By Reed Black
OOIDA Life Member Bianca Weathers of West Plains, MO, recently took a break from trucking and went to Kleve, Germany, to visit her sister Melanie, who also drives a truck.
In the U.S., Bianca pulls a milk tanker for Western Dairy Transport out of Cabool, MO. For a week, Bianca rode shotgun in Melanie’s truck as they made a run to England and back and then delivered inside Germany.
European trucking, Bianca says, is “very different.” Bianca’s sister drives a Mercedes Actro. It’s an automatic transmission, which also can be shifted manually. She does not have a clutch, per se, to step on. There’s another lever underneath the right-side armrest where all her shifting is done. Plus, it’s a cabover and not like Bianca’s Peterbilt 377.
“The traffic over there is horrible, absolutely horrible,” said Bianca. “Traffic jams and everything. When we left, we got stopped by Belgian police and got tagged.
“Then, when we got into France the following morning, French Customs stopped us and they were very rude. They don’t like German trucks from what I understand,” Bianca said. “They made her open up the back doors. She asked them politely to not climb on top of the pallets because it’s some very delicate stuff that she had on there. At that time they jumped right on top of them, and all you heard was crunch.”
Bianca said her sister was hauling huge rolls of paper. “And the more mad she got, the more they destroyed,” she said. “They ripped open the packages and everything, and left footprints on her bills of lading and everything. They were just very rude.”
Melanie was hauling the paper in a curtain-side trailer. Bianca described it as basically a flatbed, but it had a curtain side on it and actual back doors.
Bianca said Melanie can drive three times a week at nine hours without a rest. After four and a half hours, they are required to take a 45-minute break. Twice a week, they can drive 10 hours. If they drive 10 hours, they have to have an 11-hour consecutive rest period.
“They have electronic logbooks. With her logbook, she doesn’t have to drive by the minute. She can cheat a little bit (but others can’t),” said Bianca. “For example, my sister was pulling in a truck stop one time here not very long ago, and she couldn’t quite pull in the parking spot. So she got out and asked the driver next to her to please pull up, and the driver said he could not even crank the truck up because of his (type of) logbook. She had to wait a couple, three more minutes for his break to be over.”
During Bianca’s visit to Europe, she had the opportunity to run the truck on the autobahn. But if you think German truckers can drive 85 mph on the autobahn, you would be wrong. She said German trucks are governed. Melanie’s truck runs about 93 kilometers an hour, which is around 60 mph.”
Bianca said truck stops in Europe have some unique differences and, like everything else, are expensive.
“Most of them you have to pay to stay. But, for instance, in Germany if you stay at a truck stop, you take 10 Euros – which at the time I think was $12 a night. But you can take the ticket that you get and go eat. In Great Britain, it is very expensive to stay overnight but you cannot go eat with that ticket. So, it’s very expensive in Great Britain.”
Emissions are a big issue in Europe, she said.
“Trucks are very clean,” she said. “And they have to go through emissions tests and everything every so often, and then they receive a sticker for the truck. If it is green, that means they can go anywhere, even in the cities. If it’s yellow they cannot go in critical areas where a lot of people live. And red, well, they can’t go very often into the city at all.”
Having spent a week on the road with her sister, Bianca has no doubts she would rather truck in the U.S. than in Europe. She said that “everything here is bigger and wider, and you have a lot more room than you do over there.”
So, the next time you feel like grousing, think about that trucker in Europe who’s contending with speed limiters, narrow streets, epic traffic jams, red decals, and customs agents stomping on the bill of lading.
Oh, and over there, diesel costs about $6.50 per gallon. LL