That New Car Smell

March 29, 2013

Woo! Picked up my new ute three days ago and still getting high on that new car smell every time I open the door. I chose a Toyota Hilux Extra Cab because :

  • It runs on truck fuel (as long as I’m nice to the boss)
  • They’re pretty common in the bush-parts should be easier to find if needed
  • They’re economical to run compared to, say, a Landcruiser
  • The extra cab space gives me a little more stowage area behind the front seats

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At the moment if looks pretty Plain Jane apart from the nice metallic paint job which will end up scratched despite my best efforts. It has factory standard tyres which I’m replacing next week – hopefully. I have to hold off fitting the bullbar until I rebuild my funds a little but that will alter it’s appearance dramatically. Following that will be side steps and (probably) side rails connected to the bullbar. In the distant future is a fibreglass canopy and maybe a winch.

The idea is to have a four wheel drive vehicle capable of taking me to all the spots around Australia that I have driven past in the truck and never had the time (or been able) to turn off the road and have a look at.

A lot of work to do

Cheers, Mike.

Oh What A Feeling

March 29, 2013

Oh What A Feeling

Raised some dust today but no rain-no mud. My new ride.

Let’s Play Chicken

March 25, 2013

There are few things more frustrating for a truck driver than dealing with car drivers who, through ignorance or stupidity, seem determined to add their names to the nations road toll list.
This has always been a problem in the cities and the more populated coastal areas-in fact, the coastal areas during long weekends/school holidays and the like are notorious for car drivers behaving badly around trucks. The Brand Highway in Western Australia, part of Highway 1 which circles the entire continent, is a prime example of this-several years ago at Easter I had to leave the road twice in the space of three hours to avoid collisions holiday makers. Pretty scary shit in a roadtrain.

Well, with the increase in mining in the inland areas of the Pilbara employees of companies like BHP, Rio Tinto and FMG and their subcontractors have shown they aren’t afraid of pulling out in front of a fully laden triple or quad roadtrain travelling on the Great Northern Highway. In the Newman area there are four hotspots-at least one of these locations will guarantee you a “panic brake” incident on your trucks’ data logger if you drive thru at shift change.

The first is Capricorn Roadhouse. The roadhouse is located on a bend in the Gt Northern Hwy about 16km south of Newman. Next door is a whole lot of accommodation for Fly in-Fly out (FIFO) workers. Now, occasionally you’ll get a roadhouse customer pulling out at a stupid moment but the vast majority of idiots come from the FIFO workers that seem to think their diesel 4×4 can out accelerate a truck coming through at 90kph. Doesn’t always happen like they think it will.

Number two is “The Nullagine Road”. It enters the Gt Northern Hwy from the east and has plenty of straight road to the north and south so drivers should be able to see traffic coming at them. Should. Not do. This intersection is a favourite with all the bus drivers given the job of safely delivering the workers to and from the work sites every shift. I think a few of these bus drivers get their kicks turning the helpless passengers into quivering wrecks-I know I’d be happy to let the cool kids sit down the back if my driver had just pulled out into the path of 118 tonne triple roadtrain.

The third is the northern most entrance to Newman. Here there is plenty of visibility in both directions so they can’t complain about not seeing something 4.3m high, 2.2m wide and 53.5m long coming at them. Regardless of this they just don’t seem to care, and once one pulls out two or three more will follow. Safety in numbers? I’m not sure. Stand on the brakes again, white knuckle grip on the steering wheel and a quick glance at the dashcam-if I run over and kill these idiots I want proof they were responsible for their own deaths. Then, to add an insult to the whole thing, they only travel 400m up the road before turning off the highway into a BHP site just opposite the sewage ponds. Really, it was that bloody important that you get in front of me, when the road behind me was completely traffic free, just so you can save 20 seconds on your way to work?! What is wrong with these people.

The fourth one has only really been a problem for me when I’ve been travelling south towards Newman. It’s at the Hope Downs 4 access road and the problem is so bad that the mine has actually positioned trailer mounted illuminated billboards on the side of the road north and south of the intersection warning traffic on the highway to look out for their less than intelligent workers not giving way or looking at all. There’s some real dipshits here.

I don’t know why these people feel the need to endanger their lives and put me in a position I really don’t want to be in. I mean, I don’t want someone’s death on my hands regardless of who’s fault it is-I’ve seen that shit really mess people up. Is it because they’re here for a good time not a long time as FIFO workers? Do they drive the same way when they are at home with wives/girlfriends/kids in the car instead of workmates? Do they drive their own car the same way or are they just thrashing the company vehicle because, hey, they don’t have to pay for it? Or are they just city people that come out to the bush to work and really have no concept of how dangerous their actions are and how much I’d really, really like to just run the dumb prick over to teach them a lesson?

The mining companies need to be aware of the havoc some of their employees create when they are let loose on public roads and the police need to monitor these problem spots and actually do something about these reckless drivers before they get the call to a fatality, not after. I hardly ever see the police patrolling along that section of Gt Northern Hwy and I’ve been a regular through here for years.

