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Editorial Comment: Lessons can be learned from a few bad apples

Basset climbed into the truck and had a closer look at the cargo and noticed footprints along the top of the load. The footprints led him to a suitcase filled with 24 kilos of cocaine - $2.5 million w...


James Menzies

James Menzies


Basset climbed into the truck and had a closer look at the cargo and noticed footprints along the top of the load. The footprints led him to a suitcase filled with 24 kilos of cocaine – $2.5 million worth.

“This vehicle came across out of Canada,” he later explained in front of local news cameras. “I kind of had a – what do you call it? – a feeling that this was going to happen here.”

Back in Toronto, a bewildered truck owner was left scratching his head. Balwant Birk, owner of Equator Logistics, started his own trucking company merely a month ago and this was only the company’s second load.

He figured something was up when his drivers Kuldeep Singh Samra and Sarabjit Singh Chima didn’t answer his calls for three straight days while they were on the road. Yet the call from police left him “shocked.”

Fortunately stories like this one (featured in a recent issue of the Toronto Star) are rare. But they should serve to remind us of the impact a few bad apples can have on the entire industry.

It’s startling that a trucking company owner can be so blissfully unaware that his equipment is being used for illegal purposes such as drug trafficking. What’s also disconcerting is that the GTA is establishing a reputation as being a haven for drug dealers and that law-abiding carriers will likely face increased scrutiny in the US as a result of this.

Inspector Basset admitted the Canadian plates tipped him off – it if was a US-plated truck it would likely have been permitted to roll on through without a visual inspection.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from this story. Firstly, it should serve as a reminder of the importance of driver background checks. Even if you’re a small fleet, just starting out and finding it difficult to find drivers, it’s not worth the risk to throw two scoundrels behind the wheel just because they have a pulse and a CDL. I’m sure Birk would agree, as he and his lawyers struggle to regain custody of his tractor.

Secondly, if you don’t know the whereabouts of your equipment for several days and your drivers aren’t returning your phone calls, it may be a good idea to take the initiative to notify the authorities yourself!

As for shippers, if your freight is important to you, using a reputable carrier isn’t a bad idea. The tomato paste company that hired Equator to haul its products to Ontario would likely agree in hindsight.

These may seem like no-brainers to established, reputable trucking fleets. But clearly there are others out there so hopefully some good will come of this story and they will re-think their hiring and management practices.

– James Menzies can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6896 or by e-mail at jmenzies@trucknews.com.


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