Lorry lover's unusual hobby

TO puzzled car drivers, he is the man on the bridge over the A14.They get a fleeting glimpse of him high above them on the Trimley interchange as they shoot beneath at 70mph.

TO puzzled car drivers, he is the man on the bridge over the A14.

They get a fleeting glimpse of him high above them on the Trimley interchange as they shoot beneath at 70mph. Simply a man and a dog, standing there day in, day out.

His reflective yellow jacket and clipboard make many think he is a traffic official, even a police officer with a speedgun - and cars often noticeably slow as they spot him, brake lights flashing.

But the 4,000 lorry drivers who go in and out of Felixstowe port each day know exactly who he is, and the truckers hoot their horns and wave.

For George Mills is a lorry spotter.

Like his counterparts collecting train numbers on rail station platforms and those logging container ships at Felixstowe port viewing area, George just loves his lorries.

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For him, seeing the latest Eddie Stobart truck or Ralph Morton vehicle is the highlight of his day, adding another notch on his clipboard next to lorry numbers and details he is leaked in advance.

He knows his 13.6m curtainsiders from his single and multi-compartment refrigerated trailers, and his 20/40 skeletals from his 20/40 triaxle sliders.

“I just love lorries and I always have,” said George, 66, of Stennetts Close, Trimley St Mary.

“I started collecting numbers 15 years ago and I used to go down to the dock and do it - I stood near Trelawny House but unfortunately I caused a lot of confusion with the foreign drivers who thought I was a customs officer!

“But the bridge is the perfect place because I have a really good view of the vehicles coming in both directions.

“The drivers see me, too, and then bib and wave - I know lots of them.”

He spends an hour and half on the flyover each day, walking his neighbour's dog there and back.

Most of the lorries passing below he knows already as the port has many on regular runs, but he is always looking out for that gem, a rare visitor or a new truck.

He receives information from some of the 249 firms on his logs, tip-offs about additions to their fleets, and from friends who scan the internet where new details of vehicles are posted on various sites by fellow lorry spotters.

His records contain numbers and details of thousands of trucks - and with the port expanding he will have even more in future.

He also collects lorry memorabilia and models.

“I know lots of people see me up here and wonder what I am doing,” said George, who worked as a berth operator on the port for 32 years until an accident in which his hand was crushed.

“I have had the parish council come and ask me what I am doing, and also the police have stopped and asked. A lot of the car drivers think I am a policeman and slow down.”

What do you think of George's unusual hobby? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

WEBLINKS: www.lorryspotting.com



FACTFILE: Keep on trucking . . .

Britain has hundreds of haulage firms - ranging from one-man owner drivers to huge companies with massive fleets - with around 30 having depots at Felixstowe.

Eddie Stobart's fleet is still the country's biggest with 874 trucks, while Felixstowe-based Hanbury Davies is one of the largest with 466.

So popular are Eddie Stobart lorries, that they even have a fan club - with 30,000 members.

Nearly two billion tonnes of goods are moved around the country each year by lorry, with tens of thousands of trucks on our roads.

The number of lorries using the A14 on the Felixstowe peninsula is set to increase by around one million a year over the next 15 years as the port of Felixstowe expands.

Lorry spotting is a game often played by young children to while away long car journeys - with one point awarded for a Eddie Stobart trucks, five for Prestons of Potto and 20 for the very rare Norbert-Dentressangle.