Monday, 14 July 2008

Just so They Know I Know

Most of the vehicles I deliver are company cars or leased cars which are one or two years old at most.

Lately though I have had a flurry of old British Telecom lorries to move. These have been declared surplus to requirements at their current depots and need to be taken to new ones. Because these lorries have been standing idle for a while their batteries are inevitably utterly flat.

However, if you turn the key in the ignition of a lorry and nothing happens then there is also another possible explanation - the vehicle may be fitted with an isolator switch. If this switch is pressed once it will disconnect the battery from the vehicle's electrics, preventing it from being drained during long periods of inactivity. A second press will reconnect the battery.

Isolator switches are sometimes located on the dashboard, sometimes elsewhere in the cab, and sometimes even on the outside of the vehicle.

When I collected the first of this series of surplus vehicles, from a depot in North London, I hunted around for the switch, couldn't find it, and then double checked that there wasn't one via the following functional conversation with the guy in the workshop -

'There an isolator switch on it mate?'

'Not on them.'

'Gonna need a jump then.'

'I'll send someone round to it in a minute.'

And here's the thing - that brief exchange made me feel like a proper lorry driver, someone who not only knew that isolator switches existed but also knew their propensity for being hidden away in unlikely places.

Compared to most HGV drivers I don't have a great deal of experience, and my licence only covers me to drive the smaller (Class 2) types. In most situations I have to grudgingly regard myself as a novice, but at that moment I felt like an old hand.

So here I am now in Cardiff, a couple of weeks later, picking up the sixth or seventh of these lifeless lorries, by now fully aware that the problem is always a flat battery and yet still casually asking, as I do every single time -

'No isolator switch in it is there mate?'

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