Oh, and do something about all these mine vehicles leaving their orange beacon on while travelling on public roads-orange flashing beacons are supposed to be a warning to other road users of a hazard, roadworks or an oversize load. More than half of the active orange beacons on public roads in the Pilbara region are firmly attached to mine vehicles driven by oblivious mine workers.

Cheers, Mike.

Trouble In Paradise

March 4, 2013

The joys of transport, I didn’t know they existed. Sorry, in a bad mood. I’m sitting in an idling truck I don’t dare shut off. The problem is all the magic smoke leaked out of the starter motor and now it doesn’t work. Sounds silly but I saw it and it doesn’t work.

However you look at it – the starter motor fried and the only way to get the truck started was to tow start it. Right now I’m quite happy I’m not driving an automatic. As per Murphy’s Law I’m as far from home as possible this trip and its a public holiday and no one will answer their phones.

I do have the truck running after borrowing a prime mover from one person and a driver from another and tow starting mine. I need to keep it running for the next 48 hours. That should see me home and able to fit the new starter motor sitting in the shed waiting.

I can’t help but feel a bit “why me?” because it seems the last few weeks have been one drama after another. Yeah, yeah, things aren’t that bad but they aren’t that fantastic either. A string of flat tyres and blowouts, a sprained ankle, a cyclone, a fire, a stuffed alternator, a blown hub seal, a…well there’s more but you get the idea. All of this has put a dent in my savings plan for my new car and its kind of got me down a bit.

It’s not the end of the world and I’m sure this icy cold Little Creatures Pale Ale will help improve my short term outlook. Now…if I can get the top off…it’s…it’s not a twist top…and I don’t have a bottle opener….Nooooooooo!

Cheers, Mike.

Check, check.

March 1, 2013

Just a quick check in, still in the land of the living and until lately I have been quite busy. In the last two weeks we have been through fire and flood with tropical cyclone Rusty and fire on the outskirts of Perth.

Cyclone Rusty promised a lot and thankfully, for us down south of the state, didn’t really deliver. I had a few extra days off in Perth and then went out on a Carnarvon express run only to get mildy inconvenienced by a bush fire on the way home. Luckily I was coming back to Perth with only one trailer and was able to hit the back roads and dodge around the affected area.

Put the truck into the workshop today to get a leaking hub seal replaced and am scheduled to head out to Port Hedland tomorrow night with three trailers. After that I am hoping to get back into my usual routine of three trips in twelve days and every second weekend at home.

Prior to that I have been having a bad run with tyres. A string of punctures then several blowouts and even one wheel I couldn’t get loose from the hub (ended getting around it by jacking up the axle and chaining the axle up). I actually badly sprained my ankle when the wheel brace slipped from a wheel nut and I landed with all my weight on the side of my foot. Stung just a bit! I’m still limping about over two weeks later. That was when I decided to buy myself a rechargeable rattle gun (impact wrench). I had been trying to talk myself into laying out the cash for nearly two years now but good ones are pretty damned expensive. 

I ended up getting a Milwaukee 3/4 inch 18 volt rechargeable impact wrench with two 4 amp batteries and they threw in a bonus 1.5 amp battery along with a carry bag/cap/stubby holders.

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I’ve used it twice now and it will undo fully torqued ten stud wheel nuts. I wasn’t  expecting that – I thought I would have to at least partially loosen the wheel nuts before the Milwaukee would turn them. Perhaps to prolong the life of this expensive bit of gear I might be better off using the wheel brace to do the initial hard work instead of hammering away for five to ten seconds before the wheel nut slowly begins to turn for the first half to full rotation.

All in all, I am suitably impressed with the Milwaukee so far and can foresee it being a very handy tool to have with me in the truck while I’m away on the road.

Cheers, Mike.

Changing Tyres

December 26, 2012

<a href="” title=”Changing Tyres”>Changing Tyres

Just a quick time-lapse video all about dealing with those big black round things. Tyres. Actually, changing one in the heat and the flies in the Pilbara.

Cheers, Mike.

A Bit Of A (Time) Lapse

October 22, 2012

Here’s another quick post to point you towards a video I just put up on YouTube. It’s called Perth To Yandi and it is still shots taken by my GoPro mounted inside the windscreen of the truck which I have stitched together with a bit of music into a two and a bit minute clip.

I will embed the video later. Cheers, Mike.

Video – The Telfer Road

October 13, 2012

Just finished editing some video I shot with my GoPro HeroHD2 camera on a recent run to Telfer up near Marble Bar in the Pilbara.

Here’s another quick clip I filmed on my iPhone 4S on the Nifty road, a few hours further east.

Go here to see the rest of my video’s on YouTube.

Cheers, Mike.

