Keep on trucking?

Why would anybody be a lorry driver? The pay dropped because companies employed cheap labour from abroad. To an extent that is still happening with delivery drivers. We’ve had a charming Bulgarian man come into our yard looking for somebody else (we’re just the postcode.) His only sentence in English was ‘I am from Bulgaria and don’t speak English.’ To show us where he wanted to be, he showed us the name on the list. We then drew a map to show him where he should be (rural postcodes are quite big in the UK, a lot of the places in the post code aren’t in sight of each other.)

But back to Long Distance Lorry drivers. Where are the transport cafes where they used to have the chance of a decent meal cheap? Places where there was room to park the lorry and free overnight because they knew you’d have a breakfast before you left

I saw this, posted by an ex-driver who goes by the name of Jim Titheridge

“So, you are running out of food on the shelves, fuel in the garages, you can’t buy things you need, because the shops can’t get their supplies.

Why is that? 

A shortage of goods?  No

A shortage of money?  No

A shortage of drivers to deliver the goods?  Well, sort of.

There isn’t actually a shortage of drivers, what we have, is a shortage of people who can drive, that are willing to drive any more.  You might wonder why that is.  I can’t answer for all drivers, but I can give you the reason I no longer drive.  Driving was something I always yearned to do as a young boy, and as soon as I could, I managed to get my driving licence, I even joined the army to get my HGV licence faster, I held my licence at the age of 17.  It was all I ever wanted to do, drive trucks, I had that vision of being a knight of the roads, bringing the goods to everyone, providing a service everyone needed.  What I didn’t take into account was the absolute abuse my profession would get over the years.

I have seen a massive decline in the respect this trade has, first, it was the erosion of truck parking and transport café’s, then it was the massive increase in restricting where I could stop, timed weight limits in just about every city and town, but not all the time, you can get there to do your delivery, but you can’t stay there, nobody wants an empty truck, nobody wants you there once they have what they did want.

Compare France to the UK.  I can park in nearly every town or village, they have marked truck parking bays, and somewhere nearby, will be a small routier, where I can get a meal and a shower, the locals respect me, and have no problems with me or my truck being there for the night.

Go out onto the motorway services, and I can park for no cost, go into the service area, and get a shower for a minimal cost, and have freshly cooked food, I even get to jump the queues, because others know that my time is limited, and respect I am there because it is my job.  Add to that, I even get a 20% discount of all I purchase.  Compare that to the UK £25-£40 just to park overnight, dirty showers, and expensive, dried (under heat lamps) food that is overpriced, and I have no choice but to park there, because you don’t want me in your towns and cities.

Ask yourself how you would feel, if doing your job actually cost you money at the end of the day, just so you could rest.

But that isn’t the half of it.  Not only have we been rejected from our towns and cities, but we have also suffered massive pay cuts, because of the influx of foreign drivers willing to work for a wage that is high where they come from, companies eagerly recruited from the eastern bloc, who can blame them, why pay good money when you can get cheap labour, and a never ending supply of it as well.  Never mind that their own countries would suffer from a shortage themselves, that was never our problem, they could always get people from further afield if they needed drivers.

We were once seen as knights of the road, now we are seen as the lepers of society.  Why would anyone want to go back to that?

If you are worried about not getting supplies on your supermarket shelves, ask your local council just how well they cater for trucks in your district.

I know Canterbury has the grand total of zero truck parking facilities, but does have a lot of restrictions, making it difficult for trucks to stop anywhere.

Do you want me to go back to driving trucks?  Give me a good reason to do so.  Give anyone a good reason to take it up as a profession.

Perhaps once you work out why you can’t, you will understand why your shelves are not as full as they could be.

I tried it for over 30 years, but will never go back, you just couldn’t pay me enough.

Thank you to all those people who have shared this post.  I never expected such a massive response, but am glad that this message is getting out there.  I really hope that some people who are in a position to change just how bad it is for some drivers, can influence the powers that be to make changes for the better.  Perhaps some city and town councillors have seen this, and are willing to bring up these issues at their council meetings.  It surely cannot be too much to ask of a town/city to provide facilities for those who are doing so much to make sure their economies run and their shops and businesses are stocked with supplies.  I never wanted any luxuries, just somewhere safe to park, and some basic ablutions that are maintained to a reasonable standard.  I spent my nights away from my home and family for you, how much is it to ask that you at least give me access to some basic services.

