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Working in Keelung: An experienced trailer driver and cargo handler

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trailer driver

Guo, Zhengfu’s professional background:
Guo, Zhengfu, born in 1965, is a skilled professional who operates trailers, forklifts, and cranes in the China International Container Terminal Co. (CICT) in Keelung Port. In this interview, he shares his extensive work experience and technical knowledge about these vehicles.
He jokes that his path to becoming a trailer driver was unconventional. Guo did not want to work as an electrician after graduating from the electrical engineering department, instead choosing to become a trailer driver. His father, who previously worked at China Merchants Steam Navigation Company, advised him to earn licenses to operate trailers, forklifts, and cranes. Guo joined Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation and was later deployed to China International Container Terminal Co. (CICT), where he has remained ever since.
CICT was established to load and unload containers in major ports including Keelung Port, in response to the rising demand of container shipping in Taiwan. As a trailer driver, his job is to transport containers within the warehouse and dock area. Guo has chosen to stay at CICT even as many drivers leave to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

In this interview, Guo shares his extensive work experience and technical knowledge about these vehicles, as well as the history of container shipping with us.

# His experience as a trailer driver

What are the difference between trailers, forklifts, and cranes?

Guo: We operate trailers, forklifts and cranes quite differently. Trailers are built to tow containers to the warehouse, where it will be loaded or unloaded. Forklifts come in different sizes, with the smaller ones used for loading cargo while the larger ones are used to lift the empty cargo containers onto trailers. There are two types of cranes - mobile and fixed. Mobile cranes are used for lifting containers and weigh 35 tons, while fixed cranes are also known as “bridge cranes”.  

They work together - trailers tow the cargo from the front, forklifts lift the cargo from the bottom, while cranes load and unload the cargo from the top. Frankly speaking, I have more experience operating trailers, forklifts, and mobile cranes than fixed cranes.

When did you start driving trailers?

Guo: I started driving trailers in around 1987. I have dabbled in all three types of equipment since drivers are rotated through various tasks.

What are your responsibilities as a trailer driver?

Guo: We operate within the container yard, transporting containers within the warehouse and dock area, but never outside of it. We need to watch out for motorcycles, small cranes, and trucks in the container yard, and will always drive slowly, ensuring there are no vehicles behind us before reversing.

Do freight companies also own trailers?

Guo: Yes, they need trailers to tow the containers to other yards or onto the cargo ship, depending on their needs.

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Various dock equipment are used in conjunction with one another

# Gantry cranes and trailers

The trick to operating a gantry crane is to find the centre of gravity of the cargo. What are the tricks for operating a trailer?

Guo: Assume I am driving a trailer to deliver the container to the gantry crane. The gantry crane is stationary and can only move up or down. As such, the trailer must be driven directly below the crane before waiting for ground ushers to direct them to the correct position. It is crucial to deliver the cargo accurately, following the straight line painted on the ground, and adjusting the crane claws forward or backward by a notch if necessary.

How do drivers get themselves into position?

Guo: We have blindspots, so we rely on the ground ushers to guide us into position.

What is a “steel cable trailer”?

Guo: It is a special equipment that is only used in special situations.

Question: Seldom used?

Guo: Yeah, rarely do we see it.

Question: When would it be used?

Guo: It is only used for moving very large equipment on a super-low flatbed trailer that cannot be connected to the tow truck. Steel cables are used to pull them for short distances, but they cannot be used on main roads and are hardly used in this region unless a container tips over or is severely deformed. 

trailer driver

Guo has been operating trailers for more than 20 years.

# Working overtime to hustle for more income 

Were there part-time jobs in the early days?

Guo: There wasn’t part-time jobs per se as labour laws weren't strictly enforced then. But I could earn more money working overtime and covering someone’s shift. There was enough work to go around, for this arrangement to be viable.

Question: If someone else's name is on the shift, will they still give you the money?

Guo: Yes. Take for example that you are scheduled for the shift that pays 2,000 yuan. I do your shift on your behalf. You pay me 1,500 yuan, and you still make a profit of 500 yuan. Something like that.

# Experience deficit in the younger generation

How many apprentices have you had?

Guo: Frankly, I haven't counted. Our generation noticed an experience deficit in the younger generation, and are very willing to teach them. However, young people get angry when we give them more guidance. They should try to learn more.

Guo: Many drivers in Yangming were trained by me, but we cannot tell if they were good students. We do our best to teach, but they may not pick it up.

 

Photography by: Ru Mengnan

Written by: Kuanhsuan

Translated by: Eileen Soh

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