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Puttin’ on the blitz: Part 3


THE STORY SO FAR

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. At a stop in Montreal, Mark learns that the green International has done nearly three times as many loads as he has. That’s because there are three drivers in the truck and – after watching one of their circle checks – it’s obvious they are cutting as many corners as they can…

By the time Mark left Montreal, he had forgotten all about the team driving the green International and was worried only about himself getting to Toronto safely and on schedule. He’d heard from Bud and some of Bud’s other drivers that the provincial Ministry of Transportation, or MTO for short, would be doing an inspection blitz along the 401 all week long. Mark was of two minds about inspections. On the one hand they served a great service to the trucking industry by ensuring that trucks were safe and not a danger to their operators and other people sharing the roads. Of course, the MTO blitzes couldn’t check every truck in the province, but if the inspections were random enough and checked more than a token number of trucks, the checks provided a tangible reason for a driver to keep his truck safe and in good repair.  On the other hand, the blitzes themselves could be a pain in the seat. It never seemed to fail that a blitz occurred whenever Mark was running behind schedule or trying to make up for lost time. They also seemed to happen whenever Mark decided he could go another week before getting something fixed. Getting repairs done took time – not to mention, money – and like every other driver both those commodities always seemed in short supply.

Sure enough, soon after Mark had passed Kingston, he was squeezed off the highway by a series of orange cones that led him right into a temporary inspection station outside of Odessa. He was confident his truck was in good shape and all of his paperwork was up to date, but he still hated the feeling he got in these situations. It was the same thing crossing the border into the US. Even though all the paper was good, and you had nothing to declare, there was always the chance that the officer dealing with you was having a bad day, or didn’t like the way you answered a question, or didn’t like the colour red. Mark knew in his heart that the officers doing the inspections were professionals with a job to do. They were also probably just as happy – if not happier – to find no violations with a truck than a truck with a laundry list of defects. Still, sometimes it sure felt like they were picking on you.

“Morning,” Mark said as he eased up to the point where the female officer wanted him to stop.

“Morning,” she responded. Then, without missing a beat, she said, “Driver’s licence, registration, CVOR, and insurance?”

Mark smiled and handed all of the documents over to her in a bundle. After glancing at his driver’s licence, she took it over to a nearby cruiser and where he passed Mark’s license through a card reader.  When she returned, she handed Mark his licence and asked for his daily inspection report and copy of his inspection schedule. Mark gave those to her gladly, knowing he was all up to date. “And now I need your daily logbook for the past 14 days.”

“No problem,” Mark said. He climbed into Mother Load and grabbed two books, including his current logbook, which had recorded the past five days, and his previous book that showed the previous nine days in addition to the past few months. These she barely glanced at, probably since everything else he had given her was proper and up to date.

“Everything’s in good shape,” Mark said, as she set about doing her inspection of Mother Load and the box trailer behind her.

“Uh-huh,” she responded with a tone of voice that told Mark she cared little for what he’d found out this morning and a lot about what she would find out right now. Mark was confident about Mother Load passing inspection, but he’d only been driving the trailer for a few hours and even though he’d done a full circle check before he’d left Montreal, in these situations something always popped up that you never saw coming.  After an uncomfortably long time looking at the trailer brakes, the officer pulled her head out from behind a tire and asked, “You inspect these brakes before you headed out?”

“Yes,” Mark answered. “Of course. Is there a problem?”

“One of your brakes is a quarter inch out of adjustment. If you had a second one, I’d take the trailer off the road.”

Mark breathed a sigh of relief. He’d inspected the brakes fully in Montreal and they had looked fine. As well, the trailer was equipped with auto-slack adjusters, but that didn’t mean there couldn’t be a problem since automatic slack adjusters weren’t always so automatic. After determining that the underside of the truck was satisfactory, the officer asked Mark to get up into the cab as she went around the rig checking that all the lights were working, including the orange ABS indicator light at the rear of the trailer.

“All good?” Mark asked when she was done.

“Pretty much,” she said. “One brake slightly out of adjustment, and a headlight out.”

“What?”

“Yeah, on the driver’s side.”

“That must have just happened.”

“Sure it did.”

Obviously she didn’t believe him, but she’d probably heard it all from drivers over the years. “The headlight’s not a critical item, so I’m issuing you a repair verification form. This will give you two weeks to fix the problems and the form can be faxed into our offices.” She handed him a sheet of paper.  “That’s it?”

“Yup, you’re free to go.”

Mark took a deep breath, relieved that the inspection had taken less than 45 minutes and been so painless.

“Thanks,” he said, taking the form from her. Then he asked, “How long is this blitz running?”

She looked at him, smiled and said, “I’m here all week – try the veal.”

At first Mark didn’t get it, then she laughed and he realized that – despite what most truckers thought about MTO officers – she actually had a sense of humour.

“We’re up and down the 401 all week,” she said. “Westbound, eastbound, day and night, so…no, I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow or the next day.”

“Maybe I’ll see you again, then.”

“If you get pulled over again, show the repair verification form, it’ll help move you along.”

And with that she was onto another truck. As Mark pulled out of the inspection area and got back onto the 401, he noticed a familiar sight in his rearview mirror. The green International was cruising westbound, obviously lucky enough to be passing the inspection when it was already full of trucks. Mark laughed under his breath. They might have won this round and avoided an inspection, but they would be making upwards of 10 or 12 more trips over the next few days and they were bound to get stopped sooner or later.

Mark just hoped he would be around to see it happen. 


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