IN NORTH DEVON JOHN COLES CONTRACTORS HAS SPENT OVER 50 YEARS REFINING THE MOVEMENT OF HEAVY PLANT THROUGH NARROW LANES AND ON STEEP HILLS. BOB BEECH FINDS OUT HOW THE PROPER TRACTION IS ACCOMPLISHED.
PHOTOGRAPHY: CRAIG PUSEY
Running a fleet of trucks in a rural area brings its own challenges, particularly if some of the vehicles are heavy low-loaders. There might be less people and ultimately less traffic than in many cities, but the road network in the countryside is often much less developed. This is particularly so in North Devon, many of the main routes are little better than country lanes, which in some places are barely wide enough for two standard 44-tonne outfits to pass comfortably, let alone a heavy low bed carrying an over-width excavator.
Things have gradually improved over the years, the completion of the A361 North Devon Link Road in 1988, running from the M5 near Cullompton through to Barnstaple and beyond, helped a great deal to open up the area. But this three-lane road has quite a few steep hills that slow heavy vehicles considerably. Impatient drivers try to overtake in the most unsafe places, particularly in the summer holiday season when vast numbers of visitors head to the coast. As a result, the road has seen more than its fair share of fatal accidents. Apart from this route, many of the other A and B roads have seen very little improvement. Often the actual distances to be covered are not that great, but the average speeds are relatively low because many routes twist and turn so much that it is difficult to get into top gear for any amount of time with a fully laden truck.