8 Wheels Diary (pics are back) W/E 9/2/07

Monday 5th February 2007

0700 Start. First job this morning was to run out into the sticks near Ongar to collect the 6t Hitachi that I’d dropped off on Friday. As I threaded my way theough the narrow lanes I caught up one of our machine drivers who was crawling along, obviously lost in his van. He pulled in to let me past and I guessed that he must be going to the same place as me for whatever reason. I was slightly more puzzled to find the service van there, but somehow the bloke who had it on self drive had managed to slip the machine out of one of it’s tracks. There was not much I could do so I fired up the night heater and kept out of the way whilst they got it sorted. The houseowner appeared and was moaning, saying he had requested the same machine he’d had previously as it had steel tracks and that rubber tracks were not really suitable for outdoor use, I resisted the temptation to ask if carpet or perhaps laminate flooring would be more suitable and kept quiet. It wasn’t too long before the fitter had it all sorted and the machine was loaded and chained without further incident. As this machine had been given a clean bill of health and wasn’t caked in mud, it bypassed the return visit to the yard and was delivered straight to site in Chelmsford to replace a 13 tonner that the lowloader had just collected. The next job on the sheet was to collect a 7t Volvo from Hornchurch so it was a quick blast down the A12 and through to Emerson Park. The site address was a name and address, with door number so I assumed it’d be a small development but in fact it was a reasonable sized site that I discovered by accident whilst waiting for a Readymix lorry to unsuccessfully reverse in. It would appear that I was in the nick of time and collecting the digger now would clear some space so I jumped the queue and loaded the machine straight on. The extra buckets were loaded by remote tower crane and I left quickly to minimise further disruption. Unfortunately the road ahead was closed and I ended up getting diverted where I really didn’t want to be, this resulted in a couple of wrong turns and a slightly haphazard route back to the yard to offload the machine.

There was not much happening for a while so I refuelled the machine and tucked it out of the way between a couple of bigger machines before having a cuppa and a snooze in the cab for half hour or so. My next job was to collect an 8t Hitachi (the one the bloke wanted this morning) from a farm field in nearby Great Baddow. This had been one of my first jobs, delivering here so I knew exactly where to go and was slightly puzzled to find no sign of it or anyone working there where it had clearly been. I followed the road until the end just to make sure it hadn’t been moved to a different field before calling in. It turns out that they had tracked the machine back across the fields to the farm (about 1½ miles) and someone had just not told me (at least it hadn’t been nicked). Getting to the farm by road was slightly less direct and was about a 5 mile journey (although still quicker than the machine, no doubt) Once I found the machine it was loaded with just two buckets and driven a couple of miles to another of their farms nearby where they have some more work for it. It didn’t quite get the record for shortest move, that going to my former employer who sent me from Harlow to Lewes to move a drill rig 1.1km with my 8 wheeler before returning empty, job done. I was back at the yard at finished bang on 1500 for a straight 8 hours, no overtime.

Tuesday 6th January 2007

In at 0745 this morning for a local first job not requiring urgent attention. After a brew up I go round the wagon and give it a good check over, it’s due in for service next week and there are a few niggly bits that sorting when it goes in. One of the brake lights has blown, but the yard fitter finds one in Bob’s cab and swiftly changes it over. Once I am satisfied that everything is tip top I head off to the local VOSA testing station in Chelmsford to collect a JCB 3CX. I’m not sure what they are doing here but most of the testing buildings have been demolished and the place is a right mess. Whether they are still testing here or not I don’t know, but the HGV tests are obviously still operating from here as I spy the silver Scania 92M that I learnt in pull through the gates. The JCB is parked down at the end so, I spin round and drop the ramps in front so I can drive it straight on. Unfortunately the keys where not where they should have been and no amount of searching can find them before I admit defeat and call the office, after a few minutes they call me back with the news that the machine driver has forgotten to leave them, but someone will bring me the spare set from the yard. I settle for a half hour snooze and a cup of tea whilst I wait, obviously I just want to get going but sometimes life keeps throwing these obstacles at you. The keys arrive and it’s not long before it’s loaded on and chained ready for the short run back to the yard. Where I find that the cab door has decided to lock itself with the keys in the ignition. Uh - oh. Luckily the fitter is in the yard and produces a JCB key which opens the door and I’m back in business and able to swap it over for the 7t Volvo that I brought in yesterday. This one is going to Colchester Garrison and I am swapping it over for another machine but cannot do so until after lunch, I take the opportunity to run some tachos into Wheelers down at the Hythe and park on the quay for a spot of lunch. Admittedly that sounds far nicer than the reality of over looking the scrapyard on one side of the muddy river, Jewsons dead ahead and a bit building development over the other side but you’ve to take what you can.

