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Anyone Remember the great ICL / General Motors scandal?

Does anyone remember the ICL scandal in the 1970s? This was a great trucking company that had exclusive contracts with General Motors, and in those days it meant you were golden. What was the expression, “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.”

ICL (International Carriers Limited) trucks were everywhere in those days. Good paying jobs with a line up of owner operators hoping to get on. Some key people in both ICL and GM management must have been involved because a scam was perpetrated where GM was double-billed for moves. The auto manufacturer was so big in those days that no one noticed, for a while, anyway. Usually when a scam like that gets going, nothing stops it until it’s uncovered. One story was that an estranged wife of one of the conspirators spilled the beans to the authorities.

Evidently, there were never any charges laid. This sometimes happens with some high-level rip-offs, the victim and/or business doesn’t want to be identified as a mark. But this was a famous story that I heard about from guys who were senior to me and it was passed around for years and years. Anybody out there got any details?

Otherwise I’m working on a first person special feature about trucking and the auto industry. Anyone got any stories? The auto industry is a rich subject. Praise Ford (Henry, not Rob).Look at all the cycles it’s been through. I got involved in automotive parts trucking in the mid-80s during a few boom years, but there’s so much material here. The auto-pact, Just in time Trucking, the coming of the Japanese and then the Asians, death of the auto pact etc., and all the convolutions that trucking has been through during those cycles. I’m looking for stories about automotive trucking. Got any?


Harry Rudolfs

Harry Rudolfs

Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio. With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.
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14 Comments » for Anyone Remember the great ICL / General Motors scandal?
  1. carl Roy says:

    First of all I was around in Oshawa when the Kick Backs hit the Fan At one time I use to do any tire Repairs On the Rentway Tractors and Sold Retreads to I.C.L. for there Trailers in Oshawa.
    Now that Car that Mackies had on is a 1939 Mclaughlin. This was one of 2 similar vehicles plus one as a back up.These Cars were made in Oshawa longer.wider than the regular Mclaughlin Buicks
    Now what else would like to know?

  2. Keep Left says:

    ICL was in the process of being sold to Can-truck out of Oshawa. It could be that during “due process” Can-Truck uncovered the double-billing and blew the whistle. Maybe the whistle was already blown and the sale was ICL’s version of get while the gettin’s good? Eventually what was left of ICL was sold to Yellow Freight. Yellow didn’t want the steel division and those brokers eventually formed their own company, International Freight Systems. Some of those guys would know the whole story…..or make one up, hehe.

  3. jim hilditch says:

    Hi Harry, I remembered ICL but I drove for the competition Allen Industries out of Stoney Creek auto parts into the Ford plants in Michigan. Leave the plant early am in my leased Louisville 318 Detroit long legs short stacks which buzzed like crazy! Through customs in Detroit and switch trailers in Dearborn lansing back to Stoney Creek that night and do it again 5 days a week. Great pay UAW! I think every 2nd trailer on the 401 was auto parts. Later I hauled 5 coils of steel on a 4axle highboy out of Stelco and Dofasco for Trojan Western Star 290 cummins 100,000pd payload! I have been in Edmonton for past 40 yrs, and pull Rockies to Fort Mac 5 nights a week. Too crazy to retire! Enjoy you”re articles.

  4. Eric Amlin says:

    Harry, thanks for revisiting this topic as it provides an opportunity to set the record straight. ICL was a classy operation with top notch people and equipment and to leave the facts as presented, without challenge, is a disservice to the memory of this company and its former employees.

    Although I did work for ICL, I was not around when the GM scandal occurred, but many of my previous co-workers were. Upon reading your blog, I contacted some who were there and lived through the experience.

    First of all, the scandal took place in the 1980’s and it was indeed a scandal, but to name ICL as a participant is wrong. An airfreight company called Zantop, which operated out of Willow Run airport in Michigan was a primary carrier for GM’s emergency shipments and was partially or wholly-owned by a senior executive in GM’s traffic department in Oshawa. As we understood it, the double billing was occurring with Zantop, NOT ICL.

    As was mentioned, the double billing was indeed discovered through the divorce proceedings of this senior executive. Subsequent to the executive being fired, all of GM Canada’s traffic contracts were reviewed and ICL with such a large share of the trucking business became a prime target for trimming. After the dust settled, ICL did retain some of the GM business. Why would this have been the case if ICL was indeed found to be double billing?

    Although one can never be absolutely sure of what goes on in the board rooms, Can-Truck was not trying to buy ICL while the scandal was unfolding or anytime thereafter. Thus, the double billing could not have been discovered through Can-Truck.

