Truck News


Mark Dalton: Owner/Operator

The story so far...When Bud the dispatcher doesn't have a load ready, Mark gets on his case and ends up telling him that dispatching can't be all that hard. Bud suggests Mark take his place for a coup...

The story so far…

When Bud the dispatcher doesn’t have a load ready, Mark gets on his case and ends up telling him that dispatching can’t be all that hard. Bud suggests Mark take his place for a couple of days and, with no load waiting, Mark takes him up on it.

After Bud shows Mark around the office, Mark takes over as dispatcher. Things start going wrong almost immediately with Mark being confronted with problems he had no idea were part of a dispatcher’s job. Finally, he realizes he’s sent a driver to Snowflake, Manitoba when he should have sent him to Snow Lake, Manitoba – a difference of 450 miles.

“No it’s not on the way. It’s four hundred and fifty effin’ miles in the wrong direction!”

“Sorry about that,” Mark said, weakly.

“Sorry? You’re effin’ sorry?”

“Yes, I am. It’s an honest mistake, anybody could have made it.” Anyone, but Bud, thought Mark.

“Yeah, but I asked you to check it before I headed out.”

“I know… I just made a mistake.”

“Your mistake, so I’m not going to lose money because of it, right?”

“That’s right, I’ll make it up to you.”

“How are you going to do that?”

That was a good question. Mark didn’t exactly know what he had the authority to do. He could pay the driver for his miles, but that money would probably come out of Bud’s pocket. Mark could also pay the driver himself, but that meant admitting to Bud that he’d screwed up and couldn’t do the job right, even for just a few days. Mark didn’t like it, but the last option seemed like the right thing to do. After all, if he’d been the driver, he’d expect some sort of compensation.

“I’ll pay your empty mileage myself,” Mark said at last.

“For the round-trip, all nine-hundred miles?”

Mark took a deep breath and let out a sigh. “Sure, for the whole nine-hundred miles.”

“Well, all right, then,” the driver said, unable to say anything more after Mark had offered to pay for the mistake personally.

If only he could get Bud to do that. But of course, first Bud would have to make a mistake. Mark tried to think back over the years, but he couldn’t come up with any instance where Bud had screwed up as badly as he had in just his first day on the job. All right, conceded Mark, maybe Bud is a pretty good dispatcher.

“I’ll call Snowflake and let them know you’re coming,” Mark said.

“Appreciate that.”

“No problem.”

Later that afternoon, a driver called from south of the border. “Where’s Bud?”

“He’s in the can,” said Mark, deciding to change things up a bit. “Well, I just crossed into Pennsylvania and I wanted to check where I’m going. Bud told me Harrisburg, at least that’s what I wrote down, but there’s so many towns around here that sound like that I want to make sure I know where I’m going. I’ve already past Harriston, Harris Point, Harrison, Harrisville and Harrisonburg.”

“No kidding,” answered Mark. He’d heard there were areas of the U.S. that were settled by a single large family, or the descendants of the first settlers, and all the towns ended up having similar names, but he never knew they could get that confusing.

“Yeah, no kidding. Can you help me out?”

“Stay on the line,” Mark said, not needing any more encouragement. He found the driver’s paperwork and checked the pick-up location three times before getting back on the phone.

“Still there?” Mark asked.


“Okay, it is Harrisburg. H-A-R-R-I-S-B-U-R-G. Got it?”

“I got it.”


“Yeah, sorry to bother you about it, but it’s always good to double check these things.”

Bud had, of course, given the driver the correct destination, but it never hurt to make sure. Mark knew that now.

“You got that right,” he said.

Mark hung up the phone and started feeling a little better about the way things were going, but not much.

He’d learned a good lesson, but the trouble was he’d learned it a couple of hours too late.

Mark wondered how much else he didn’t know about this job?

The phone rang then.

“Where’s Bud?”

“He’s off today, what’s up?”

“I’ve broken down just to the west of Calgary,” said the voice.

“Is it serious?”

“Driveshaft’s busted.”

“So you’re going to be there for a while…”

“That’s right and this load isn’t going to make it to Vancouver on time.”

“I’ll try and send someone for the load.”

“I’d appreciate it.”

The other phone rang, then.

“Yeah,” said Mark, realizing now why Bud was sometimes so terse with him whenever he answered the phone.

“Where’s Bud?”

“Gone fishing, I’m taking care of things in the meantime.”

“This is Gord from Lachine Fabricators in Montreal. I’ve got eight trailer loads I need taken into Toronto by Friday.”

A long silence.

“Anyway, three will be ready on Wednesday, three on Thursday and two on Friday morning,” added Gord.

“Eight loads, huh?”

“Yeah, eight loads… what time can I expect the drivers on Wednesday?”

“It’s kind of short notice isn’t it?”

“Bud never had a problem doing it this way.”

The cell phone rang then.

“What do you want?” Mark said, just like Bud did.

“Is that you, Bud?”

“No, Bud went out for coffee.”

“When will he be back?”

“Day after tomorrow.”


“I got my check for the last three loads and the amount on it is wrong.”

“By how much?”

“Six dollars.”


“Yeah, it’s out by six dollars, see…”

The guy rambled on, explaining how the check didn’t match what he’d figured he was owed.

Mark just shook his head. Depending on where the guy was on the North American continent, it might have cost him six dollars just to make the phone call to question the amount of the check in the first place.

“I’ll let Bud know you called. We’ll get that six dollars to you just as soon as we can.”

Yeah right, thought Mark.

“Okay, pal?”

“Great, thanks.” The guy hung up.

“When can I expect the drivers ‘ere?” the shipper in Montreal asked.

“Police want to know if someone will be by for the trailer now, or should they get someone locally to take it off the highway?”

Mark didn’t have an answer for either of them.

Because he didn’t know.

He didn’t know anything about being a dispatcher, and now he was looking like a fool for being so cocky with Bud.

He was more than ready to admit that now, and he’d take it easier on Bud the next time the man didn’t have a load quite ready, or when he forgot where he’d sent him, or if the paperwork was just a little irregular.

“I’ll get back to you on that,” he told the shipper.

Just one more day, thought Mark. Bud will be back tomorrow and then I’ll be back behind the wheel and the only thing I’ll have to worry about will be putting asphalt under my wheels.

One more day.

It won’t be so bad.

After all, how much more can possibly go wrong between now and then.

And that’s when the front door to the office burst open and a huge, grease-stained trucker stormed inside holding a tire iron in his big, beefy fist.

“I want to talk to you,” the man said.

Mark hoped talking was all the guy had in mind.

But the way he was breathing through his clenched teeth, it sure didn’t look that way.

– Next month: The conclusion of The Dispatcher.

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