The Garrison job is far larger than I had realised and I am surprised by how much it has all been developed since I last went that way, I find Gate A and the security guard waves a plan of the site under my nose to try and help me find the right area. As I drive round I realise that this development is vast, and finding my 9t digger is going to be no easy job. Everywhere I look there are diggers, JCB’s, telehandlers, dumpers, HUGE dumpers and people. In the end I give up and call the office as it is hopeless, they give me the number of one of our machine drivers and tell me to find him first. Our machines are tucked away, and it’s a bit of an offroad course to get there but somehow I battle through. I have some parts to drop off here, but that’s all the machine is going over there somewhere and the other one is over there as well. I am told that someone in a red 4x4 will come and lead me in the right direction, but I have gleaned the info that I need to pick up a 9t buff coloured Komatsu. After 5 minutes of waiting I figure that on a site with hundreds of people (poss. Thousands) I could end up waiting forever for my ■■■■■■ so I decide to trail round ‘over there’ and see if I can find the machine myself, I eventually spot something probable and I decide to walk over and check it out as I cannot see anyway of getting there with the lorry. This itself is no mean feat being something of an assault course, crossing trenches and climbing over stuff to get there. However I am in the right place (only been an hour) and they tell me how to thread my way round the site to get the vehicle there. It’s a simple switch, our machine off and the contractors one on and I eventually hand in my gate pass at 1500 having been on site for an hour an a half.

This machine is being delivered to a big waterside development at Brightlingsea, so I retrace my route to the Hyte and pick up the old Clacton road through to Thorrington before turning off for Brightlingsea. As I come into the village I see a large tower crane and figure that is a good place to head for (although there’s not much choice of waterfront to aim for)

Once I find someone to hand the machine over too, I am forced to offload and then hang the chains, fold the ramps and sweep down whilst being assaulted by the aroma of fish and chips from the chippy next door.

It is 4 o’clock and I am very tempted but I resist the temptation and instead get irked by the lift axle refusing to lift. I leave it down and run back as is, knowing full well it will lift first thing in the morning but would probably have messed me about for ages if I had persisted. A good run back and I’m back in the yard just after 1700.

Wednesday 7th February 2007

0730 This morning, frankly I’d rather have stayed in bed as it was flippin freezing outside and waiting for the car to thaw did nothing to improve things, at least I’ve got a heated screen unlike many of the muppets that were driving along peering out through a letter box sized clear patch. Despite my confidence about the tag axle, there was no way it was going to lift this morning, it went through the motions with the body doing press ups whilst it kept trying but I had to give up and leave it down. I had to gingerly track a 1½t mini digger up the ramps, it is a bit delicate on the best of days, being so narrow it only just cover the gap between the ramps, but today with frost on the ramps there is the danger of it sliding. Thankfully it goes on OK and I head off down the A130 to unload it at a boatyard on Canvey Island. The rear cab glass is frozen up, so I decide to spin the machine tracks and all and drive it down the ramps with one hand on the lever for the dozer blade in case it starts to go. The machine made it safely down the ramps unlike me sliding down whilst standing perfectly upright. I definitely need some new boots, anyone got a good source for size 13 steel capped Doc Martens? The axle is still not playing ball, and traction here is tricky too with no weight on, wet roads and the tag axle taking the weight of the beaver tail. I have heard other people moaning about 6x2’s in the wet and now I can sympathise, ideally it would be a double drive bogie for this job but a working lift would be equally good. Back at the yard there are no more machines to move so I get the keys to another beast, an R Reg LDV Convoy pick up. Woo hoo. I have to load a hydraulic breaker for one of the machines, this involves cranking the ancient forklift into life and finding that for some reason today it only wants to straight ahead or left. I persevere by letting it run to warm up and driving it round in circles and eventually get a very small amount of right lock which enable me to somehow load the breaker on board before setting off for Ipswich to drop it off. I know I’m fortunate in having had a few decent motors to drive, but I’ve had some old dogs as well but this one takes some beating just the ergonomics of the thing amaze me. Take it’s nearest rival the Transit, they are so different. Now OK I’m a 6 footer and I’m about 14st, so not exactly tiny, but by the same token not really abnormal size, the LDV is cramped and uncomfortable compared to the ■■■■■■ which poses no such problem. My worst complaint were the mirrors though, the nearside one is so low that anything you could manage to see is blocked anyway by the quarterlight divider, I guess after truck mirrors anything seems inferior but I have always been impressed by the mirrors on Transits with the built in wide angle. Aaargh rant over. After Ipswich I have to lug the beast up the A14 to Volvo at Duxford to collect a part for one of our machines. Apparently the machine is on self drive and the driver is refusing to use it because the (cab) heater isn’t working. The small control box that plugs into the dash is a whopping £560. Back down the M11 from Duxford and I hand over my precious cargo to the unimpressed boss. A quick check over on the truck and one of the marker lights has blown, so I change the bulb and then refit a new emergency stop button on the winch. Finally the lift axle decides to work, which might be handy if the weather is bad tomorrow and I decide to quit whilst I’m ahead and go home at 1600.

