There’s a letter in the current (July 2014) edition of Truck & Driver magazine from one D Pardner (address withheld) moaning about everything about foreign truck drivers, particularly eastern Europeans. He claims that they cause accidents through incompetence, leave truck stops and lay-bys in a filthy state, break the law (such as by transporting large amounts of diesel to avoid higher British fuel prices), rarely spend money in the UK, and in some cases even import prostitutes from their home countries. I’ve been driving trucks since 2000 (7.5-tonners most of that time, but I passed my class 2 HGV test last November) and I can say that British bad truck driving rivals anything eastern Europe has to offer.
Once when I was a driver’s mate for a big furniture company, the driver (of a 16-tonne Volvo) pulled over in a lay-by on the A12 (perhaps the same one where D Pardner saw the Lithuanian truck with all that diesel) and rolled himself a joint. He was definitely impaired as he drove that truck down back lanes in Essex, and I believe the company knew what he was doing. More recently, driving my car at 50mph through the roadworks (recently completed) on the M25 near Sevenoaks, I had two trucks (an 18-tonne box van and a four-axle tipper, both with British number plates) pull up right behind me and flash. With nowhere to go, I put my hazards on to warn them to back off. Instead, one of them overtook me on the left, the other on the right (both of which were illegal). I suspect they saw a small car and assumed the driver was female, and thus easily intimidated. I’ve come across other examples of dangerous driving by tipper drivers, including one who squeezed past me at high speed on the Western Avenue. It is common to blame this type of stupid driving on Bulgarians, but I don’t believe this can be the whole reason. In some companies tipper drivers are paid by the load, so they have an incentive to cram as many loads in as they can. Most driving is paid by the hour, so there is usually no financial motive to speed or cut corners; however, even they are not immune from the urge to speed, even (nay especially) on narrow and windy roads. This is why I don’t take jobs as mates, or pretty much any job that isn’t solo driving anymore.
As for filthy habits, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come to a job and found that the cab was a pig-sty, full of the last driver’s crisp dust and fast food remnants, complete with greasy steering wheel (eeew), and you can smell and even taste it as you drive. The guilty parties cannot all be from eastern Europe. I even saw one of “Our Boys” urinate against his truck at Fleet on the M3, and truck parks often stink of urine. People have no clue that others might not like sitting in their mess or take lunch in their open-air toilet. When I’ve delivered to places that employ foreign workers, like the guys that offloaded the scaffolding I delivered the other day, they’re generally courteous and easy-going. Rude and foul-mouthed British men are much more common (perhaps that’s not the case in their home countries, where they’re not foreigners or guests, but then again, Brits abroad don’t act like guests, especially when they’re drunk, and their French and Spanish is usually much less than the English spoken by eastern Europeans here). In short, we have nothing really to criticise eastern European drivers about — we have enough terrible drivers of our own, and most of the encounters I’ve had with dangerous driving have involved vehicles with British number plates.
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