The Panama Canal - Smooth operator

By Richard High10 November 2008

Giving up a lucrative career as a draughtsman to become a hauler driver was an easy decision for 37-

Giving up a lucrative career as a draughtsman to become a hauler driver was an easy decision for 37-year-old Miguel Angel Guadra Seguna.

Giving up a lucrative career as a draughtsman to become a hauler driver was an easy decision for 37-year-old Miguel Angel Guadra Seguna.

"It was simple," explained Mr Seguna, "doing this I earn a lot more money!"

Mr Seguna started six years ago working in the parts division of CILSA before the opportunity to train as a hauler driver arose. After a year's training Mr Seguna is regarded as "one of the best" at the Panama Canal. He is the only person working as a driver who understands the hauler "inside and out", according to Mexican-born Daniel Hernan Gutierrez, the CILSA Panama - Minera Maria joint venture's head of machine maintenance at PAC 2.

Mr Seguna does "the toughest jobs", according to Mr Gutierrez.

Explaining his aptitude for the job, Mr Seguna told KHL.com that, "You have to be calm, not be excitable. Plus I like working with the Volvo A40E because when conditions are bad the other trucks I've driven at PAC 2 aren't as responsive or as sure footed as the A40E.

"The differential lock makes a big difference to how safe you feel, and with nine months of rain in Panama you need to feel safe," he added.

Some of the other haulers had problems on the site's inclines in the rain, explained Mr Seguna. "The traction was very bad, the Volvos have no problems, so you feel safer and are more productive.

The cab's climate control system also makes working in the hot and humid conditions more bearable, but the biggest difference, said Mr Seguna is the chair. "It absorbs more of the bumps and at the end of the day you really notice the difference!"

Working seven days a week Mr Seguna hauls overburden from the Canal expansion pits 2 km, 35 times a day to one of two spoil heaps at PAC 2. While the work is not too difficult what can be a problem is working at night. "It can be difficult to stop yourself falling asleep so I listen to a lot of music, mainly Panamanian, salsa and meringue."

But there are other dangers too, he adds.

"I once had a 40 tonne rock dropped in the haul body, it was so big it rolled the truck over, which was a little scary. But what was more worrying was that having worked in parts I knew how expensive it was going to be to replace the hauler!"

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