Thursday 8th February 2007

Out the house at 0600 and in the last hour and a half about 2” of snow had fallen, this wasn’t particularly good news as none of the roads seemed to have been gritted. I was concerned mainly about other idiots on the road and it took nearly half an hour to get to Danbury which is only a few miles from home. At the top of the hill there is a sort of S bend with a dip in the middle, thankfully people were using common sense and spacing out well as it was more than a bit dodgy. I met Norman as arranged and we took refuge with a cuppa in the office whilst we decided that the roads (A12 included) were in such a bad way we’d sit it out and wait to see what happened. Various calls were exchanged and we gleaned the knowledge that even the M25 was bad by the Dartford Crossing and soon we learnt that the site we were to clear in Dartford had been closed and the blokes sent home. This rather stopped any further chance of getting sent out and we stayed put drinking tea. Our lowloader driver Bob called to say he was staying at home at to call if we needed him. After several cups of tea and generally getting in the way we were sent home at about 0930.

Friday 9th February 2007

Yesterdays job had been rolled over and to be honest I was dreading the road conditions this morning, all the snow had turned to slush last night and the weather forecasters were predicting a freeze over night. However the roads this morning were just wet and I arrived at the yard at 0615 and followed Norman out at 0630. we ran down to Dartford together and pulled onto the site next to the Tunnel abnormal loads area in just 45 minutes. It was a site clearance for a civil engineering firm and we decided that he would get busy loading the container and pallets of cement whilst I sorted out the JCB and compressor.

We also had a dumper to go but managed to squeeze it on his beaver tail as the container was only a 10 footer. Yesterdays plan was for the JCB to go to Gants Hill and everything back to the contractors yard near Chelmsford, however it was all headed back to the yard now. After following him through the tunnel I passed him by the A13 and watched him disappear in the mirror, much to his irritation. In fact I passed most things as my Scanny will happily steam along in the high 50’s and having been a 44t unit in a previous life is just not stretched by the piffling 26t that it now runs at. Of course 420hp and the full 14sp gearbox go someway to help matters, no slowing on hills for me then. Leaving the A12 at Margaretting there are two routes to Highwood, one is via the A414 the other through some windy lanes and I decide to choose these. I worked in Highwood for 6 years and know the roads well, but due to the almost complete absence of snow by the A12 I forgot how much we’d had and was slightly concerned when I turned into the lane. I kept it nice and steady and arrived at the yard safely about 5 minutes before Norman who had come the long way round. Once everything was unchained the compressor was forklifted off, Norm took the JCB off whilst I sorted the chains and straps, folded the ramps and got out of the way so that he could unload his. My next job was a bit of a mystery I had been given an envelope of cash, a collection address, a delivery address and told to bring back whatever was there. It was a farm on the Bedford side of Hitchin and I made my way up the A1M and followed the lanes north of Hitchin, one of the things I love about this vocation is the different things that you get to see when you pass through places. Today was no exception and in the village of Stondon I was pretty surprised to see a large sailing ship standing in a yard, I noticed a sign about a transport museum and thanks to the web I now know that it is a replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour. In rural Bedfordshire. Before long I found the farm and the driveway was compacted snow and nice and slippery. I handed over the cash and was shown my prize a digger of unknown manufacture and age about 5t or so, a bit of a rusty relic but I suppose obviously worth something (£3500) to someone. It took a bit of cranking to start and my jump start pack got dusted off and helped get the beast started, once it was going it all seemed to work and it was loaded without further fuss, although I left it running whilst I attended to the chains and ramps. I decided to stop for a 45 here and I enjoyed a nice peaceful snooze, much better than stopping at South Mimms with all those inconsiderate drivers coming and going. On the M25 on the way back there had been an accident involving several vehicles just before the M11 but I was lucky enough to a.) not get involved and b.) get through just as the Incident Response Unit arrived and not get stuck in the traffic jam that would no doubt result in their cone and sign wielding operation. Back into Essex I came off the A12 and took the old A130 Southend Road along to Hanningfield and at one point was running alongside Bob in the lowloader. All I had as an address was the farm name and an X on the map although this turned out to be the telephone exchange, I was sure it would be the next road down as there were all sorts of bits of plant at a place there so I went to give it a look after having a little drive around to make sure. The other place looked promising but had the wrong name, but a quick snoop round to find someone confirmed I was in the right place after all. The machine started perfectly and was swiftly offloaded before I made my way back to our yard a short distance away. Finished at 1615.

Total Distance 739Kms


Thanks a lot a great read and very nice photos,

Nice one. looks like your back with a decent company.

Great diary as always.
Doing some part time plant work at the moment direct for a local company. I have a bunch of keys that will start anything and everything in the plant hire world .It takes a few minutes to find the right one . Would it not be a good idea to get a set yourself ?.Then you can load the item yourself and watch a chubby builder run across site thinking your pinching it !!! :smiley:

I have been tasked with assembling a set, but it takes time to acquire them. There is no set to take over as this vehicle is an additional one that was added late last year. The other two drivers have got keys to most things and Bob has got a big tub of keys.

The problem lies in that where one Jake key will fit another etc. they are so easy to nick that many have electronic ignition immobilisers fitted.

Nice one, enjoyed that.

Another great read! Nice to see the pics back too :slight_smile:

Another great read! Nice to see the pics back too :slight_smile:

took the words right out of my mou…fingers

outstanding effort, that man!

Nice one mate, and good pics too.

Good diary thanks