties namely Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
Due to the amount of mileage involved it would be legally impossible to do all the deliveries in one working day so it would have to be spread over two shifts with an 11 hour break in between. The vehicle would need to be equipped with somewhere for the driver to sleep.
The vehicle I was to drive was a Mercedes Atego and was indeed equipped with a bunk in a very big and roomy cab. In fact I thought it impossible that this huge vehicle could legally be classed as a 7.5 tonner but I was assured it was.
The following is what I and any driver is legally obliged to do every time he's to drive an LGV, the modern name for a HGV. He must get into the cab, turn on the ignition, insert his digital tacho card into the tachograph and do a manual entry to account for other work done when the card was last removed. Then set the machine to "other work" which has a crossed hammers icon whereby then he can commence the all important vehicle safety check. Everything must be checked such as tyres, loose panels, lights, oil, water, fuel, Adblue ( a fuel additive that reduces emissions) and basically everything relating to the safety of the vehicle. Only then are you ready to commence driving.
The truck had been pre loaded with the cargo so after a few last words of advice from the guys I set off for the first destination which was Oundle in Northamptonshire The place was called the Talbot Hotel and parking outside was difficult but there was only two mattresses to deliver and I was away in minutes.
From there I had to drive for 86 miles to get to The Pegasus School in Swadlincote in Derbyshire. This was located down some of the tightest country lanes I've ever been down ( not to mention several low bridges) and I would often meet something coming the other way when everything would come to a halt whilst one of us decided who was going to reverse. More often than not it was them but sometimes I would reverse if I'd just gone by a passing place. I got called a few names yesterday I can tell you . Delivering another double mattress at the school was a doddle and I was soon on my way to the third drop elsewhere in Derbyshire.
This place was called Borrowash and I had to call the guy on the phone because the postcode I had was incorrect. When I arrived and opened the back up I saw that his double mattress was of better quality and thus it was heavier. He asked if I would help him upstairs with it and although they told me I had to leave it downstairs I felt I had to help. Well we struggled with this five foot beast of a mattress as we dragged it from the lorry to the house then up the stairs. I was out of breath and sweating, boy was I unfit. 26 years of sitting in a London Taxi will do that to a man. He thanked me and I thought to myself "this is the bit where he bungs me a fiver"....no chance.
Off I went again. It was time for a 45 minute tacho break so I found a suitable layby where I had a cup of coffee from a flask and a banana and watched the traffic race by. I certainly needed the break because the next delivery was gonna really drain my energy.
It was to Nottinghamshire Golf and Country Club in Stragglethorpe on the east side of Nottingham. Here, I had to deliver 18 three foot wide single divan beds and 18 mattresses and also 2 double divan bases with mattresses. The golf club was mega busy and to complicate matters further there was major building works going on there and manoeuvring space was severely limited. I rang the contact number and the lady that answered sent four strapping young helpers out to assist me. Even with all the help it took the best part of thirty minutes to get all the stuff off and stored in a warehouse but there was some fierce banter with the guys and it helped pass the time.
My next delivery took me to "God's Own Country", the county of Yorkshire, home of my beloved Leeds United Football Club. I had to deliver to a place called Kingswood, Dearne Valley in Doncaster which was some sort of youth camp. Security here was tight and I was told to drive as slow as possible with my hazard lights on as there were kids just emerging from the dining hall. I was met at the deliveries area by two staff members who took delivery of the six single mattresses I had for them. With the paperwork signed I was again instructed to drive slowly all the way out.
The time was now 6pm and I had been driving and doing "other work" for the last 12 hours so it was now time to find a stopping place for the night. That proved harder than I'd imagined because most of the prime spots were taken up by lorries who knew the score and had already parked up to bed down for the night. I hadn't eaten all day, just a banana, so I was hoping to be able to park near some sort of eatery. I knew I could park at some of the many Moto services on the A1 but I also knew it would cost me. In the end that's what I had to do and finally parked up two hours later at the Grantham North services. After asking another driver what I had to do he instructed me to go into the W H Smiths to pay for a 24 hour parking permit. I duly did that and the guy in Smiths said I had two choices, just parking or parking plus a food voucher. I had the latter. "That'll be £23.50 please". Well, I nearly fainted!! But then again when he gave me the ticket and voucher I could see that £9 was for food, making the price for 24hours of safe parking only £14.50. So all in all not too bad. On future "Nights Out" I'll just pay for the parking and make sure I have a picnic with me or park where all the old hands park for free.....I'll just have to learn where all these places are first.
So, armed with my £9 voucher I had the choice of either Costa Coffee or Burger King...all the other establishments had already closed. Burger King it was then. A double Whopper with cheese meal and some apple pie sticks came to the exorbitant motorway services price of £10 so I had to add a quid to my voucher and I was good to go. I ate the food there and made my way back to the lorry. I was now grateful for all the fussing Jane had done last night. I soon had the bunk looking and feeling cosy and after a bit of reading I soon nodded off. I woke several times in the night as other lorries started their engines and drove away but went straight back to sleep. At 7 am I got up and went to the now open Greggs and had a bacon roll, coffee and a triple pack of jam doughnuts. The bacon roll was disgusting and I fed it to these great big black birds who were mooching about outside. They were either crows or rooks, I don't know the difference, but they certainly enjoyed it.
I set off at 8am for my final drop in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. Just 2 three foot bed bases at the Carre Arms next to Aldi and then started making my way back home to Ipswich.
I didn't want to get back too quick so I poodled towards the A1 and maintained a steady 50mph all the way back.
I had been noticing a hissing noise every time I switched the engine off and as I parked up at the bed factory the manager noticed it too. One of the air lines had burst and I was lucky I hadn't lost my brakes. Apparently the truck was due out soon and this problem would have to be dealt with first. He called Mercedes in Martlesham and they told him to bring it straight round so as I still had a few hours left to work he got me to drive the truck, wait there whilst they fixed it and then drive it back.
On my return the bosses were all there discussing schedules and manning problems. I was asked if I knew London at all and I answered "yea I know my way around London". Apparently heavy storms overnight had caused widespread flooding in the south east and the guy delivering to London couldn't get through so I might have to do it on Monday. They also hinted that I may be required for the next few months as someone was retiring aged 65 so I said I'd be happy to help.
I set of for home and my agency texted me with tomorrows job details which is another 7.5 tonne job delivering plumbing products...as yet I don't know where.
I also received another text saying that the bed factory had booked me for the next thirteen weeks and my next job after the London run would be a run up to the Lake District which would require two "Nights Out". Interesting times are ahead for me. Follow all the news right here.