All this hot weather in England has disrupted my usual trucking. I like to wear my headset while driving so I can enjoy the music of the engine. But sweaty ears is not something I’m comfortable with so I have been having a bit of a break and doing other games.

Today, it was a bit cooler and I took the opportunity in the morning to do two drives. The first was in American Truck Simulator, where I fired up Motown Dog to move a digger from Santa Fe (NM) to Kingman (AZ). For those who aren’t familiar with my trucks, Motown Dog is a Mack R600 fitted with a Detroit Diesel 6V-92TA engine producing 335HP. She has a 10-Speed manual gearbox.

This is a good time to talk about a physical issue that I have with the mechanicals associated with my gaming. The steering wheel I use is now 6 years old. In that time I have probably averaged the equivalent of around 20,000 real world miles every year in the game. That’s a lot of driving and my IRL car has no idea how easy a life it hasπŸ˜… The issue with a computer steering wheel, pedals and gear stick lies in how they operate and the ingression of dust that accumulates. The wheel itself is largely immune to any dust related issues. But the gear stick, despite having a pseudo leather cover below the knob, does suffer from some dust getting in. Additionally, the rubber blocks that push the switches, break down over time and become sticky. This is something I can deal with quite easily – take off the cover from time to time and liberally spray the switches with WD40 Contact Cleaner. The same approach can’t be applied to the pedals. They use potentiometers to measure things like throttle and clutch position. Unfortunately they build up a sticky film over time and that produces an effect known as spiky throttle in the sim racing community. In truck sims the effect is a little different – you find the throttle doesn’t always close or the clutch doesn’t always disengage – both result in an awful grinding sound when driving a manual truck (much as incorrectly operating the clutch would do in the real world). For this reason, I will be buying a new wheel and pedal set-up in the future. Times have moved on and the latest ones don’t rely on potentiometersπŸ‘

With that discussed, lets join Motown Dog on her outing and I’ll explain how I’m getting around the issue in the meantime. I had 5 hours in hand after completing the previous job, so I parked the Dog on the maintenance guy’s forecourt while looking for more work…

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…That’s our drop-deck trailer and we’re picking up a lot of good machinery loads with it. Having confirmed the job to take a Digger (called a Backhoe Loader in game!) over to Kingman, I fired up and got under way. The collection point at a quarry was a bit of a pain but we got it loaded and were on our way.

One of the things I’ve found that helps with the pedal problem I have described above is to double de-clutch. That works really well with this truck and, ironically, is probably more realistic on a truck of this age than nice neat single clutch shiftsπŸ˜… Here we are passing through Albuquerque as the sun gets up…

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Because I was using up spare hours from the previous job, we stopped in Sky City and I headed over to the hotel for breakfast and to sleep away the day.

Back on the road at 17:30 and I just knew the DoT would be calling us in at Gallup for an inspection…

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…There were no issues and I should hope not with an almost brand new trailer and a doted over truckπŸ˜…

We cruised at 50mph – any faster hurts the fuel consumption and I knew we had time in hand. As long as we hit Kingman around 03:15 we’d be parked up to rest with an hour to spare on our shift. It’s generally quiet at night on the I40 from Gallup, past Holbrook, through Flagstaff and on to the junction with Route 93. We ground our way up the climbs and I let her have her head on the downhills, once topping 65mph. Then we were at Kingman and drifting into a quiet town…

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The delivery at Kingman was one of those awkward ones where you don’t know how tight things will be until you’re in the yard. Today it wasn’t too bad – just reverse into a spare bay to turn the trailer around and then shunt back into the required delivery spot…

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…Thank god there weren’t any doubles parked in the adjacent slot or we might have taken a lot longer to park it. Then it was off to a parking area and time for the Dog and me to catch our Zee’s πŸ˜… By the way, fuel consumption for the trip = 7.85mpg πŸ‘

Perhaps I’ll run through a European delivery in another post 😎

Shifting cargo in American Truck Simulator is entirely what the game is about until you have so much spare cash flow that you can afford to go sightseeing. In that way and in a couple of others, it differs from Elite: Dangerous where trading is but one road you may choose to travel. When I choose a mission in Elite, I no longer get a rigid time to complete in outside of a 24 hour period. I may get a last minute hurry-up to complete with a bonus payment on offer, but effectively there is no time pressure. When taking a mission I understand (and it’s mentioned in the mission briefing) that there may be some attempt to violently prevent me from completing the mission. That’s it. Trucking in space is very much just watch out for Pirates and make sure you have enough fuel to get there.

