I’m sitting writing this from back in my old 20. The family and I had to come over to the UK to do some family stuff, so here we are.
Landing at Heathrow means that our journey begins on the M25 London Orbital Motorway, an interstate ring road type of thing.
Some of you may have heard of it, as it has a reputation for being very congested.
Twenty mile back-ups are part and parcel of life on the M25.
Fortunately, we landed on a Saturday morning, so the commuters were thankfully absent and progress was good.
I was in my element, as I could see all the new lorries (the British version of a truck) up close, rather than in pictures.
There some big differences compared to the trucks I usually see and drive and I have to say, we have the better deal by far in most respects, especially cab size.
Sure, the lorries may have full-width cabs and high roofs that allow you to stand up on the seat. They also have storage cupboards and cubby holes up in the roof space, but they have tiny bunks, literally cut out behind the seats with a slightly wider section in the middle.
I slept in similar or worse during my 20-plus years of trucking over here, but since I’ve had the luxury of North American sleeper berths, there is no way I would want to go back to sleeping with the back of a seat inches from my face.
Drivelines are pretty much the same. Daimler, Paccar and Volvo all have European products that use the same engines we do. Transmissions differ – most here are autoshift, but their standard transmissions are synchromesh and they shift a lot slower and more ponderously than our Eaton Fullers.
It’s pretty much like stirring a pail of oatmeal with a hockey stick.
One area in which they do have the edge on us is in the stopping department. Apart from construction trucks, everything is on discs and has been for quite some time.
That’s good because with high traffic volumes and speed-limited trucks (90 km/h is law in all of Europe) they drive far too close to one another for my liking and with thinking and reaction distances severely reduced, the stopping distance itself has to be shorter to avoid massive chain reaction wrecks.
We stopped off at a service station, much like an OnRoute on the 401.
Facilities inside are very good. You have a choice of cuisine from Chinese, fish and chips, Indian, KFC, McDonalds, Noodles, Starbucks and a high-end grocer that has the most delicious nibbles, all at a very reasonable price compared to what we would have to pay in Canada, if such things were even available in the first place.
However, there’s a downside – isn’t there always?
Parking is not free. If you stay more than two hours you can be charged anywhere up to $50 per night.
Yes, that’s right, fifty bucks!
They do give you a voucher to go towards food or drink on site, but at most that’s worth $20 and the rest goes towards renting the asphalt for the night. So, in summary, I like disc brakes and the choice of food in some of the service areas, but the rest of it, no thanks, I’ve got it far better in Canada.
A fourth generation trucker and trucking journalist, Mark Lee uses his 25 years of transcontinental trucking in Europe, Asia, North Africa and now North America to provide an alternative view of life on the road.