Trucking ADR through adversity

13 March 2018

Many of us in the logistics sector in Europe have been battling adverse weather, that the press have named "the beast from the east". It has been very hard for the people in Trucking and Shipping.

Hazchem Network wish to pass our appreciation to all the drivers, warehouse teams and operations personnel who have worked in sub-zero temperatures, carried on icy winds with large snowfalls. I know our own hub staff and depots have worked tirelessly to service our customers, and it has been tough.

Overcoming adversity is important if we are to become strong according to Fredrich Nietzsche; though the German Philosopher also warned us never to look into the abyss as we traverse the darkness for the abyss also looks into you.

Our Managing Director was thinking about the adversity in trucking dangerous goods with adverse weather and wrote a little feature about a film [and its precursor] that he finally managed to view - SORCERER - the ultimate movie to feature the trucking of dangerous goods in adverse conditions, and Karim's essay is below -

I viewed and was memorised by the 1953 French-Italian thriller film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot titled THE WAGES OF FEAR in our sixth form film society [back in 1980].

A few weeks ago, I managed to view William Friedkin's SORCERER which was screened on Film4 [after much anticipation]. This film oddity was originally released in 1977 and is a reworking of Georges Arnaud's 1950 French novel "Le Salaire de la peu", was also the source material for Clouzot's THE WAGES OF FEAR. It was remastered and reissued a few years ago, but for some reason it was only available on Blu-Ray [though got a limited cinema run]. I refuse to buy Blu-Ray as I don't want to duplicate my film collection, like I did when VHS was superseded by DVD and now we have online streaming.

Anyway, Sorcerer was a deeply hypnotic film, and one that made me think deeply about our lives and the lives of others. I sat in paralysis as the film spooled and I watched with my jaw open. I understood that fate had played a hand in burying this extraordinary film when it was released. Sure it opened same week as STAR WARS, and its title was a mystery as it was perhaps trying to attract viewers of Friedkin's THE EXORCIST. It bombed, then again it is a hard film to watch as its nihilism and downbeat premise and execution were at odds with the optimism of STAR WARS as to what it means to be human.

The plot depicts four outcasts from varied backgrounds meeting in a South American village, where they are assigned to transport cargoes of aged, poorly kept dynamite that is so unstable that it is 'sweating' its dangerous basic ingredient, Nitro-Glycerin. The explosives are required to blow-out an oil-field fire, and requires four desperate men to drive the trucks over perilous roads to the oil-field.

It obviously has specific appeal to me and my colleagues at Hazchem Network Rugby, as it combines Chemistry with Trucking, something we know a little about. It also explores what it means to be human, living between the phases that we perceive and call 'life' and 'death'. I have worked in hazardous conditions in some very scary places internationally, and found myself in troubling situations in the past - due to my vocation, so I felt a growing unease as the trucks set off with their payload of unstable dangerous goods. The lead driver in SCORCER being named Jackie Scanlon [as played by Roy Scheider] - made me pause for a moment, recalling my own friend and former business partner who shared a similar name - Jim Scanlan.

SORCERER has now become one of my favourite films of all time, like a narrative by Joseph Conrad filmed by Werner Herzog. Friedkin stated that the premise of The Wages of Fear (both the novel and the first film adaptation) seemed to him a metaphor for "the world [being] full of strangers who hated one another, but if they didn't cooperate, if they didn't work together in some way, they would blow up."

Walon Green, the screenwriter, said that he and Friedkin "wanted a cynical movie where fate turns the corner for the people before they turn it themselves".

Director Friedkin considers Sorcerer among one of his favourite works, while Stephen King said at EW "........although Wages of Fear is considered one of the greatest movies of the modern age; I prefer Sorcerer, and consider Roy Scheider's role as Jackie Scanlon one of the two best roles in his entire career...."

For me, I consider Friedkin's THE FRENCH CONNECTION, THE EXORCIST, TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA and SORCERER my favourite films from his work.

However it would only be now, as a middle-aged bloke running a trucking business (the UK's only Pallet Network dedicated to Dangerous Goods under ADR / IMDG) that I would understand the significance of Friedkin's title for this film; for it is an existential view of the swirl that masks our lives from time to time, the hand of fate, one that is often a Red-Right-Hand ' like the battle we had last week confronting adverse weather aka 'the beast from the east' because sometimes the enemy is related to fate.

"The Sorcerer is an evil wizard and in this case the evil wizard is fate. The fact that somebody can walk out of their front door and a hurricane can take them away, an earthquake or something falling through the roof. And the idea that we don't really have control over our own fates, neither our births nor our deaths, it's something that has haunted me since I was intelligent enough to contemplate something like it"

William Friedkin