After a short walk back to Mother Load, Mark opened the door, reached inside and handed a brand new logbook to Kevin.
“What’s this?” Kevin asked.
“It’s your logbook. Start getting into the habit of filling it out.”
“But I don’t even have an A/Z licence yet.”
“No, but you’ll be driving, so you’ll need to keep track of your hours.”
Kevin flipped through the book. “You’re being a real stickler, eh?”
Mark just looked at him. “It happens to be the law. And before you think I’m being hard on you, just realize you’re actually lucky to be training with me now rather than later.
After July of this year you’ll need to take a course and train for over 100 hours before you can even take the test for your A licence.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
Mark sighed. “Let’s just say training with me is saving you about $5,000.”
“Oh, okay,” Kevin said, this time sounding genuinely grateful. He cracked open the logbook again and began filling it out, starting with his name, the date, the name of his co-driver, and all the other information that was necessary for a proper log.
When he looked up at Mark after filling out what he could, Mark said, “Now let’s start the circle check.”
“A circle check is a daily inspection of our truck to make sure everything is safe and operating as it should.”
“But you just drove it here. If something was wrong, you would know.”
Mark sighed under his breath. “Maybe, but that’s not the point. I did a circle check this morning, but that doesn’t mean everything will be fine the rest of the day. Things break down all the time – at any time. A circle check is required by law every 24 hours, but checking the truck more often is just a good safety practice.”
“Wow, there sure seems to be a lot of rules.”
“Plenty more, too.”
“When do I get to drive the truck?”
“Patience,” Mark said. “You might think all of this is boring and unnecessary, but the logbook and circle check is where truck driving starts.”
“If you say…”
Mark wasn’t happy with Kevin’s attitude, so he said, “Let me put it to you this way. If you don’t do these things right, you could face a fine anywhere from $250 to $50,000.”
They had been on the Trans-Canada for a day-and-a-half when Mark slowed Mother Load for a stretch, then slowly eased her off the highway and onto the shoulder.
“What’s the matter?” Kevin asked.
“Nothing,” Mark said. “You want to drive, right?”
“Of course I want to drive. But here? Now?”
“Why not now? The road is long, straight and boring. It’s perfect for a beginner like you.”
“Well, alright. Let’s do this.”
“Take it easy…” Mark began to say, but was cut off by Kevin opening his door and jumping out of the truck. “At least he’s eager,” Mark said, slipping out of his safety belt and getting out from behind the wheel. A moment later they had switched positions and Mark found himself a bit uncomfortable in the passenger seat.
“Adjust the seat and the safety belt to where you’re comfortable behind the wheel.”
Kevin fiddled with the seat – up, down…up, up, down – then clicked the belt into position. “Okay.”
“Armrest too,” Mark said. “And the steering wheel.”
Kevin touched both in turn, but did nothing to change their position. “Got it.”
“What about your mirrors?”
“I can see them both.”
“But what can you see?”
“Oh, okay…” Kevin adjusted each mirror then nodded in Mark’s direction.
Mark had already checked, but asked the question anyway. “Is there anything coming up the highway behind us?”
Kevin glanced at his mirror. “No.”
“Then depress the clutch, shift into first and slowly release.”
Kevin did all three smoothly.
“You’ve driven a standard before?”
“Well, this truck has more than 10. Take your time to figure out where the clutch catches. It shouldn’t take you long to get comfortable.”
In no time, Kevin had shifted up into third and was ready to pull onto the highway. Mark sat quietly, but keenly focused on the young man’s actions. He was leery of letting someone with almost no truck driving experience at all behind the wheel of his livelihood, but Kevin seemed to be doing well. His shifts were smooth, his eyes kept moving from the road ahead to his mirrors in a constant cycle. And he seemed to have a handle on the speed limit…for a while, at least.
“Hey, slow down,” Mark said, when he realized they were creeping over the speed limit.
“But everything’s running smooth, the road is straight and flat and there’s no one around us. We could get there early.”
“No,” Mark said sternly. “We will stay under the speed limit and arrive on time.”
“If you say,” Kevin said, easing his foot off the accelerator.
Mother Load slowed.
“You’re just learning and everything’s great,” Mark said. “But what if we lose a tire while we’re going over the speed limit, is my insurance company going to cover me if they find out I wasn’t obeying the posted limit?”
Kevin said nothing.
“And it’s a nice sunny day, but what if it wasn’t? What if it were raining, or snowing, or bumper to bumper? If we’re speeding whenever things are clear, how are we going to dial it back when conditions are less than ideal?”
“Not to mention fuel. If you drive this thing like you’re in a race you’ll end up burning through thousands of dollars a year in fuel. And for what? Just to arrive a few minutes earlier? This is a business and part of good business is to cut down on expenses, like fuel, and traffic and speeding tickets which can take a deep bite of the bottom line.”