Conor has been a trucker for 13 years. Previously serving in the army, he started his career on the road driving all types of trucks for various industries including bulkers, tankers, livestock, timber and curtains. He now drives for Solway Transport based in Corpach, Scotland – specialist carriers of live fish and he says it’s been his favourite company to work for.
Transporting thousands of live fish can at first seem a tricky task, but Conor explains that it’s all in the technology: “The trailers are specially made. You usually have five tanks of 5m³ of water, but that can vary depending on the site.”
Most of the fish are collected from hatcheries and placed in tanks with water collected from the site to ensure they adapt quickly. The water has to be a particular temperature and added oxygen is provided by the trucks. “We’ve got oxygen stones in each tank and a compressor which blows out bubbles to break up any CO2build up from the fish,” says Conor.
The fish are taken from the hatcheries to fresh water sites, for example in the Scottish Highlands, where they can grow and develop. After 2-3 months they make their journey to the sea.
A variety of fish species are transported by Solway Transport. Conor usually deals with Scottish salmon and trout as well as cleaner fish which are affectionately nicknamed ‘lumpies’.“There’s a proper name for them but we call them ‘lumpies’. You put them in the tanks with salmon and they eat all the bacteria. They look like spikey broccoli but are lovely colours like greeny blue.”
On a rare occa
sion, the company is tasked with moving sharks, something Conor hasn’t done and doesn’t plan to do in the future!
The journeys can be long, with distances stretching across the UK, Southern Ireland and even Europe, but these days Conor is mostly based in the Highlands, which suits him.
“You can’t just put your foot down, they’re live fish. You have to think of their welfare and make sure they’re not in distress.”
It’s not all plain sailing when you’re dealing with live fish. Conor must always drive carefully, often slower than the speed limit and keep it steady when travelling down the single track roads leading to hatcheries.
Another concern is oxygen. The tanks need to stay oxygenated at all times which requires careful monitoring by the driver. Probes in each tank are connected to the cab, however sometimes they can stop working or there can be a problem with the valves.
“There’s maybe 6,000 fish in these tanks. If the oxygen drops too low they start to panic and need more oxygen so the levels drop rapidly.”
In this situation Conor has to pull up, check his trailer and tinker around with the control box to get it going again as quickly as possible.
The job is also weather dependent. If it’s too warm he can’t move fish, if it’s too cold he can’t move fish and if it’s too windy, the boats which take the fish out to sea can’t sail. All in all it’s a delicate balance of technology, driver awareness and fair weather.
Conor is a big fan of his Actros which helps him get through the day with no issues and provides plenty of comfort:“I much prefer the Actros to other trucks; everything in the cab is set up perfectly within reach. The seats are comfortable and heated, there’s lots of room to move and the bed is just perfect with loads of storage space. They’re a very easy set up.”
Conor loves life on the open road and cites the scenery as a big perk of his job. A keen photographer, he always packs his camera to capture his truck in the beautiful landscapes. “There’s some stunning scenery up here like Glenfinnan. There’s usually no one around too, so it’s lovely.”
The vast spaces provide escapism: “It’s a good job, no stress, no phone calls,”and Conor certainly has it all under control.
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Thursday 14th February 2019