That first time

When I get in a new truck I take time to familiarise myself with the controls, light switches, gears etc., but until I start to drive it is hard to get a sense of the size of the thing and where the edges are. Very often I am quickly onto a main road or motorway and so don’t have too much chance to work this out.

Most lorries have two mirrors on each side, one angled down to see the blind spots, and the other looking down the side of the lorry to behind. Many lorries also have a mirror on the near side pointing directly downwards to let me see either the kerb or parked cars. There is also often another mirror on the front of the cab looking directly downwards which allows me to get close to obstacles in front of me. Increasingly lorries have cameras letting me see behind and to the sides but often it is not easy to work out the camera lenses and the actual distances. As I get more experienced I actually use the cameras less and the mirrors more.

Yesterday I was in an unfamiliar truck for a new customer and I set off in the dark in heavy rain and so had minimal opportunity to get a feel for what I was seeing in the various mirrors. When I got to the job I had to reverse into a tight, narrow lane, along one side of which there was a wall of scaffolding. There were parked cars at the entrance to the lane and on the other side of the road. As I reversed into this tight space I had to quickly work out what I was seeing in the various mirrors, how near things were, and all this while getting used to the gears and clutch as I shunted three or four times to get myself lined up with the narrow entrance to the lane. The prospect of ripping the scaffolding off the side of the large building was not appealing!

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