Mark gets a nice gig shuttling the contents of a factory and warehouse from Montreal to Toronto. Among the trucks making the runs with Mark is a green rig with an off-colour door and fender that is driven by a team and making outstanding time between the two cities…
Mark was on his way back to Montreal with a shortbox container filled with scrap aluminum destined for Mexico. The load was a bit heavier than what he was used to hauling, but Mother Load seemed to be handling it all right and there were plenty of these types of loads heading into the port of Montreal. Mark was just happy to have a steady load going each way, which beat the hell out of bobtailing all the way to Montreal.
He’d also settled into a rhythm in which he could comfortably do one-and-a-half trips in a day. It was a great schedule that allowed for a layover in either Montreal or Toronto every second day.
But no matter how well Mark managed his time, he couldn’t help but notice that the green International was way ahead of him in number of loads.
A lot of that had to do with the truck being driven by a team, which would automatically give them double the driving time that Mark was able to do each day because one of them slept while the other drove. It was also possible that they weren’t picking up any return loads to Montreal, but somehow that didn’t seem likely. This team looked like they were trying to stretch every last kilometre out of their truck and they weren’t going to waste any of their time driving anywhere without a trailer.
But there were other ways…
When they were being loaded up, one of them could be doing a circle check while the other managed the paperwork. And if they used the same trailer for multiple trips, they would only have to do a circle check once per day, allowing the second driver to take over without having to do a second inspection within 24 hours of the previous one.
It was also possible that they had their truck fuelled when they were picking up and dropping off their loads. That would be tricky, but not impossible. The one drawback against it was cost, since fuel wasn’t delivered to your doorstep without an added surcharge.
So it was possible for the drivers of the green truck to stop only for fuel, food and bathroom breaks. And even then it was possible to cut out stops for bathroom breaks by using plastic water bottles for a purpose they were never intended. Mark couldn’t say it didn’t happen as even a cursory check of a truck stop parking lot or highway on-ramp revealed all manner of yellow-tinged bottles strewn across the roadside.
Mark hoped that wasn’t the case.
He’d much rather think of these guys as hard working young men trying to get ahead, not the kind that cut corners and made the industry look bad in the name of a few extra dollars.
The next time Mark picked up a load in Montreal, he made a point of asking the shipper a question about how many loads the green truck has delivered so far.
“You know, this is a pretty good run once you get into the rhythm of it,” he said.
“All our drivers are happy with the schedule and we’re actually a few days ahead of where we thought we’d be by now.”
“Yeah,” said Mark. “Some of your drivers must be raking it in.”
“You seem to be doing alright.”
“I’ve done eight trips so far and I’ve got no complaints,” Mark said. He paused and looked out the window across the yard. “But then you got some others…like that green truck out there. They must have done, what…15 or 16 loads so far?”
“More like 21.”
“What?” Mark was incredulous. Even with two drivers they would have to stop every once in a while for necessities for both themselves and their truck. Double Mark’s total would have been expected, maybe a couple more, but here they were picking up their 22nd load…that had to be some kind of record. “I know they’re driving as a team and all, but how the hell have they managed 21 loads.”
“There’s three of them.”
Mark said nothing for a while, finding it hard to believe. “Three in that one little sleeper cab?”
“One drives. One sleeps. One navigates.”
That would explain it, thought Mark. The only time the truck ever stopped was to pick up or drop off a load, and for fuel.
He looked out across the yard again and saw one of the men from the green truck walking toward the truck with a bunch of plastic grocery bags in his hands. As he neared the truck, two other men jumped out of the truck and helped pack the bags into the cab.
Then, two of the men got into the truck and started up the engine. While the engine warmed, the third member of the team – presumably the driver on this leg – did a circle check of the truck and the box trailer it was connected to.
Mark had seen worse checks in his life, but not many. The guy never opened the engine compartment, barely got down on his knees to look at the suspension and drivetrain, disregarded a headlight that was obviously burnt out, and merely gave each of the tires a kick while wearing a pair of flip-flops.
That was the clincher for Mark. The thump test was an important one and something that couldn’t be checked with a simple kick. Even using a stick wouldn’t give you a good indication of how many psi a tire was inflated to because even underinflated tires will still give a decent thump.
But, while a full-inflated tire should be at 105 psi, a tire that is below 50% of maximum inflation is considered flat, and having a single tire at 35 psi or less will automatically put a truck out-of-service. All this guy’s circle check was telling him was that the tires were on and they were round.
No wonder these guys had done so many loads. Not only were they a three-men team, but they were cutting corners at every turn. Sure they were putting a lot of kilometres behind them, but who was going to pay the price when one of their wheels fell off, or they lost their brakes approaching a stopped line of cars.Something needed to be done about these guys, and Mark might just be the guy to do it.