There are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of licence holders just like me, who will no longer tolerate the conditions.  So the ball is firmly in the court of the councils to solve this problem.”

But people have always looked down on nasty dirty working class lorries and their drivers, clogging up the road, holding up traffic.

People seem to think that we’ll just hire more cheap drivers from abroad. Well there’s a problem with that. Apparently the Continent has a shortage of 400,000 qualified lorry drivers. According to the International Road Transport Union a quarter of all driving jobs cannot be filled. Poland has apparently got a bigger shortage of drivers than we have! Spain has cut the minimum age for getting your HGV licence down to 18 to try and get more people in. In Germany you can pass your driving test using Arabic.

But, tough though it may seem, people are going to have to pay more for delivery. Too often ‘free delivery’ means that we’ll underpay the driver to keep costs down.

Apparently the government is going to give 5000 temporary visas so companies can hire in foreign drivers. I would suggest that these visas cost £5,000 and the money is used to put somebody through their HGV test.

We’ll know when the problem is solved. When there are lorry parks handy for major towns, with safe parking, decent cafes and clean showers and toilets. After all, how many people want a job where they have to sleep in a wagon cab every night and use whatever toilet they can find? And when motorists slow down and flash their lights to let a lorry pull onto the road in front of them.

And when hell freezes over we’ll use sledges to transport stuff across the ice.

♥♥♥♥

There again, what do I know, speak to the experts.

As a reviewer commented, “

As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”

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30 thoughts on “Keep on trucking?

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt September 25, 2021 at 7:43 am Reply

    The pandemic has made a lot of people question their jobs, and you lot had Brexit, too.

    Natural consequences cannot be evaded.

    I think that’s my motto.

    • jwebster2 September 25, 2021 at 7:56 am Reply

      It was said that in this country, that during the pandemic the rich hid and the poor fetched them stuff

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt September 25, 2021 at 4:08 pm

        And the poor never remember that when it comes to voting, when their votes are bought, again, by empty promises.

      • jwebster2 September 26, 2021 at 1:31 pm

        made by all parties

  2. rootsandroutes2012 September 25, 2021 at 8:43 am Reply

    If you’d asked me six weeks ago, I’d have had to admit that I’d never stayed in a truckstop. That changed in the middle of August when I overnighted at the one in Carlisle. The room was fine – inexpensive too, though if I was there as part of my job I’d still have wanted my employer to pick up the bill. The trouble was, by the time I arrived in the late afternoon / early evening, the on site cafe had closed. No problem – I could see there was a big ASDA over the road, so walked over there. Their cafe could have managed a coffee and a cake. That meant I was left with the desperate last resort option of a McDonald’s (a slightly longer walk in the opposite direction). My apologies to Alicia for the slight to her culture, but we all know what *they’re* like. To be honest, I was a bit grumpy about it… BUT for me this was a one night stop, rewarded with my first evening of Scottish Country dancing in eighteen months. For anyone whose job involves doing that night in, night out for years – well let’s just say I take Jim Titheridge’s point.

    • jwebster2 September 26, 2021 at 1:32 pm Reply

      Yes we have to look after people who work for us

  3. Stevie Turner September 25, 2021 at 9:02 am Reply

    Good to hear the lorry driver’s point of view. Here in Bury St. Edmunds there has been a lorry park for years, complete with a cafe and toilets.

    • jwebster2 September 26, 2021 at 1:33 pm Reply

      Yes, some places still do it properly 🙂

    • M T McGuire September 26, 2021 at 2:22 pm Reply

      That was a real eye opener. I knew France was way better to it’s passenger transport drivers but this is a new one on me. Bury has a lorry park, but thinking about it, it’s something that struck me as notable, suggesting such a thing is a rareity. We have a sugar beet factory though, so I should imagine it is well used and much needed.

