Trading Posts: The Lorry

By SallyB2 Last edited 124 months ago
Trading Posts: The Lorry

There’s a lorra lorries in London. The UK imports 750,000 tonnes of goods each day, worth over £750 million. 80% comes in through Britain’s 15 big ports, and the vast majority of that is distributed by road freight. We got bored with reading the House of Commons Transport Committee report after that, but we’re prepared to bet that 40-50% of this international traffic touches London in some way, albeit via the M25. Whilst you are decorating/playing squash/reading a bumper edition of Londonist each weekend, artics are being unloaded or loaded in side roads and cul-de-sacs all over the capital. In just a few roads around Londonist Towers we found cargos of marble, rice, fruit, badly made furniture and Ukrainian beer being unloaded, whilst other lorries were being filled with magazines and complicated looking machinery (we didn’t like to ask) for export.

But how often do you actually notice lorries (except when they are annoying you, of course)? You know – like where they’re from. Where are they going? What are they carrying? Every one tells an articulated story, a maxi adventure, if you like. Don’t you sometimes wonder….? Oh, you don’t. OK – well that just makes Londonist a sad geeky transport buff with an overactive imagination. Hm.

Well, we were intrigued, and so in the interests of investigative journalism we went undercover to find out more. Alright – our friend the importer bullied us into helping him out for the afternoon. His lorry of goods from Iran (drugs and guns, of course) had been cleared by customs at Dover this morning (after a journey time of 10 days), and the driver, Mr. Mahmoud, was anxious to offload so that he could go in search of a return load. Time is money in the truckers’ world (we already know that they are having a hard year), and there is always a scrabble to pick up the most profitable return load (rarely missile parts, since you are asking: usually engineering parts destined for Azerbaijan).

Anyway, this is what we found out:

  • it’s bloody hard work unloading a lorry wherein the goods haven’t been palletised: everything has to be ‘handballed’ and then re-stacked on pallets. It takes 6 strong men (or 12 Londonistas) 7-8 hours to unload a 40’ lorry (that’s including two statutory tea breaks, one fried chicken break, and five minutes in every hour spent whingeing):
  • traffic wardens aren’t very understanding people, but a PCN costs less than the price of the special licence you need in order to unload on a red or yellow line (and it’s not like they can tow you, as we pointed out to the wardens – even clamping would be impossible on these beasts):
  • 40’ is very very big:
  • most lorry cargo gets sprayed with non-toxic toxic stuff in its country of origin to ensure that there are no unwanted illegal immigrants (of the 6-8 legged variety) – it makes the job of unloading really dusty and hard:
  • lorry drivers don’t need to go to the gym:
  • London may not be Tommy Trucker’s favourite city, but it is apparently a damn sight easier to navigate than most other European cities (in fact the authors of the report cited above, amazingly for a government think tank, do stress the need for tolerance and co-operation):
  • we can understand why people want to be lorry drivers when they grow up. The bunk bed, the cooker under the trailer, the toys, the power….
  • Anyway, we’re off for a Radox bath now. People do work hard for a living you know.

    Last Updated 09 November 2008