Gas Trick Flue
I had settled into the rut of driving from Halewood to Fords and actually became quite comfortable with it. Were it not for an act of blind stupidity on the part of Mr Boss, combined with an incredible piece of luck, I would possibly be tramping up and down the road from Halewood to the docks to this very day…
Although initially I was reluctant to take the truck abroad I soon actually started to enjoy the work, and in spite of working hours that were long and illegal, for several months I had a lot of fun hauling loads to Germany for Ford. However, there was one thing that I was unaware of, and that my boss had decided to ignore in the hopes that I would sort the problem out for him.
At that time I was pulling the trailers with a Volvo F6 day cab tractor unit. This is not a vehicle designed to be slept in, and for months I’d been working around this by sticking up newspaper round the windows and sleeping across the seats in a sleeping bag. Whilst this was not exactly comfortable it was, at least, possible.
The thing that I was unaware of manifested itself on the 1st October, when I arrived at the German border with Belgium. The police officer on duty came out, looked at the truck, and promptly told me to turn round and go home. It soon became clear to me that Germany operated a rule whereby you could not enter the country after 1st October unless you had a form of cab night heating, as the weather began to deteriorate badly and they quite rightly didn’t want idiotic foreign drivers freezing to death and cluttering up their countryside.
A hurried phone call persuaded Mr Boss to send the only tractor unit that we had with a night heater, and he told me he’d make arrangements for my truck to be fitted with one. He sounded quite perky about the idea. This, in itself, should have put my on my guard…
I met the other truck driver and we swapped trailers. This meant that I ended up having to go to Spain and because of Murphy’s Law I ended up there for two weeks. No change of clothes, no food, and little money. I have to tell you, that was a long two weeks. It was also the first time I’d been to Spain by truck and I loved it. On returning to the UK, tired, hungry and smelly, Mr Boss showed up with the night heater...
Oh my…it was something the shape of a traditional flying saucer, with a grille at the top and a spout at the side. It came with a clear plastic bottle of liquid. It was, in effect, a paraffin heater! I asked for the instructions and was told not to worry about it. All I had to do, apparently, was fill it with the liquid and light it. No worries, it would turn itself off if it was tipped over. And like a fool, I believed him.
Back again to Germany, and the Police Officer tried to get me to turn around again, but I showed him the heater. He conferred with his book of rules and his colleagues, and grudgingly they allowed me in to the country. I smiled, waved and set out for Saarlois and the Ford factory.
Having unloaded the body panels, and reloaded empty cages, I pulled out of the factory and parked up in the truck park. It was too early for bed, so I wandered into the village, found a bar, had a coffee, and then went for a walk. I happened across a Pizza place and bought a chicken pizza and a bottle of cola, and then returned to the truck.
Pizza consumed, I stuck pages of The Sun to the windows, filled and lit the heater, and then retired to my bed.
The next thing I knew was being in the open, in daylight, with a blinding headache, a massive pain in my chest and an oxygen mask. Ye gods, I hurt! A paramedic was kneelingbeside me and one of my co-drivers was beside him. It took a while to find out what had happened. My co-driver and friend Carl had arrived in the early hours of the morning, unloaded and retired to bed. His alarm had gone off at six and he came over to see what time I would be leaving, but couldn’t get an answer.
Eventually he’d attracted the attention of a security guard, and they’d smashed the window and gained entry, to find me very unwell across the seats. By very unwell, I mean not breathing, blue, and cold. The ambulance paramedics had to restart my heart.
It took me a week to recover, another week to get home, and several more days to find out what had happened. Mr Boss, it seems, was not happy with buying the heaters and the fuel to go in them, so had simply bought paraffin. As you know, boys and girls, you should never use a paraffin heater in a room without adequate ventilation. This burner had been designed to run on a much safer fuel and it did not react well to paraffin. Subsequent investigation revealed that the fumes it gave off were noxious. I had been very lucky. If Carl had not been diverted to Saarlois, and had not come across to see me, then I would no doubt have died from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. As it was, my chest and heart suffered not inconsiderable after effects and for some years after I had to have regular health checks. As luck would have it there was no real long-term damage done, but it was only through sheer luck that I do not have to dictate this through the medium of a medium.
Mr Boss and I had words when I was fit enough to go back to work. Strangely it did not take me long to persuade him that the trucks we had were not suitable for the work and before long we were the proud owners of two second-hand Iveco trucks, with bigger engines and night heaters. Which, incidentally, didn’t work very often, orvery well, but at least he’d made an effort. My real continental truck driving life had started!