Before making a delivery of hardwood flooring to a big warehouse, Mark jumps from his cab and injures his knee. Working through the pain, Mark is told by the shipper that all the warehouse workers are gone, so if Mark wants his truck unloaded he’ll have to do it himself. Mark wants another load so he unloads it himself. His knee aches.
Mark’s knee is sorer than ever, but he keeps working. He gets another load to the same warehouse and there are still no workers to unload his truck. Unhappy, Mark unloads his trailer wondering how he could be so unlucky to make two deliveries when no-one was around…
Mark awoke the next morning with still more pain in his knee. He could bend it well enough but there was a constant ache that didn’t want to go away -it was there at rest, under load… always. ‘I’ve got to get this checked out,’ thought Mark.
And so he decided to put off calling Bud for a load and use the time to see a doctor instead. Because Mark was on the road so much, he really didn’t have a regular “family” doctor, but he did visit a walk-in clinic near the airport where a lot of drivers went because it was so close to a lot of the container yards in the area. Hopefully he’d be able to see a doctor without too long of a wait.
When he arrived at the clinic it was just after nine and there were already three people in front of him. He filled out the forms the nurse provided him, presented his provincial health card and waited.
Halfway through a Maclean’s magazine article about the rising cost of everything, he was called in to see the doctor.
Doctor Dhillon was of South Asian descent and spoke Punjabi as well as English, which made him a favourite among the ethnic drivers who worked in the area.
The doctor looked at the clipboard in front of him. “And your name is…”
Mark wondered if Bud had given the doctor a call. “Mark Dalton.”
“Uh-huh.” He nodded his head and continued looking over the information on the clipboard.
“I hurt my…”
The doctor put up his hand to silence Mark. “Let me guess… You are a truck driver. And you hurt your knee jumping down from your truck.”
“That’s right. How did you know?”
“I have drivers coming in here every day with knee and ankle injuries they sustained by jumping rather than stepping. Which leg is it?”
“This one,” Mark said, putting his bad leg up on the bench.
The doctor put one hand under the knee and another on the ankle and began to bend the leg slowly.
Mark felt no pain at first, but then… “Ahh!”
The doctor eased up on the leg, then slowly straightened it, until… “Ahhahh!”
He put down the leg.
“You’ve put a strain on it for sure, maybe tearing the ligament, maybe the tendon.”
“You don’t know?”
“I could cut your knee open and take a look for sure, but that would make it worse… A few weeks of rest and your pain should be gone. A few more weeks and you’ll be as good as new. If not, and the pain persists, you’ll need surgery.”
“Aren’t you going to tell me to take some time off?”
The doctor shook his head. “I tell the drivers who come to me to rest as best they can. They all have to make a living after all.”
Mark shook his head. “But how could this happen, I just jumped a few feet?”
The doctor nodded. “You weigh about 200 pounds, right?”
“You jumped maybe two, three feet, but you landed on one foot with all your weight, putting a force of many hundreds of pounds on your poor knee. It was designed to bend, not take a load, so something broke.”
“But it was just a few feet.”
“Okay, let me ask you this. Would you put a three-tonne load on a trailer that’s rated for one tonne?”
“No, something would break,” Mark said with a mix of realization and frustration.
“I will give you something to keep the swelling down, and for the pain. But the best thing I can give you is advice. Are you aware of the principle of three-point contact.”
“I’m not sure. It sounds familiar.”
“It’s easy to remember. Any time you are getting in or out of your truck, make sure you have three points of contact -two hands, one foot; two feet, one hand. If you do that, you’ll always be stable and will never slip or fall.”
“I’ll try it.”
“Don’t try. Do it! Your truck has all the steps and handholds you need. Use them!”
Mark bent his knee and felt pain flare in the joint. “I will,” he said.
Instead of calling Bud for another load, Mark left the walk-in clinic and got his prescription filled at a nearby pharmacy. The prescription’s instructions said he should take the medications with food, so he drove to a nearby Tim’s where it looked like a lot of truckers stopped for coffee and snacks.
When he entered the coffee shop he was greeted by a couple of smiles and a few familiar faces.
“That’s Mark,” someone said. “Mark who?” said another.
Mark walked over to the table and said hello. “You look familiar,” he said to one of the drivers seated at the table. “Didn’t we meet on the road outside of…”
“Timmins,” said the first driver.
“And I remember you from Halifax. You warned me about some loose strapping on my load.”
“I did?” Mark asked.
“Yes sir. Saved me a lot of money… not to mention grief.”
“Well, what do you know?” Mark said. He didn’t remember the incident, but he’d helped a lot of people over the years and it was quite possible he’d helped this guy too.
“My name’s Josef, by the way.” “Oh yeah, Josef.” Mark still didn’t remember the man. “How you doing?
“Fine. What do you drink?” “Large double-double.”
“Hey Vito,” Josef called over to another driver at the cash. “Bring another double-double.” Then he turned his attention back to Mark. “So what are you doing here? I thought you did just long-haul stuff.”
“Things are slow, so I’m doing a bunch of loads to this flooring warehouse. You know… hardwood, ceramic. Stuff like that.”
“Don’t tell me. You’ve been unloading your truck yourself, right?”
Mark just looked at the man. “How’d you know that?”
The other driver arrived at the table with his coffee then.
“Hey Vito. He’s delivering flooring to our friend, the crook.”
Vito looked at Mark and smiled, revealing a row of picket fence teeth. “Union meeting?” he said.
The drivers around the table laughed.
“Out to lunch?”
“Off sick. Taking a kid to the dentist.”
Roars this time, and Mark could feel his face getting red. “What’s so funny?”
“That guy doesn’t have any workers. He counts on truckers to unload their own trucks because we all just want to get on our way.”
Mark said nothing at first, seething in anger over being so easily taken for a fool. “I had a feeling something wasn’t right.”
“How many deliveries did you make?”
“You’re lucky,” Josef said. “I made four before I caught on. Vito did three, and Sal over there, well, he made six deliveries before we stopped him.”
The driver named Sal shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not as smart as these two, I guess.”
Mark smiled in Sal’s direction, but on the inside he was angry with himself for being had, and with a shipper who would try and make money by ripping off hard working people who were just trying to make a living.
“So where are you heading next? Vancouver? Montreal? Maybe the States?”
Mark thought about it for a second, then said. “Nah, I might stay in town for a little while longer.”
Like maybe for one more load.
-Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Hands-On Trucking.