Now, having pushed on to owning my truck and building a company I learn the depths of the challenge in ATS and its European counterpart. Management of Fuel, Driver Time and Consignment Time is what the game is all about. A lot of jobs allow you the time to have a rest en-route or are clearly one working day tasks that you can complete in the maximum driver’s hours without taking a break. But, there are a lot of ‘trap’ jobs out there which will be right on the limit for your hours or for the customer’s delivery time over the distance. An 18 hour job is the classic example of borderline – you can’t drive for 18 hours but if you take the option of a rest period (10 hours) then you will find yourself outside of the timescale on many deliveries and you’ll get a financial penalty on your earnings from the run. Most times you run the best you can through the route and hope to scrape in on time before you bust your drivers hours – I’m not going to tell you here what happens if you do that but it does differ from Euro and American TS. I will try to cover an example of a borderline timescale run in ATS in future.

This is a simple run though – Me fully rested and Truck fully fuelled. Flagstaff (AZ) to Ely (NV) with a load of packaged food. I collected a short trailer from the local retail distributor…
ats_00095… In Game it’s Wallbert but a mod provides real life trailer skins. An interesting note here – one might assume that short trailers are easier to park but actually they can be harder than the standard length. I also note that the trailer is not a reefer, so I guess that the packaged food is crisps, pot-noodles and Uncle-Bens rather than frozen peas or there could be some dodgy tummies in Ely when this lot hits the shelves πŸ˜‰

Leaving Flagstaff we pass this rather English looking building – 1950’s roadside pub I was thinking…ats_00096…It’s amazing how we find parallels in ‘alien’ cultures! I don’t know whether this building was intentionally of English appearance or even if it exists in the real world. Some things in the simulation are real and some are just pictures at an exhibition.

The run up to Kingman (AZ) is good freeway but even on those roads you have to watch for the AI trucks and cars (as well as the Cops). Descending off the freeway into Kingman and you’ll see a Mack ahead – that AI carved me up approaching the exit and then proceeded to block me at the lights ahead 😦ats_00097…As I intimated before, the AI will get you, or at least it will get to you!

North of Kingman we’re in open desert a lot of the time on good freeway roads and we can settle into a rhythm with our driving. Next major settlement up the road is Las Vegas. But, before we get there, we pass the Hoover Dam…ats_00100…and then we’re into the outskirts of Las Vegas and glancing at the skyscrapers from afar.

Now planning your journey becomes critical. North of Las Vegas fuel and rest stops become thin on the ground. With our own truck, fuel efficiency is very important, especially when you go through the more remote area of the map. You plan ahead for refuelling and rest stops before you set out and keep monitoring the situation as you go. I knew I could not make Ely in a single run so I had picked a gas station with rest stop to the south of Pioche on route 93. In the real world, I think this is a representation of Caliente. With fuel in the bottom quarter and driver’s hours into the red it was like finding an oasis in the desert…ats_00103…And so, to bed πŸ™‚

The dawn saw us underway leaving a Kenworth still sleeping in the parking lot with a NedLloyd container…ats_00105…Hope we didn’t wake him!

The run north to Pioche was mainly open desert with just the occasional fellow driver for company. In the game, Pioche seems a very small town with a road through and a ring road to take traffic around. The ring road gives a glimpse of past ambition in the form of a long closed Oasis Motel…ats_00107

The run up to Ely is a simple drive past cacti and the occasional abandoned truck or farmstead. We arrived to find the local Wallbert hosting a sale which I assume prompted the delivery job? ats_00108

That was an example of a simple run in American Truck Simulator. Simple because I could take a night’s rest en-route. Simple because the timescales were adequate and I didn’t hit too many issues on the way. Not all jobs in ATS are so straight forward. Beware the 18 hour run to an out of the way place with no fuel or rest facilities! – there are a few towns out there like that 😦 It’s what makes the game more challenging than initial perceptions might suggest and thus makes it much more fun than it could be πŸ™‚