    Concurrent with the scandal unfolding, Yellow Freight was looking to obtain an X-license to cross the border into Ontario. With the situation being what it was, the principals at ICL found they had an offer they couldn’t refuse. Once Yellow completed the takeover, it did create an automotive division for the sole purpose of servicing GM but it was seemingly half-hearted; Yellow was not/is not a TL carrier and the automotive division soon disappeared.

  5. Harry Rudolfs says:

    Thanks Eric, for setting the record straight, and doing all that research. This was a story that got passed around by word of mouth, or CB and it was never clear to me who did what and how. Maybe that’s something good about a blog like this. Best scenario if they charged the executives, then it would have been public record, instead of firing the guys. I guess there was some corporate shame for getting taken as a mark. Trucking execs are not immune to scandal.. anyone remember the EnRoute fiasco?..another story you won’t find in the history books but, as usual, a few good, hard working trucking people taken for a ride by a few very bad, greedy people. I remember a whole lot full of those tractors sitting in a yard off Parkdale Ave. in Hamilton, what gives I thought?

    • JimH says:

      EnRoute or Route Canada Harry? EnRoute is the name of our new mickey mouse “service centres” on the 401.

      • Harry Rudolfs says:

        Hey Jim, I can’t find any record of this but EnRoute,or something like that, I think was a spin off trucking company derived from CN if I remember correctly (what, it’s not on google?!!!) IT didn’t last very long This had to be mid 80s or so maybe 1987 when they went bankrupt, or more precisely some funds were siphoned off by some executives and the company collapsed. People lost their jobs, backpay, trucks, etc. The hundred or so trucks I saw parked neaf Centennial Ave in Stoney Creek were the detritus. Some kind of hooky-schnookey was going on. Hoping somebody out there would remember.

  6. Ed Wesselius says:

    I can remember ICL well. You can still see the odd old trailer of theirs at times parked and rusting away. I remember they had those tilt-cabs, single axles with 427 gas engines that went like a bat out of hell down the 401! And, later, lots of cabover GMC Astros. Nice red/white trucks. Owner-operators there did quite well I remember, I was on one of those waiting lists.

  7. Dave S says:

    The company name was Midland Superior Express ( Onroute ) and was a Ltl carrier hauling general freight from Toronto/Montreal to Western Canada.

  8. Sean Lonergan says:

    The company was called Route Canada. Bought by a fellow whose name escapes me and scammed the money out of. It was basically all the CN union trucking companies such as Husband Transport, Scobies etc. A lot of people lost everything because of this scammer. CN, I think just wanted to divest itself from that end of the business.

  9. Kris says:

    I was a GM employee at the time and recall the ‘divorce’ story too. I’m thinking besides Yellow, two or three other companies, JIT, Central and/or Universal AmCan started hauling the parts that ICL had in the past. From what I can remember my father telling me, one of the outfits lost their contract pretty soon due to them shutting the Truck Plant down (parts shortages). I’m sure someone will correct me on the other outfits’ names.

  10. Jaime says:

    A friend passed on this link to me. My father, uncle, cousin, brother and a good friend all worked at ICL. That job for my father brought us to Oshawa! Sad day when that happened. I heard it was the ICL owner and about 20 execs. It was found out when an exec and wife were getting divorced and they saw the cash he had. Just a rumour though.

  11. Craig says:

    I worked for ICL on the Detroit side for the last ten years they were in business. Yellow didn’t take the work, they were only interested in the terminal. If they would have taken the GM work the union would have made them keep the ICL employees. They called me a few months after yellow took over the terminal and wanted me to work hauling yellow freight to other yellow terminals. They had kept a couple dispatchers from ICL and they called us in to work, but when Yellow found out they panicked and sent anyone that was called and worked for them from ICL that they would never work for Yellow again. LOL Yes we all heard about the GM scandal kickbacks. Best thing that ever happened to me, hired in at Chrysler and worked there for 30yrs.

  12. Geo. Borg says:

    I worked for ICL, one of the best company’s as far as good fair honest working conditions go. As for the scandal of double billing goes, well we all heard of it that were employed there. But the only ones that actually know the truth were the ones involved. I remember one day about 5 men in suits entered the drivers room and we were given an insight as to them “Yellow Transport”, will be the new owners. Under Canadian Law F.I R.A. Yellow had to operate for 5 years the same as did ICL. Thus giving employees time to find other employment. Yellow didn’t want anything to do with T.L. Truck Load Freight. They were into L.T.L Less than Truck Load, which gave the company more income by a greater percentage. This was something similar to Couriers, so for each parcel in that Trailer was charged, and it wasn’t cheap. Once the 5 years was up, each employee of ICL was give 3 days severance pay per full year of service, which was a complete insult. All I can say in closing it should have been the people that caused the scandal, should have been charged under law and faced the courts penalty. All this took place when the U.S. Trucking companies started entering Canada.

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