AIR RIDE FIFTH WHEEL - AIR RIDE
AIR RIDE FIFTH WHEEL - USING A SPINNING WHEEL.
Air Ride Fifth Wheel
Kenworth Whitwills Avonmouth 1980s
RHD "Detriot V6"
Lovell Hodder Whitwill Ltd. Humber Way, Burcott Road, Avonmouth.
In 1985, Hodder Whitwill merged with C. Shaw Lovell. Hodder's was a firm founded in the 1850s by Hartly Hodder, a shipping owner and broker who started in Sharpness, and then moved to Bristol.
The group was later taken over by Denholm Shipping Services.
Dandos of Chipping Sodbury imported a batch of Kenworth RHD 4 wheelers with V6 Detroits, these were South African spec models. 6 or 10 went to Whitwills on container work.
Some were stretched and converted to a 6 wheeler by Dandos.
Part 1 of 3 May 1984 Peter Minnis visits Whitwills, a company attracted to Paccar engineering before the Foden connection
British-registered American trucks are usually seen as the preserve of the owner driver; the independent man who wants to cut a dash and is at the same time attracted by the high mileage, low maintenance reputation of many US makes. It's a surprise, therefore, to discover that over in Avonmouth Bristol there's a whole fleet consisting mainly of Detroit-engined, aluminium-cabbed Kenworths. Whitwills, who specialise in container haulage, run a total of eight tractor units, five of which are KWs. Note huge number certainly, but it's probably more than are Operated by any other UK company.
All are forward-control K100 models, and four of them are four-wheelers, while the fifth is a 6x4. The latter was, in fact, once operated by Gerry Holmes. In Gerry's care, the big, brash American truck-equipped with more than its fair share of fancy paintwork, gleaming chrome and polished aluminium - was a real show-stopper, turning heads wherever it appeared. Crossing Europe in the thing, Phil said at the time, gave a good idea of what it's like to top the bill at the London Palladium.
Unfortunately, road haulage - like show business - is a precarious means of paying the rent.
One minute the contracts are coming in, performance is good, and your name's up there in lights. Next minute the work dries up and you don't get paid, and the show's over. Gerry hit some bad luck and had to relinquish his pride and joy, which returned to the yard at Dando's of Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, the UK Kenworth distributors.
That was towards the end of 1981, when the name 'Armitage' was on everybody's lips and weight increases were in the offing. Whitwills had taken delivery of their four-wheeled KWs during the summer, but, feeling that some extra-axle bet-hedging was in order, they took on Gerry's 6x4 too. It proved to be a wise decision. Containers are notorious for being stuffed front-end heavy, possibly causing tractor unit overloads on two-plus-three rigs. At Whitwills, the six-wheeler is able to go out to any jobs that are anticipated as being troublesome - much to the relief of the hard-pressed transport manager, Gordon 'Nobby' Clark.
Like many in his profession, Mr Clark is not exactly over the moon about the 38tonne limit. He's got a lot to say on the subject — about reduced loading tolerances, about customers' unwillingness to pay for the extra payload, and about the poor framing of the legislation itself: 'It's the worst thing that ever happened to transport', is his attitude.
It's a view that is common throughout all levels of the hire-and-reward section of the industry. It hardly squares with the image forcibly put forward by some sections of the community - of a road transport 'lobby' determined to introduce ever-heavier road-crushing jernauts.
As it is, the constant drawback of higher weights for Nobby is the loss of operational flexibility — which is what artics are supposed to be all about. Instead of having a mutually-interchangeable set of uniform equipment, he's got the headache of trying to operate effectively with tackle of differing capabilities.
All five Kenworths are plated for 38tonnes gcw, but the other three tractors in the fleet (a Volvo F86 local shunter and two F10s)are plated at 32.5tonnes. Of his 40ft PSK trailers with 12 twist-locks, 10 are tandems and three are tri-axles — although the proportion of tri-axles is going up.
The remaining 14 trailers are Whitwills own five K100 Kenworths, which almost certainly makes them the biggest Kenworth operators in Britain. Containers are their business, working from base in Avonmouth to all over the Country. Drivers like Pete Fay enjoy the truck's predictable steering on the motorway, though ride is sometimes bad, especially running light, reflecting design for US long-hauls. Power for all trucks is via V6 or V8 Detroit Diesel two-strokes, which have been reliable.
