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 truck 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.
Mark is pulled over into a MTO safety inspection, part of a blitz running for two weeks along the 401. His paperwork is good and the truck and trailer pass with just minor infractions and he’s free to go. As he’s leaving, the green rig passes the inspection while it’s momentarily closed down. The blitz is on for several more days and the green International’s luck is bound to run out.
When Mark reached the yard in Toronto, he saw the green International was already backed up to a loading dock and in the process of being unloaded. It was a rare sight to see that truck standing still. In fact, over the past week, Mark couldn’t recall a single time he’d seen the truck stopped other than in
either of the Montreal or Toronto yards. And so, seeing as it was such a special occasion, Mark decided to take a closer look at the truck before it hit the road again.
Pulling his rig over to one corner of the yard, Mark set the brake and left Mother Load idling, then quickly scanned the yard for anyone standing around that might see him. Nothing obvious. There could always be a driver sitting behind the wheel of his truck sipping a coffee, but this yard was strictly in and out and Mark figured the coast was as clear as it was ever going to get.
He hopped down from Mother Load and casually walked across the yard toward the green International. All the while his head swiveled around on his neck, but there was truly no one in the yard.
As he approached the green truck, Mark crouched down as if he were sneaking into a girl’s sorority house, and then he finally got down on his knees to take a good look at the underside of the trailer. A couple of brakes looked sketchy with both brake stroke indicators past the second nipple. That meant they were both out of adjustment, but if it was enough to get the trailer pulled off the road immediately, he couldn’t be sure. One thing was for certain, spotting such a big defect so quickly wasn’t a very good start. But then he saw something that ended the debate altogether.
One of the U-bolts that held the body of the trailer down onto the chassis was broken with one side of the bolt hanging slack below the beam. Mark had never seen a U-bolt so obviously broken, but he knew from experience and talking with other drivers that a single U-bolt that was loose – never mind broken – was enough to get a truck pulled off the road and put an operator’s CVOR in jeopardy. After discovering those two major defects, Mark quickly pulled himself from under the truck and began to leisurely walk around the rig, as if he just were out for a stroll or having a cigarette…even though he didn’t smoke.
There were worn tires all the way around the truck and he doubted if half of them would meet MTO standards. If everything else was in perfect order, there might be a “repair verification” issued for the tires, but with brakes out of adjustment and a broken U-bolt, these guys would be lucky if they ever got this truck back on the road.
As Mark reached the tractor, he saw that the truck had recently been in an accident and that was why it had an off-colour door and fender. Other parts of the truck had been damaged in the accident as well, but hadn’t been repaired. Then, as he took a closer look at a scratch on the fuel tank, Mark smelled something foul that forced his head to jerk away. It was a bad smell, like something had died nearby and the carcass was just rotting in the heat of the midday sun.
After taking a deep breath, Mark turned back around…and got down onto his knees. He held his breath as long as he could, but eventually he had to take another breath. When he did, he smelled it full-on.
His first thought was that this was the truck that was responsible for all of the hole-through-the-floor stories he’d heard over the years. To be honest, he’d never believed any of them and whenever he did hear someone telling their version of the story he wondered why the storyteller had such an axe to grind with an ethnic minority. But here was a truck that fit the bill…three men inside, no unnecessary stops, bad smell coming from under the truck. Mark took another quick breath, held it and looked up under the truck chassis…and saw it!
“There’s your problem,” he said.
There was no hole in the floor and nobody had been using the nation’s highways as a toilet, but there, wedged into two pieces of the tractor’s structural steel was a slab of rotting moose flesh. Flies had found it a while ago and their larvae were doing their best to remove it from the truck it was adhered to. Despite the maggots’ best efforts, that piece of moose wasn’t coming away any time soon.
Obviously, the truck had been in a collision with a moose and had been repaired. However, the truck had never been thoroughly cleaned – probably for reasons related to time and money – and had gone back out onto the road with part of an extra passenger tagging along within the truck’s underbody.
Not exactly illegal, but absolutely foul and repulsive. Mark got up off the ground and walked upwind of the green rig. These guys were driving a truck, but Mark couldn’t think of them as truck drivers. They certainly weren’t professional and they didn’t care a lug nut for the industry. They were in it for the money – road safety and common courtesy be damned. But how were these guys able to avoid the truck blitz all this week?
Surely with a truck in this bad of shape, the MTO would be on them like, well, like flies on a rotting moose carcass.
Maybe they had a network of friends who gave them good information about just when and where the ministry was setting up its blitzes. That way they could speed up, slow down or heaven forbid, stop, until the coast was clear and they could drive on by.
Maybe, thought Mark, what they needed was to get some bad information.
At that moment, Mark heard voices across the yard. He looked up and the three men belonging to the green International were headed toward him. Two of them carried grocery bags in each hand while the third was lugging a couple of cases of water.As they neared, Mark dialed up Bud and asked him if any of his drivers knew where the MTO blitz was set up today.
“Eastbound 401, just past Pickering,” Bud said. “You’ll probably get stopped there as you leave Toronto this morning.”
“Thanks, Bud,” Mark said in a whisper. But even though there was no one on the line anymore, Mark continued in a loud, booming voice. “So you’re sure that’s where they’ve set up. Right. And they’ll be there all morning? Oh, all day. That’s great! Good news for me. Okay, thanks for the information. I owe ya.”
Mark made an exaggerated gesture of hanging up the phone and then smiled in the direction of the three men. “Great news,” he said. “MTO is set up westbound near Belleville all day today. Clear sailing all the way to Montreal.” The men were pleased to get the info, offering him an apple and a bottle of water for his trouble.
Mark took both and told them, “See you on the road.”
An hour later Mark passed the blitz outside Pickering. It was a large-scale inspection blitz, but they weren’t looking at many trucks. That’s because just about every officer there was covered in a sort of haz-mat suit going over a certain green International with a fine-tooth comb. Mark took a bite of his apple and thought it tasted sweet.