‘If you’ve got it, it came by truck’ says veteran trucker John Eden at one point during my interview with him for The Food Programme. You can listen to the full programme here. John’s right of course, practically everything we enjoy in Britain today is moved around by an army of truckers, couriers and van drivers. John runs transportcafe.co.uk a website dedicated to reviewing safe places for road users to stop, get cleaned up and have a good meal.

John talks about his time trucking in 50s, and mentions one truck stop, little more than a hut, called the Jungle on the A6 as it crosses the bleak border between England and Scotland. “That stretch of road near Shap, was called suicide alley. I can personally remember going in there for a fry up when I was freezing cold and starving hungry in the middle of the night, steam hit the night air as you opened the door…We really needed that fry up, boy did it make you feel good!” There’s more about the area on www.shapcumbria.co.uk

The Jungle cafe isn’t there anymore (it’s a caravan park), but there are other truck stops that provide a place for drivers to stop. My producer Rich Ward and I arrived at Orwell crossing, Suffolk on a cold windy day in March. Business was slower than usual as high winds had closed the nearby port of Felixstowe. We spent the day interviewing owner Karl, his wife Anne, and looking around the truck stop. Karl’s background is farming, and he still grows most of the vegetables – potatoes, carrots and swede – that he serves daily in the restaurant.

Around 5 o’clock the first drivers started to come in, then the trickle began to build. To a man they look gaunt, tired, and road weary. Most have sports bags in their hands and a rolled towel under their arm. They pay quickly, write down their registration number, and head off to the showers. “Some of them probably started about 6 or 7am” Karl tells me. With a 45 minute break around lunchtime that still represents over 10 hours at the wheel.  Drivers are often away from their homes and family for five days at a time.

It was twilight when we left Orwell and we chased the setting sun west. Behind us night fell, and at every layby we passed back along the A12, Trucks were parking up together for the night. Inside each cab you could make out the ethereal blue glow of a screen. Like baggage trains in the wild west, there’s safety in numbers.

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