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By Mr Derek Saunders

I start this story with the second part of my working life. At the age of 18 I felt more adventurous and I went to see if I could get a job with Mr Keith Bedford a local builder at Bow.

He was busy in his garage workshop when I arrived there. I asked him if there were any jobs going and he said do you know anything about building work, I said not a lot but was willing to learn.
He said that’s the kind of chap I am looking for and you can start Monday if you would like to give it a try. It was hard work but after a few months labouring I was asked to drive a dumper truck then after about 12 months I began to drive the works van taking the workforce out to their jobs.
The JCB driver went sick and I managed to get to driving that but around this time Keith was beginning to add to the lorry he already had for his building jobs with other lorries for example bulk collection vehicles which was just coming into fashion.

The lorries livery was A T K Bedford Bulkers on the side of the lorries was Don’t bag it bulk it .I was not old enough yet to drive these lorries but did a few trips riding with other drivers in the tipper lorry and soon began to feel this is what I really wanted to do with my life.
As I became old enough I asked if I could drive one of the bulk lorries by this time there were about four a TK Bedford a KM Bedford and two D800 Fords.

Keith went to an auction in Wales and bough a Austin 16 toner with a wooden body and a bulk blower saying this would do for me to start with.
This vehicle was sprayed up into the colours of blue and white with AK BEDFORD BULK HAULAGE the business was now growing and soon we were covering South Devon and Cornwall my main job to start with was loading out from local mills and delivering chicken farms egg producers and dairy farms.

Avonmouth was the main bulk collection area where this product was produced so it became a regular run for me every day.
Within a couple of years bulk haulage was big business and AKB soon had a dozen lorries getting bigger lorries all the time to keep up with demand.
Every driver taken on was either a friend of the family or someone we knew that we could trust not to let us down. Within five years we had tried nearly all the British classics but the middle range FORD seemed to be the most popular, we had 7/8 all 6 wheelers.

Most of the bulk bodies were built by AKB himself and by the 70s had a very smart fleet consisting by now of about 16 lorries. Staff by now was amounting to at least 16 drivers 2 mechanics a body builder and of course the dreaded Transport Manager.

Because the depot was in the middle of a small village of Zeal Monarchorum most of the drivers got to take their lorries home to ease congestion on the small roads in the area.
All the old drivers knew most of the trips by now and how long it would take and how much overtime was in it for us which of course paid the bills. It seemed to us that we no longer worked for AKB but the transport manager he was checking our times and mileage and adjusting our trips so we could not run together as mates this caused a poor atmosphere between drivers.
Most of the lorries except the ones with blowers were dual purpose when things got slack out of the grain season we could take part of the sides off then we could do quarry work etc and help other transport firms such as Edworthys and Sanders of Bow .

This era for me were the good old days.
Most of our loads were guess weights and many a time we found we had to do a detour to avoid ministry of transport checks warned by other drivers by flashing lights and waving a log book out the window of the lorry.
One day a lorry had broken down and I was asked to pick his load up from Hosegoods warehouse Avonmouth I arrived and explained who I was and they said no problem mate its there in the silo waiting for you. I un-sheeted and pulled under the hopper and the loader said take it all mate its all yours and hurry up it leave work time.

What we had not allowed for was the lorry that had broken down was an Albion 6 wheeler and I was driving my Austin 4 wheeler it had a big body on so it didn’t seem too bad until I got on the weighbridge and discovered that I was 4 tonnes overweight .
My options were stay the night an sort it in the morning or chance it and I have to admit it took me a long time to get home. Keeping to the speed limits and staying upright on roundabouts and sharp bends.

Because we were not long distance boys it meant that we had to do the job to the end and get it done in the day but if you had to park up a wave of your log book would soon get you a lift home with the first passing lorry, this was before the motorways were built.

By 1972 I had driven most of the old British classics and was now given a brand knew AEC Mammoth Major 8 wheeler with super singles on the rear axle and the body built by AKB.
The lorry was fitted with a fullers range change gearbox 10 speed which was unusual for this type of vehicle, it had a gross weight of 30 tonnes with a tare weight of 10 tonnes which gave the vehicle a pay load of 20 tonnes.

It took me at least a month to get used to the lorry the gearbox was not fitted with a clutch stop which meant if you missed a gear you had to wait at least 30 seconds to get your gear, that was nightmare.

I was by now feeling like one of the big boys and could park up in the roadside café with all the big artic’s. Our trips were getting longer running to Newcastle on Tyne with clay also Liverpool and London so the work days were getting longer 12 to 14 hours seemed the norm.

By 1975 a different seemed to appear more streamlined and faster my old lorry had a top speed of 55 mph and our Leyland Buffalo and the latest Leyland Marathon would knock at least a hour to hour and a half off our trips. The Scanias and the Volvos going up the motorway would make you look silly, a lot of them were owner drivers and the comradeship we once knew had gone.

I enjoyed my working life with AKB he was a good boss and I owe him all I know about classic lorries. In the early days we would work on in the garage doing repairs to our lorries changing gearboxes engines mending brakes springs and everything that made them tick. By 1977 I decided I had enough of the chasing around and wanted a quieter life so I joined the Milk Marketing Board and oh boy what a different life it was but that’s another story.


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