Learning a new skill

I love learning new things; especially when it involves wheels. As long as it’s more than one wheel, I’m in.

We have both a tractor and a teletruk at work. The tractor is gamely employed all year round, especially when there’s a snow fall. The blade attachment is put to good use and our maintenance team use the tractor every day. The teletruk is a bit more specialised though and not just anyone is allowed to drive / operate it; you have to have a ‘ticket’. Given Iain, my big brother, has retired from the business, I took the opportunity to do the course for the teletruk. So, both Ian (Yeti) and I were going to spend 4 days getting trained up.

I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I would be any good at it. I had watched both Glenn and Iain (my big bruv) use the forklift over the last couple of years and have been amazed at what you can do with it. So, could I do that? I have no idea.

Day 1: in the morning we did paperwork and Iain Maitland our trainer went through the Health and Safety aspect. Not only HASAWA (Health and Safety at Work Act), but also LOLER: Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment and PUWER: Provision and Use of Working Equipment. Yawn. Yes, we were yawning. It’s one of those things though, you can’t get your grubby mitts on the teletruck until you’ve had the H&S lecture.

Before we knew it, we were out in the sunshine; yes, the sun was shining. Iain, our trainer made sure that we were very thorough with our pre-operation checks. Everything from the forks to the hydraulics to the horn were checked and this must be done every day that the truck is used. Fail to do that and have an issue then there will be slapped wrists all round. Cause an accident through operator error escalates the slapped wrist to a boot up the arse. The next error level? Well, that involves lots of dosh and a good solicitor.

Basically, we were learning to drive a 5,000kg tin opener. The power of the machine is astounding so we have to be very, very careful indeed. What’s even more difficult to get used to is the rear wheels, they are the ones that do all the turning, the front ones remaining static. Well, not static; they do go around, the truck’s just backwards to a car… I’m sure you know what I mean! It’s all a bit strange. It was very hard for me not to have two hands on the wheel. I was nagged at by my instructor; he might have well said, “Stop being so bloody IAM”. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that had been shouted at me. Just using the steering knobbie (what’s the technical term?) was all a bit weird. I felt like my Associates that I had trained were all getting their revenge all at once, making me manoeuvre through cones! At the end of day 1 I was pooped. In my bed and sound asleep by 10pm.

It didn’t take long to get to grips with the steering. Next, the forks. Up down; in out; tilt up down. What? Eh? I’m a fairly coordinated person, but on the first day I thought I was never going to get to grips with the hydraulics and the jib. That came together on the second day. It’s the tiniest movements on the controls that are needed. Those who are ham-fisted need not apply. Our instructor thought that it would be a good idea to finish our day doing high level lifting. We ended up playing Jenga on top of the container at our waste disposal area. One pallet flat, then lift two vertical pallets up on top of the flat one. Then place another horizontal on top of all of them. Really? We did it. I had an audience (which I wasn’t that keen on) and it was extremely satisfying to manage it. Then, we had to dismantle it all.



Day 3: back to the classroom for some more ‘stuff’. This included how to calculate your load to see if the teletruk had the capacity to lift. It involves maths. I’m not a fan of maths to be fair and I ended up taking lots of notes and drawing pictures. It’s the only way I can learn. If you don’t get the maximum safe lifting capacity right, you could look like a complete idiot. Nose dive doesn’t even get close. Understanding the calculation required so you don’t do a face-plant is very important. We then had our theory test, which I’m delighted to say I scored 100%. There was a bit of a debate about the handbrake use. My argument was based around advanced driving; the first thing to be applied when you come to a stop and the last thing to be done before pulling away. It just seemed logical to me. Yep, I got the answer correct. Get in.

Jenga yesterday; tiddlywinks today. Yep, we did. I put a photo on Facebook and added a comment. I got a few ‘likes’ however, I don’t thing folk realised what we were doing. Either that or they’re too young to know what ‘tiddlywinks’ is. We had a 50p piece on the ground. We had to lower the fork on to the coin, drag it back so the coin flipped onto the fork. TA DA! Magic! Iain demonstrated and we both had a go; success. Great fun!



Day 4: Test day. I was officially a jibbering wreck. I didn’t feel nervous, however, I must have been. It was as if someone had handed me the keys to the teletruck and told me to get on with it with no training what so ever. My high level work was really bad. Well it felt bad. When you are needing to tilt the forks a matter of millimetres, when you get it wrong, it goes pear shaped. I was beginning to get myself into a froth. I wanted to cry, badly. It was all so frustrating. We had to lay a pallet on top of 4 cones. I was very, VERY good at laying the pallet down on 3 cones. Perfectly, every time! The pallet didn’t wobble once!

Ian (Yeti) got fed up waiting and announced he wanted to get on with his test. He did a great job. To pass, you need to score under 41 points. Anything you do incorrectly or if you don’t follow a particular routine gets you points. The less points the better. Iain passed with 9 points – fantastic. I felt sick. I wasn’t ready for my test. Iain suggested I just run through the routine, following his instructions and I could practice before doing the test after lunch. OK. The high level was still pants, however, I did get the pallet up and back down without throwing a hissy fit and bursting into tears. The close work in the cones was pretty good and I didn’t kill anyone, break anything or drop a pallet. I parked up and felt that I could probably do my test after lunch.

I had no appetite. I forced down a bowl of soup. Iain wanted to get some paperwork done before my test. He told me to read my score sheet carefully. The rascal had been scoring my practice run. I had passed with a surprising 17 points. What a relief.

I got my own back though. Iain had travelled up on his motorbike for test day. I was heading to Edinburgh after my test, so I went down the road with him. He said he was really crap in the corners, so I asked him if he wanted feedback. He was up for it. By the time we went our separate ways, he had had an ‘ah ha’ moment and a big grin on his face. All in all, good to turn the tables around and make him the trainee for a bit! He also had the appropriate brochures for a Skill for Life course.

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