They are leased trucks and dealer-serviced ceramic clutches, feeding torque to Fuller 13-speed gearboxes; the RTO9513 in the case of the four-wheelers, and the higher-rated RTO12513 in the 6x4. The gear levers follow the usual air-operated American pattern, with the overdrive split button at the side of the knob, and the range-change operated by a push-pull button down on the side of t
At the top of Carson Pass
Finally! After the crest of Carson Pass, there's a short descent to the rest stop where you're supposed to get your fifth pass sticker and pin, eat the "famous ice cream bars" and revel in finishing all five passes of the Death Ride. When I stopped pedaling and started descending to the rest stop, I really began to feel the cold and started shivering. At the rest stop, a volunteer handed me a five pass pin, and I noticed my fingers were numb. I took out my torn up garbage bag and tied it around me, hoping that it would trap some body heat, but it didn't make any noticeable difference. Too torn up, I think. The rain continued to fall, and people huddled under the food tents. I ate some food and tried to stop shivering, but the air was cold and I was soaking wet from head to toe. Despite the cold, I ate a famous ice cream bar. I thought the sugar might help, but nothing was stopping the shivering. (Plus, I nearly cracked my teeth trying to eat that thing. Are they stored in dry ice or something?)
After a little while, I saw Jon at the top. We had done some training rides together, and I knew he would have no problem completing all five passes. We congratulated each other, and as he ate his famous ice cream bar, the rain stopped. I pulled my camera out of the rubber glove. It was wet, but seemed to be working. Jon sested I visit the EMT folks about my shivering, but I didn't think there was anything they could do, so we took a couple pictures and then got on the bikes and headed back to the car.
What should have been a fun descent was like a death march. I was still shivering and had to grip the top tube with my legs to keep from wobbling the handlebars too much. I had some feeling in my thumbs, but not in my fingertips, so it felt like my thumb was touching somebody else's fingers on the bars -- a very strange sensation. It started raining again. The road leveled out, and I could pedal a little, which I hoped would warm me up, but I continued to shiver. Then the downhills started again, and I really felt chillled to the bone. On top of this, like I had all day long, I had to take a leak. All the while descending the rain-soaked, traffic filled road at 30+ mph.
Up ahead I saw some riders pulling over at Sorensen's resort. I did my best to signal that I was slowing in case anybody was behind me (I now couldn't see anything behind my flapping, torn up garbage bag "poncho"), and I managed to brake to a stop in the parking lot. A woman who was standing nearby waiting for somebody glanced over at me and then walked right up to me with a concerned look. "Are you okay?" I was kind of surprised. All I did was come to a gradual stop -- nothing that should trigger concern. In hindsight, I guess my lips might have been a little blue, or my shivering was more violent than I thought. At any rate, she urged me to go inside to warm up and offered me money to buy hot coffee -- very kind.
I told her I was okay on money and thanked her, then went inside to use the restroom and get coffee. Standing by the cash register, I just held a big paper cup of coffee with both hands, trying to warm them up and get them to stop shaking. I couldn't stop shivering though, so I went ahead and drank the entire cup, then a second one. I looked outside, and it was still raining. After several minutes, I was still numb and shivering, and I didn't know how I was going to get back on the bike for more descending.
After a while, another kind stranger walked in and announced that he had room for a couple riders and bikes in his car and asked if anybody wanted a ride back to TRP. A rider who'd been standing near me waiting for his friend pointed to me and said, "You should take this guy." I made the executive decision to SAG it back to Jon's car. With the kind Samaritan's heater going full blast, I eventually stopped shivering on the ride over to TRP. Just as the skies started to clear. That's what I get for not being an hour faster or slower.
Jon was already at the car, having arrived earlier under his own power. He told me he had been shivering on the descent too, despite the borrowed rain coat he was wearing, and that he had experienced a terrifying front wheel shimmy that almost took him down. But he made it back -- all five passes on his first Death Ride!
As the memory of the cold fades, I start to second-guess my decision to SAG out. It's quite depressing to be done in by something like the lack of raingear with only nine miles, mostly downhill no less, left to go. It's certainly a hard lesson about proper preparation. I had the legs, but there's more to being ready for a ride like this than just being a strong rider.
But, I think it was the right call in the end. It would have been dangerous to continue, both to myself and to others. From what I've read on the subject since returning home, I think I was suffering from hypothermia, which is a poor
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