“Yeah, I’ve got my annual safety inspection coming up, and I’m not looking forward to it,” Mark said.
Sitting across from him at a truck stop just outside of Toronto, a fellow trucker who he’d known for years, nodded in agreement.
“I hear you,” said the man. “My last one cost me three grand. And that was just for repairs.”
“I guess that’s the price we pay for keeping ourselves and the roads safe.”
Mark sipped his coffee, then continued. “I know there are a few things that need to be done…brakes, a couple of tires, maybe a few other things. I mean, the truck’s getting older, so of course there are going to be things wrong, but sometimes I can’t help but think the inspection is just a way for mechanics to find stuff that doesn’t really need to be fixed, and they’re just padding the bill. You know?”
“Absolutely,” the other man said.
During his circle check just that morning, Mark had noticed that one of his brakes was out of adjustment and two of his tires were a bit worn and needed to be replaced.
“You’ve got to find a good mechanic.”
“An honest mechanic,” echoed Mark.
Both men took a sip of their coffees and over at another table close by, a trucker looked over his shoulder and nodded at Mark and his friend.
Later, when the other trucker had left and Mark remained alone at the table, the driver from the nearby table came over and got Mark’s attention.
“Hey buddy,” the guy said. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation and understand you’ve got your safety inspection coming up.”
“In a couple of weeks, yeah,” Mark said.
“I know a mechanic who does inspections for $500. No appointment necessary.”
Mark was intrigued. The cost of an annual safety inspection alone was somewhere between $700 and $800. Mark wasn’t looking for a new mechanic, but if it was true what this guy was saying, he could save $300 right off the bat. “Is he a good mechanic?”
“Trust me. You won’t be sorry.”
Mark thought about it. If this guy charged that little to do the inspection, then the cost of the repairs would be cheaper too, right?
“Where is this guy?” Mark asked.
“He’s in Brampton.”
That made sense, thought Mark. There were a lot of South Asian drivers from Brampton and they were known for being smart with their money. If this guy was doing inspection so cheap, he had to have been doing a lot of them. He had to know what he was doing.
“Maybe I’ll give him a try.”
“Yes please,” the man said. “If you go to him and he knows I sent you, he will give me $50.”
A referral, or maybe a kickback? Mark wondered. With prices so low it didn’t make sense that he had to pay to get new business. Word of mouth should have been enough. But yet, here was this guy giving him the chance to save some real money.
“Okay,” Mark said at last. “I’ll give him a try.”
He handed Mark a business card with a name scribbled on it. “His name is Ralph. Tell him, Ahmed sent you.”
Mark took the card from him and shook the man’s hand.
“Thanks,” he said. “Thanks a lot.”
“Just remember to tell him Ahmed sent you.”
Mark put the paper in his pocket and it remained there for a week before he realized his safety inspection was due. He called his usual mechanic and asked when he could bring Mother Load in for an inspection.
“You can bring it in today,” the mechanic said. “But I won’t be able to get to it for a few days.”
“And how much are you charging?” Mark wanted to know.
“$800 for the inspection.”
“If you have to do any repairs, do I get any kind of rebate?”
“Sorry, we don’t have that deal anymore. $800, plus the cost of any repairs.”
“And even then, you can’t get to it for a few days?”
“Okay, thanks,” Mark said, hanging up the phone.
And that’s when he remembered the business card in his pocket. He reached into his pocket, turned it over in his hand. “Why not give it a try?”
After all, what was the worst thing that could happen besides saving $300?
Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 2 of Safety first.