Mark was glad to be finished with the United States for the time being. Obviously the SmartWay rules had been phased in over time, but if you didn’t drive the US on a regular basis a lot could change in a few short years.
It had been a learning process however, and he’d made up his mind never to take a load into an area he was uncertain about unless he’d done some research beforehand. These days, with the help of the Internet there was really no excuse for not knowing what the rules are. And even though he now knew the rules about driving into the US, he was looking forward to taking a few loads on his home turf. So with that in mind, he gave his dispatcher, Bud a call.
When Bud answered, Mark decided to head him off at the pass. “Bud, this is Mark Dalton calling. I’m looking for my next load.”
“That’s what I said. Mark Dalton.”
“That’s not how you do it.”
“Ask for a load.”
Mark didn’t understand. He’d called up, said who he was and asked for a load. How could he have done anything wrong in such a short amount of time. “What was wrong with it?”
“You’re supposed to say Mark. Then I say, Mark who? Then you get upset with me and give me a smartmouth answer like…oh, I dunno…‘None of your Markin business.’ And then I have a laugh and say, ‘Oh, that Dalton.’ And then we get on with it.”
“I thought you might be getting tired of that.”
“Next to trying to figure out how you’re going to get into trouble next, it’s the most fun I have in this job.”
“Oh,” Mark was unsure what to say. Bud had always sounded annoyed whenever he called. “I’ll try to come up with something good for next time then.”
“I’m looking forward to it already,” Bud said. “Now you want some loads.”
“How about three weeks of nothing but Montreal to Toronto.”
“It is. They’re closing a factory and warehouse down in Montreal and the goods and machinery were bought by a company in Toronto. They’re moving everything they want to an empty building in Scarborough and the whole gig should last two, maybe three weeks.”
“What about Toronto to Montreal? You have any loads.”
“A couple, but you’ll have to bobtail it to Montreal for your first load. They only need about 10 trucks and they’re handing them out on a first come first serve basis, so it’s best to get their first, then worry about the return trips.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Mark got the particulars from Bud and headed east across the 401.
When Mark reached the warehouse near the Montreal loading docks, there were already six trucks in the yard ahead of him. Hopefully he wasn’t too late to the party.
For the most part all the trucks were late-models, newer than Mother Load by a few years. But just when Mark thought he had the most senior rig in the line, a green International pulled into the yard. It was an older model that had clearly given its owners many years of service.
And although the truck’s cab was green, it had a blue left-front fender and a matching blue door. Those were the only two things that matched on the truck as the rest of it looked scratched, bent and broken.
The tires looked worn, and one of the driver side rear tires had a noticeable wobble to it as the truck slowly crept through the lot.
The truck’s driver would be lucky to make it to the scrap yard, thought Mark, never mind Toronto and back.
Just as the thought crossed his mind, the passenger door of the green International opened and a young man jumped out. His clothes were as disheveled as the truck he’d come out of and it looked as if he hadn’t had a shower in several days, or a shave in a couple of weeks. Obviously, this guy, and the other one currently behind the wheel, spent as much time as they could driving with everything else taking a backseat to earning a living.
Okay, so they’re a team and the whole point of having a team is keeping the truck on the road with as little downtime as possible.
Nothing wrong with that, thought Mark, since everyone had a right to make a living, and in this country the harder you worked the more money you made, and the more money you made the better life you could provide for your family. There were no laws against making sacrifices to get ahead.
Mark could only hope that these guys’ truck only looked like a train wreck and that it was actually mechanically as tight as a drum.
Later, as Mark was securing the gladhands to the trailer he’d be taking to Toronto, he watched the green International scoop up a load that was waiting for them in the middle of the yard.
Smooth, thought Mark.
They’d come in well after him and were leaving minutes before him. Obviously this wasn’t their first pick-up.
Later that day, Mark stopped outside of Belleville to fill his tanks, take an extended bathroom break and have a bite to eat. To be honest, he’d spent more time than he’d wanted at the truck stop, but sometimes nature took its time answering its call.
Back on the road and an hour outside of Toronto, Mark was surprised to see the green International on the other side of the highway pulling a trailer back to Montreal.
“Wow,” Mark said aloud. “Somebody’s making good time…not to mention money.”
But as he continued down the road, he got to thinking about how far it was between pick-up and delivery points, the time it took to drop-off and hook-up a load, and then a stop here or there for coffee and bathroom breaks.
And even if it was possible for a team to do the Montreal to Toronto run without a single stop, it was still impressive that they were that far ahead in such a short period of time.
They were either doing something right, or something really wrong.