A Tanker Driver’s Nightmare

“It’s no good – we’ll have to call the police. No-one’ll wait for us,” exclaimed the tanker driver.

“How’s that going to look for you?” I asked. “Will that mean trouble?” His face fell, as he nodded. He was an experienced petrol tanker driver but this had never happened to him before.


It all began one dark evening when I was asked to take a delivery to Greetland. Mission accomplished, I headed back to Elland and drove up the B6114, Dewsbury Road, that heads under the A629 dual carriageway (green on the map) and then up a sharp incline (about 1 in 5) to Upper Edge. At the steepest point (blue dot), a road tanker was holding up the rush hour traffic, its hazard lights flashing. What a nuisance! I managed to overtake, then thought, hey, is this guy in trouble? So I parked up and went to check.I could see some ugly skid marks on the road ten yards above where he sat.

He was towards the end of a long day delivering an additive for diesel engines called Ad Blue, that reduces toxic emissions. He explained that his load was nearly empty, so when he went uphill, the fluid sat at the back of the tank reducing the traction on his drive wheels. Quite simply, he couldn’t get up the hill. But because he was being constantly passed by the queuing traffic behind, he couldn’t get down.

Could I persuade the traffic behind him to wait for 5 minutes? Yes – two drivers agreed to do so. Then I persuaded the drivers on a side road called Whitewell Green Lane just on the angle of a bend, to do likewise. The tanker driver backed down 50 yards, from where I thought he could back into the lane, but it was too narrow for him to negotiate. Instead, he continued backing down the main road to where I’d stopped the traffic (yellow dot). The queue of traffic was lengthening, so I thanked the drivers who’d waited, and wished them a safe journey home. Off they drove, followed by some less sympathetic drivers whose horns blared as they passed. We needed a fresh plan.

The tanker driver got out, and we walked down the road to survey our options. He’d have to back under the dual carriageway to where the road was flatter before making a turn into a little estate road called Caldercroft. It meant reversing for 150 yards. There were bollards under the bridge which wouldn’t make it easy.

Once again, I walked down the hill, stopped the traffic and asked drivers to wait. But this time, nobody – but nobody – would help us. After a full five minutes, we reckoned we were beaten. Hence the conversation with which I began. But just then, he had an idea. Can you work it out? See below.

Five minutes later he reached Caldercroft (red dot). I briefly held up the traffic coming uphill so he could make his turn. He was hugely appreciative, and we exchanged an elbow-shake before he engaged forward gear and drove safely back into Elland. 

I reflected afterwards on what a difficult job men such as this driver have to undertake, day in, day out. Tankers are huge vehicles, complicated to manoeuvre in reverse, and they often carry hazardous loads. And this poor fellow’s day wasn’t finished yet. He still had to find a safe route to complete his deliveries. I’d have liked to thank him for doing a difficult job for the benefit of people like me.

John Hearson

What the driver did:-

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