Thursday, January 07, 2010

Jack Knifed Lorries .

It was a harder than usual day at work for me yesterday. My employer was given a new diagram on the 30th November 2009 which means we now have a new duty that starts at 01.55 each day, finishing at 12.10 - yes, that is a very early start indeed. I am not a fan of early shifts but I just do my share on a rolling roster. Because of the poor snowy weather we are having, speeds were reduced along the M4 motorway and I arrived in London 33 minutes later than advertised. So it was just a minimum 45 minute rest break for me, load my coach and leave London on time at 08.00

The journey out of London was good, with lighter traffic than normal. Cruising speeds were good until 09.30 when I was between Membury Services and Junction 15 for Swindon. The traffic came to a halt and I may have driven about one kilometre in a shade under 2 hours. The cause of this delay was 2 accidents. The first accident I saw was a Skoda Fabia car with the front bashed in, further along a Ford Transit van with it's driver's door removed by the fire brigade and further along an articulated lorry that had jack knifed. The council were repairing the central reservation crash barrier. I drove on for maybe another 3 kilometres and saw the scene of another accident which involved just 1 lorry that had jack knifed and collided with the hard shoulder crash barrier.

Of course, time ticks on and it is little fun when you have been awake since 01.00 - with just a 45 minute rest break. I arrived in Cardiff a whole 2 hours later than advertised. It must have been a dreadful shock for these 2 lorry drivers when their lorries jack knifed. The reasons a lorry can jack knife are various and if you look at the Truck Net Lorry Drivers forum you will learn exactly what is involved. A lorry driver can do little when he has to take avoiding action because of the bad driving by amateur car drivers and his lorry jack knifes. However, when the lorry driver is not taking avoiding action he must be very careful and not use his exhaust brake - which will feel unnatural, he must be very careful with the loading of his trailer and if permissible axle weight allows, lift his tag axle.

I have a great deal of sympathy for articulated lorry drivers who are very often worked to the limit by their employers. Reading the thread on the Truck Drivers Forum explains exactly why there is an OFF switch for the gearbox brake retarder on coaches - and just like lorry drivers with their exhaust brakes, driving a coach without a working gearbox brake retarder feels unnatural and a little scary as you just have the brakes.

Still, back to work tomorrow and thankfully a late shift starting at 12.00 so I can get up when I feel like it. I am not bothered by the snow, it is just part of the job.
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