Alastair Sneddon on tactics with trailers.
I cannot quite see the unloading docks from my rostrum, so I hope I will be forgiven for this week’s subject matter.
Before we can sell any livestock, they have to be unloaded and, in most cases, this involves reversing a trailer, not always an easy thing to do.
The safe unloading of any stock is vital to the smooth running of the market, but before the tailgate can be dropped it is important that the vehicle is correctly positioned in relation to the ramp and gates.
I have the utmost regard for all our customers who undergo this ordeal, many on a weekly basis and some with those nasty little sheep and calf trailers that nip out of sight at the first opportunity.
I have spent many years in the ‘front of house’ position, meeting, greeting and acting as ‘banksman’, the technical term for the chap directing a reversing vehicle.
The art of reversing a trailer is a skill which takes time to acquire.
It helps if the approach to the docks allows you to look out of the driver’s side.
The old Bakewell Market had vehicles approaching on the blind side and proved tricky, except for one farmer who beat the system by buying an ex-Nato lefthand-drive Land Rover.
Those reversing a trailer with a Land Rover or pickup fall into two schools, the mirror men (or women) and the hang-out-of-the-door types.
The mirror men often choose to keep the doors and windows closed, so cannot hear when you shout at them.
Practitioners of the hang-out-of-the-door method run the risk of being strangled by the seat belt.
One mistake many reversers make is not going far enough forward before making their approach.
Whether this is to save diesel, I cannot say, but there are a few operators who would need a full tank before they commenced operations.
The other issue I have noticed is the time it takes from me shouting to the vehicle actually stopping.
I can only conclude that the speed of sound is not the 767mpph, which most physics masters suggest it is.
Once in position, the door can be dropped and the gates chained securely before the animals disembark.
Tractors bring a whole new bunch of problems, with it clearly being very difficult to reverse a trailer from the central seating position.
Even hardened operators find it tricky, especially in the muckspreading season when the splattered wing mirrors give a fore taste of macular degeneration.
One observation that concerned sheep trailers with a lifting ramp to access the upper deck, some of which could do with Viagra to hasten operations, is to be very careful when fiddling with the locking tabs.
We had an unfortunate customer who had a sheep jump onto the unlocked ramp, nearly removing two of his fingers.
You have been warned.
I salute our customers and farmers attending all markets who exhibit such a high level of skill and have to demonstrate it in a very public forum.
Alastair Sneddon is a senior partner and livestock auctioneer at Bagshaws. Call 07973 982 441 or email alastair.