Mark had just dropped off a load of plastic bags to a warehouse in Newmarket, Ont., and had begun to wonder about his next load…when it would come and where it would take him. Bud had been keeping him busy, but there hadn’t been a lot of long hauls and nothing too interesting. Mark didn’t mind boring once in a while, but it was beginning to get a bit routine.
And then, as if on cue, Mark’s cell phone rang.
“Mark, it’s Bud.”
“Budgets, as in ‘Bud gets’ you the loads, pal!”
“Oh, yeah. What have you got for me?”
“How about a load of high-end farm tractors headed for a farm in Prince Edward Island?”
“That’s great” Mark said. “But it’s probably an enclosed and dedicated trailer. What do I do when I get there?”
“That’s the best part. The farmer’s got three older tractors that are coming back as trade-ins.”
“Wow, that is good.”
“Who’s your Buddy?”
The tractors were being shipped by a farm equipment dealership outside of Barrie, Ont. Mark hooked up the trailer and got instructions from the shipper. Basically, because of the weekend, he had seven full days to deliver the tractors, and bring the three used tractors back to Barrie. One of the best and easiest summer runs he’d had in a long time.
With the load secure and plenty of hours of drive time ahead, Mark headed south down Hwy. 400 to get onto the 401 and begin the long drive east. Being a Saturday, traffic would be light and getting through the city would be a breeze. But as he neared the interchange between the 400 and 401, Mark noticed that Mother Load was working way too hard to pull the trailer. A shift into neutral to test the truck’s glide suggested the trailer brakes were partially engaged and the truck was slowing down because of it. Mark needed to pull off and check his air lines – the sooner the better.
He pulled off at the next exit and looked for a place where he could quickly check his lines without blocking too much traffic. Once parked, Mark switched on his hazards and jumped out of the cab to check his air lines. As he’d suspected, one of the lines had come loose and was leaking air. He disconnected the line, made sure the end was clear and reconnected it. He waited a second to confirm there was no leak. He’d be on his way in no time.
He hopped back behind the wheel of Mother Load. When he depressed the clutch and shifted into first, something felt wrong. He wasn’t sure if it was anything but a second later – as he let out the clutch – there was no doubt. CRACK-UNK!
Something big and heavy had broken beneath him and suddenly he had no more clutch and couldn’t put his truck into gear. Mother Load wasn’t going anywhere.
“Great!” Mark said. “Of course, this load had to be too good to be true.”
After a deep sigh, and a couple of moments to regain his composure, Mark took out his phone and called for a tow. At first, he just got busy signals, but on his fifth try he got a machine telling him that all their trucks were busy at the moment, but if he left a message they would get back to him…soon.
Not knowing what else to do, Mark called a mobile mechanic named Suhkdeep he sometimes dealt with when he needed roadside assistance in the Toronto area. The man usually came right away. Mark didn’t think whatever was wrong was a roadside fix, but maybe he could at least get Mother Load moving so he could get his rig off the street. As promised, the mechanic showed up just after seven in the evening. He wasted no time crawling under Mother Load to take a look at the clutch and transmission, then quickly climbed up into the cab and took a seat behind the wheel. With the engine running, he tried several times to get Mother Load into gear, but succeeded only in making a string of noises that sounded like the doors of a metal backyard shed sliding open and closed. He shut off the truck and jumped down, shaking his head.
“How bad is it?”
“Not good,” he said with another shake of his head. “There’s a small hole in the clutch casing like something exploded in there. And even though you’ve been here sitting idle for hours, the whole assembly is hot to the touch. Like something was grinding in there for hours.”
“So you can’t get me moving so I can just park it somewhere overnight?”
Suhkdeep shook his head again. “There are three things I know for sure – God is great. I am not God. And you need a tow.” After a pause. “I’ll send you my bill.”
“Thanks,” Mark said stretching the word out way longer than it was.
It was getting dark and even though it had been hours, he hadn’t gotten a reply from the towing company. He began calling them again and got through to an actual person on the third try.
“Hey, can I get a tow?”
Mark relayed his location.
“We’ll be there at nine o’clock.”
Mark checked his watch. “So soon? That’s great.”
“No. Nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
“All our trucks are out on a call. There’s a 12-car pile-up on the QEW in Oakville and we’ve got everything in our fleet trying to open up the highway. If your truck can wait, we’ll be there in the morning. Are you blocking traffic?”
Mark looked up and down the street. Not a car in sight. “I’m on a quiet side street.”
“Great, we’ll be there in the morning.”
“I guess…” Mark started to say before the woman on the other end hung up on him.
Mark sighed. Here he was parked on a city street that was no doubt designated “No Heavy Trucks” and his truck stood out like a $20 bill on the sidewalk. There was no way he was going to abandon his truck overnight. The load would probably be fine, but Mother Load could be broken into or vandalized. Obviously, he was going to have to stay the night. It wasn’t exactly the best part of town to be stuck in, but he was confident he’d be alright. After all, what was the worst that could happen?
Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 2 of Dalton has a breakdown.
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