      • jwebster2 September 26, 2021 at 2:27 pm

        The two might even be linked?

      • Stevie Turner September 26, 2021 at 2:34 pm

        It is well used. The council shut the travellers’ site next door, and the last time I was that way they had taken up residence in the lorry park!

      • jwebster2 September 26, 2021 at 4:08 pm

        You don’t have to be clairvoyant to predict that happening!

  4. Widdershins September 26, 2021 at 11:06 pm Reply

    I’ve even seen a ad for drivers here in Canada! … bloody madness reigns supreme.

    • jwebster2 September 27, 2021 at 4:18 am Reply

      Given that apparently there is a shortage of drivers around the world, trying to hire them from abroad isn’t particularly wise!

  5. Jane Sturgeon September 27, 2021 at 8:31 am Reply

    An eye-opener and I agree with you about taking care of those who care and deliver for us. Thank you, Jim. 🙂

    • jwebster2 September 27, 2021 at 8:50 am Reply

      We cannot build a society on exploiting people whose work we depend on

      • Jane Sturgeon September 27, 2021 at 9:00 am

        No, absolutely not. We are all connected and it links back to your earlier post on community, Jim. Taking care of each other.

      • jwebster2 September 27, 2021 at 9:11 am

        It is. I went to a wedding this weekend, a great day, a real family and community wedding. One young woman commented to me that she’d never been at a wedding like it and suspected that she never would be again.
        It struck me that in reality it was a wedding that took 30 years to plan, to build up the relationships and to make it happen as it did

      • Jane Sturgeon September 27, 2021 at 9:17 am

        ❤ Yes, Jim, weddings like this are rare and special. How lovely that you could attend. X

      • jwebster2 September 27, 2021 at 9:20 am

        It was a real joy 🙂

      • Jane Sturgeon September 27, 2021 at 10:21 am

  6. Chel Owens September 27, 2021 at 4:01 pm Reply

    I feel strongly about this as well. I live in Utah, where we are landlocked and must use trains and trucks to move goods; yet, all I hear from the public are derogatory comments about trucks and truckers.

    • jwebster2 September 27, 2021 at 4:05 pm Reply

      In the UK in the last year or so, there has been something of a wakeup call for people. The people that have been largely held in contempt by those with good jobs have turned out to be far more important than a lot of ‘desk jockeys’ or ‘zoom cowboys’ 🙂
      Suddenly we’re struggling to get careers to work with the elderly and others, and other trades than truck drivers have disappeared. Basically all these people were underpaid, and in some cases wages have been kept down by bringing in migrant labour. They’ve also be treated pretty poorly by the system. I confess that I rather hope we’re going to see some people bitten firmly on the bottom 🙂

      • Chel Owens September 27, 2021 at 7:45 pm

        Yes! This is what is happening here, too! I’m not seeing many realize The Truth yet. It’s as though they never think about the supply chain.

      • jwebster2 September 27, 2021 at 8:03 pm

        Until the smug and comfortable are inconvenienced there isn’t a problem 😦

      • Chel Owens September 27, 2021 at 8:32 pm

        Even then. You’re experiencing shortages, yes? I don’t know how far people need to go before waking up.

      • jwebster2 September 28, 2021 at 4:46 am

        At the moment the shortages, especially fuel shortages, are because the media has basically encouraged panic buying.
        There’s a lot of ‘shroud waving’ from companies who say ‘if this isn’t done there will be shortages’. Some of it might be true, some of it might be to get them special favours from government

      • Chel Owens September 28, 2021 at 1:26 pm

        Ah. Before reading your post, my husband noted that our shortages are because we haven’t enough drivers to deliver products. It was timely.

      • rootsandroutes2012 September 28, 2021 at 4:37 am

        I’m fascinated to see your reference to ‘The Truth’ Chel (your capitalisation). Would that be closer to what we read about in John’s gospel (John 14:6) or to the ’42’ of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ 🙂

      • Chel Owens September 28, 2021 at 1:24 pm

        Perspective Vortices aside, I capitalized out of the necessity to recognize uncomfortable realities -yes, often only recognized as outlined similarly in John. 🙂

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