Sunday, 1 August 2010

I got those long-distance distribution blues

Delivery Vehicle Mk. I was our elderly but once elegant BMW estate. After six months the springs were a distant memory, so along came DV MkII. We called her Gloria. Well, we bought her on a Monday and she was a sick transit, so what else could we do? Gloria struggled, bless her, with the hills and the narrow tracks – to be honest she wasn’t too good with speed bumps – and so we sold her and moved on to DV Mk.III some 12 months ago.

Big White Van (BWV for short) has become a familiar sight in the more remote parts of the Lakes – some say we’re the fifth Emergency Service – and in the last year we’ve travelled over 40,000 miles in our mission to bring good beer at reasonable prices to the pubs and clubs of the north. So it was no great surprise to find ourselves involved in a road accident last week, when a rather large and expensive motorbike ridden by a man who really should have known better lodged itself (at speed) under the front end.

Scary. I really don’t want to relive the moment when I got out of BWV to look for the motorcyclist and could only see the rear end of the bike sticking out from under the van. Fortunately he’d had the presence of mind to ‘throw away’ the bike and just managed to slither clear in time, sustaining only a minor injury.

Likewise BWV. Just some cosmetic damage plus a smashed turbo thingummy.

So we contacted the insurance company and said “please, pretty please, can we get a replacement van?”. Several hours of paperwork later, there was a collective loud sucking of teeth from the van hire companies. Why on earth would anyone want a BWV? What do we mean, payload of 1 tonne minimum? Why would we need headroom? Casks of beer are only two foot tall, aren’t they? On and on it went. They can do Small White Vans, Medium White Vans, and any number of ten tonne trucks. But no BWV. I lost the will to live at several times during the course of the day.

Eventually a replacement was delivered. It’s pretty. There’s a CD player instead of the standard Ford crap radio all Transit drivers know and love. Seats are comfy, there are six gears, and at last I get the chance to drive a Merc. But it’s causing us serious problems. We’re having to jiggle around our deliveries and go out twice a week to some locations. Looks like anything over six 18’s is going to cause congestive spring failure and although there is a towbar, we’ll need to source a trailer.

So my point is, if you’re the type of person who likes to bowl along country lanes at speed, taking a little bit of a risk here and there, trimming the odd second off your travel to work times (you know who you are!), think again. You might be ‘lucky’ and only hit a sheep or a fell pony. You might be luckier still, and survive after a smash which shreds £8k worth of superbike into shiny scrap. But the poor sap you hit may have weeks of serious disruption to their business as a result of your cavalier behaviour.

No-one got hurt. Fine.

The insurance will pay up. Fine.

We will just have to work even harder just to stay afloat in this troubled time.

Not fine.

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