It's time for an update on what I've been doing since my last post indicated I would be looking for a career change.
I ceased being a cabbie (for the time being) at the end of July. My driving licence entitles me to drive 7.5 ton trucks but to do it professionally you need to complete 35 hours of training at an approved centre to gain what is known as a CPC Qualification which gives you a card similar to a driving licence called a DQC or Driver Qualification Card. Together with this card you also have to apply to the DVLA for a Digital Tachograph Card. I did my classroom training in July and started looking for driving jobs in the Ipswich area as soon as I'd qualified. One company I'd noticed always seemed to need drivers was Tuffnells Parcels. Their trucks are green in colour and have the slogan "Big Green Parcel Machine" on the back. I was granted an interview after a short phone conversation and two days after the interview I was put to work. Quick or what?
Now, Tuffnells is known as a company that carries anything. Weight limits mean nothing to them. I was put to work with a seasoned old timer and we took a truck full of parcels and various other things to the Lowestoft area of Suffolk. On closer inspection of the load I could see planks of wood 6 meters long, metal poles, large boxes with pieces of machinery in them and various other large and apparently heavy items which would need to be manhandled eventually by me on my own. Another aspect was getting the lorry down some of these tight country lanes. I managed to clip a wall and a lampost at the same time as I attempted to follow the satnav through a maze of backstreets. I think that swung it for me. Yet another aspect of the job was the collections. You were given three or four collection points where you would go once the truck was empty and collect any thing from a few parcels or boxes to several pallets of goods. You could effectively bring more back to the depot than you started with and I knew, after a particularly stressful shift trying to make room for all these collections that it wasn't for me. To cut a long story short I survived four shifts before I realized the job was too much for me. I don't know much about the health and safety laws of this country but I know a human body is only capable of lifting so much before it just can't do it. So as I lay in bed on a Wednesday morning deciding whether to go in or not Jane decided it for me and I sheepishly telephoned to say I couldn't do the job anymore. I really do take my hat off to the guys that have managed to do that job for several years. The guy I was with called Wayne was of a similar age to me and seemed to have boundless energy. I called him first to say I wouldn't be in anymore and he totally understood and wished me well for the future.
So, jobless again, I was debating whether to rent a taxi and go back to work in London but having moved all my stuff to Ipswich and said goodbye to the kids plus receiving loads of encouragement from family and friends I didn't wan't to look like a failure. I signed up to a driving agency and was eventually allocated some work driving white vans as a courier driver for UK Mail. They have various routes around East Anglia and Essex and I have basically been covering drivers away on holiday or sick leave. The parcels are all normal sizes and although timed deliveries can mess up your whole route order its been quite enjoyable. Just as I was getting used to the job and making a few friends the agency decided to send me somewhere else last week. I was to go back on the 7.5 tonners but this time there was no heavy lifting as it would be palletised goods only. This was right up my street and I had an extremely enjoyable week driving a Mitsubishi Canter truck into London and surrounding areas dropping off pallets instead of parcels. I did have a delivery in Coniger Road, Fulham and I wondered how I would get the lorry down this extremely narrow street safely and then get out again. As I entered the street there was nowhere to pull in or park. Putting the hazards on and blocking the road wasn't an option as I may be tied up for quite some time while I maneuvered the pallets off via pump truck and tail lift. I opted to drive around and find a space big enough for the lorry. I turned left out of Coniger Road into Studdridge Street and immediately saw a gap big enough for me to safely park. As I pulled into it I heard a loud scraping noise on the roof of the truck indicating that I was hitting overhanging tree branches and possibly breaking them off. "Oh well" I thought, "its only a tree". Just as I was climbing off the lorry I heard a guy screaming behind me. "Look what you've done to that poor tree you idiot!!" I acted all surprised and apologetic as he indicated several branches and leaves that had formed a little pile on the pavement. It didn't look good but all I could do was apologize even more and he eventually calmed down warning me to be more careful in the future. A few years ago he wouldn't have got away with calling me an idiot but I felt he probably had a valid reason in this case.
The daily deliveries to London invariably ended with a final drop at The Teardrop Center in Swanley, Kent. The first time I attempted to find this place I got it seriously wrong and had to take a 20 mile detour to get to it again. As in anything, once you've done it once it becomes a doddle to do again so the next visits there were incident free. From there it would mean a trip through the Dartford Tunnel homeward bound. That proved to be the worst part of the whole day as it would regularly take between thirty minutes to an hour to get through after the Swanley drop. They've even removed the toll booths and made everyone pay online to speed things up but its still a nightmare which needs addressing as soon as possible.
So to the present. I generally get a text from the agency informing me what I'll be doing in the coming week. This weeks text said I would be back at UK Mail from Tuesday to Friday. I have had several Mondays off recently as there doesn't seem to be a need for agency drivers. But since I've been typing this post I've had a text asking if I could do a one-off tomorrow and take a 7.5 tonner out on a long distance trip. I've agreed and am totally intrigued as to where I might be going. Using a tachograph means you can only drive for nine hours with a forty five minute compulsory break after four and a half hours of driving so long distance probably means the home counties or possibly London again. Watch this space to see where I went.
Take Care Out There.
(I may have to change the LC for something else now I'm not doing cabbing anymore ;) )