TORONTO, Ont. - One good thing about this job is getting to ride around with cops once in a while. My last ride-along was with Const. Bettina Schwartz out of the Cobourg OPP division about 10 years ag...
NOT ALL FUN AND GAMES: It’s not always the most glamorous of jobs. Const. Adrian Perry pulls over a vehicle for a closer look on a snowy winter day.
ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS: Truck cops can get a bad rap, but many of them such as Adrian Perry have truckers’ best interests at heart.
TORONTO, Ont. –One good thing about this job is getting to ride around with cops once in a while. My last ride-along was with Const. Bettina Schwartz out of the Cobourg OPP division about 10 years ago.
It was a hot summer night and I remember her as a very capable officer who stopped speeders with great enthusiasm.
She also had a great rapport with truckers and even drove truck occasionally on her days off. I haven’t heard ‘Goldilocks’ on the CB for a long time. Drivers tell me she has moved on and is no longer a cop.
My recent ride was very much different. Const. Adrian Perry picked me up at the Downsview OPP station in a police-package Chevy Tahoe SUV. It was early December and light snow was falling in the GTA, just after morning rush hour.
The 38-year-old officer is part of the OPP’s Highway Safety Division and works out of the Whitby detachment. He patrols the 400-series highways around Toronto. Right away he told me it was going to be a short day. The latest three soldiers killed in Af g h a n i s t a n were landing at CFB Trenton and he had to be in Whitby at 2 p. m. to help with the escort.
Commissioner Julian Fantino was already on his way to meet the procession. The radio informed us that Car Number One had left Aurora and was travelling down Hwy. 400 (his chauffeur called in a stranded car on one of the ramps).
Perry steered the black and white Tahoe onto the westbound 401.With a plethora of tools and communication devices at his fingertips, he was always doing at least two, sometimes three things.
“This is multi-tasking,” he told me as he continuously punched plate numbers into his Panasonic laptop.
“Hits” was what he was looking for. If a red message box flashed when he entered a plate, he knew there was something un-kosher about the vehicle.
The first time it happened was with an older model one-tonne cargo van. Perry was initially suspicious because the vehicle had passenger instead of commercial vehicle plates.
The computer related that the driver had been stopped 10 days earlier by the MTO and had been warned about a faulty parking brake and having the wrong plates. Perry pulled the van over on the shoulder and directed him to a parking lot on Weston Rd. south of the 401.
“If he’s honest with me and the parking brake is fixed, I might let him go with a warning,” said Perry. “Honesty is all too rare in this business.”
It turned out the parking brake was fixed, but Perry was troubled that the owner hadn’t gotten around to changing the plates in 10 days. The driver stepped up to Perry’s window.
“I made one delivery this morning and made 60 bucks,” he said. “I could really use a break.”
With the promise to go directly to the licence office, Perry cut the driver loose and we were back on the 401.This time he was hawkishly eying a rental trailer.
“From here I can see the brake stroke and part way under the trailer.” At the same time he was also scanning the lights, checking the inspection sticker on the tractor, and giving the driver a once over.
Besides being a commercial vehicle inspection officer, Perry is also a technical traffic collision investigator, which means he gets called to assist in serious incidents and fatalities. I asked him what the most dangerous areas of the 400-series highways are for truck drivers?
“The ramps, by far,” he replied. “I’ve seen more truck rollovers on ramps than anywhere else. And these are often serious. The truck usually has to be unloaded before it can be righted.”
Perry also expressed concern that some drivers aren’t doing proper inspections of their vehicles. “They’re signing the inspection sheets but they’re not checking properly,” he said. “Take some time, walk around the truck and check it out.”
And wheel-off incidents are apparently still occurring, although they’re rarely reported in the media. “I wouldn’t say they’re happening every week, but they’re still happening.”
If there is no shoulder and the sight lines are poor, Perry will go a long way to make a safe stop. In one case he followed a tractor-trailer to Lawrence and Birchmount, off the 401.
It was a refurbished trailer with newly-painted rims, but he didn’t like the grease stain on the axle and rim. “It could be a leaking seal,” he reasoned.
The driver was picking up a load of catalogs at a Scarborough warehouse, so Perry waited while he backed into the dock.
The back of the Tahoe is packed with equipment including a portable scale, a torque wrench and a full tool box. Perry got out his creeper and flashlight and did the inspection right at the shipper’s loading dock.
At one time, Perry worked as an MTO officer and crawled under a lot of commercial vehicles. With almost nine years with the OPP, he still inspects trucks, but now he files his inspection reports in real-time while roaming the 400 highways.
Curiously, Perry began his career path by training to be a physiotherapist and attended York University.
But today, as a rising star in the OPP, his duties now include talking about trucking issues and working with the media. Recently, he gave an enforcement seminar to the Ontario Trucking Association during its annual convention.
Perry rolled out from under the trailer. The seal looked good, and fluid was visible through the transparent hub.
So with a quick check of the driver’s log book and the daily inspection sheet, we were on our way to Tim Horton’s for a coffee.
Scrounging for change at the drive-through wasn’t necessary. The server passed over two medium coffees through the take-out window, no charge.
“Do you always get free coffee at Tim’s?” I asked. “It’s hit and miss,” said Perry, on our way back to the Downsview station.
‘Honesty is all too rare in this business.’
Const. Adrian Perry
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