Stuck In The Pilbara

August 2, 2012

Oh the joys of transport! I had a really productive day today (being sarcastic here), started at around 5:30am and unloaded six pallets from my second trailer. Moved onto the next drop 150km up the road and (after a 30 minute delay due to an oversize load and getting stuck behind another truck for 60km) seemed to enter an alternate dimension where time slowed down and all of the people around me had totally different priorities from my own. Past experience has shown me there is no rushing these people so I had to sit tight and bite my tongue.
Six hours later I’ve unloaded everything that had to come off and reloaded two trailers of backloading that had to go to Perth. Complete all the paperwork, hook up the trailers and released the park brake and…and…go nowhere. Check all the airlines : ok. Check all the air taps : ok. Walk back to the cab and check the brake buttons : yep, I haven’t gone suddenly stupid – both buttons set correctly. Walk up and down all three trailers rechecking airlines and taps : all ok. Crawl under each trailer and dolly to see which brakes are on and which are off : ok, second trailer hasn’t released it’s brakes – all other brakes have come off.
So it looks like there is a problem with one of the valves on that trailer so I do what on a computer would be called rebooting. I disconnect the airlines and reconnect them and hey presto, everything works. Yeah, I know, sounds stupid but you would be surprised how often it works.
Sweet, I’m outa here. I get back out to the highway, about a 25km drive, and by this stage it’s been 10 hours since breakfast so I take 15 minutes to shovel some food into me and keep going. I get to within 10 kilometres of the third drop and ring them up to let them know I’m not far away and get “Nah, you’re too late – have to unload tomorrow” from the person on the other end of the line.
I was actually pretty restrained. I managed to get out a “Fine. I’ll be there tomorrow” in a flat voice before I hung up and threw the phone across the cab. This was shortly before 4pm. I am now spending 15 hours parked on the side of the road with the nearest roadhouse with a shower and a meal 115km south of here. I put in 11 hours work and made $78 before tax for the entire day. Is it any wonder I’m not happy?
What none of these people seem to comprehend is I make my wages by driving down the road, not by sitting around on my arse while these idiots waste my time. I am payed by the kilometre – not by the day or by the hour or by the task. In order to make it worth the effort I was counting on clocking up 400-500km tonight before I climbed in the bunk. I was also looking forward to getting home for my two days off for the fortnight.
At moments like these I really wonder why I drive trucks, why I work longer hours than most of my friends and why I pay taxes that go to those lazy shits that cant be bothered finding a job. Maybe in the morning when I’m finally on my way home things will seem different but right now I don’t really care all that much.

Mike.

Oops, I’m Too Late!

July 5, 2012

Oops, I got here too late. I’ll have to stay the night. Shame.

Well, in a nutshell, that’s what happened but it’s not the complete story. I am staying the night at the Spinifex Camp at Yandicoogina in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It’s about 1300-1400km north of Perth and earlier today I spent a few hours unloading the food and supplies needed to keep the place running for another week.

“It all began…” as all good stories do with a dramatic and traumatic event. The driver that started out this run from Perth received a bad news phone call about 600km into the run – a family medical emergency on the other side of the country. Well, no-one can blame him for wanting to be there instead of here (I haven’t heard how things are going over there yet, fingers crossed) so he dropped the three trailers of food and supplies in Mount Magnet and headed back to Perth and a plane ride east.

I was just leaving Newman for Perth after unloading my three trailers and was six hours away from Mount Magnet when this all happened so it was decided I would pick up the three loaded trailers, leaving my three empty trailers, and head back north and complete the run. Of course, the delivery schedule was out the window with the extra distance I had to travel so all necessary phone calls were made to customers (did I mention there was four deliveries instead of the normal two for the run?). Murphy had to put in his two cents worth so I was a further two hours later than anticipated but I at least got the Spinifex delivery done which was the biggest freight drop of the four deliveries and the most time consuming with one full trailer of backloading to take back to Perth. In fact, there was two trailers worth of backloading but because the freight from the extra two drops was taking up the remaining trailer space it was decided that recycled glass and cardboard probably wasn’t as important as the food and ALCOHOL the other camps were waiting on. Common sense prevails, drinkers of the Pilbara rejoice!

You know one of the great things about delivering the food and alcohol to these camps miles from any town, city or coastline? It’s that when it comes down to it the people out here really do appreciate the service you provide them and are more than happy to put you up with a room,a hot shower and a feed. Most of the time I’m happy to arrive on site, unload and ask for nothing more than a signature on a manifest (ok, I do like to grumble about things when the forklift driver doesn’t know his ‘fork tilt lever’ from his ‘fork up/down lever’ and when…). Anyway, I don’t take advantage of their generosity and when days like today come along I appreciate the little things like the shower, the bed and the meal.

Tomorrow I leave here around 6am and head for the next two drops which are only about 15km apart and an hours drive from here. Then a little bit of a trailer shuffle to make sure I’m not dragging the still loaded and heaviest trailer as my third and head 115km south to Newman and unload the remaining freight around lunchtime-ish. That should be pretty straightforward (mind you, this is the Pilbara) and then another trailer shuffle to make my second trailer my first trailer, my third trailer my second trailer and my first trailer my third trailer. Got it? It’s all about setting up the roadtrain to get the best ride out of all the trailers – it’s a 12 hour journey back to Perth from Newman and the trailers ARE supposed to follow in the wheel track of the prime mover in front. It makes for a less stressful day, believe me!

Now who was the smart ass that said truck drivers just sit around all day?

Cheers, Mike.

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