THE STORY SO FAR
Mother Load is in need of her annual safety inspection and while Mark is talking about that with another driver, a third man approaches and tells Mark he knows a mechanic that does inspections for $500.
Mark checks out Ralph’s shop and isn’t impressed. There are no trucks, no mechanics, and little equipment. On top of that, he says the inspection will be done in an hour. Mark tells him he’s leaving the truck overnight.
After a great night catching up with friends and watching a hockey game over a few beers, Mark returned to the repair shop ready to pick up Mother Load and be on his way.
He’d taken his time that morning, doing some laundry at his buddy’s house, then getting in some shopping and buying stuff to restock Mother Load for his next cross-country haul.
He’d also taken his time to make sure the mechanic had all the time he needed to do a thorough inspection and make all the necessary repairs.
But when he arrived at the shop at around two in the afternoon, Ralph wasn’t there. Instead, there was a young man – almost a teenager, really – in the shop and not another single truck to be serviced.
“Where’s Ralph?” Mark asked.
“He’s working at the other shop,” the young man said. “He says you owe $500.”
Five hundred dollars, thought Mark. That’s an insanely cheap price for what his truck needed done to it. He had the money in cash, in fact he had three times that amount creating a bulge in his shirt pocket. It was nice to know he’d leave her with most of that money still in his possession, but would his truck be deemed safe?
“Okay, $500,” Mark said. “But what about the repairs? The tires?”
“He said $500.” Obviously, this kid had been instructed on what to say and he was going to stick to the script no matter what Mark had to say about it.
Mark decided on another tract. “Where’s my truck?” he asked.
“You have the money?”
This guy was good at following orders. Like a dog on a bone, it seemed. “Yeah, I have money, but I want to see my truck first.”
“Money first. Then you can see the truck.”
Reluctantly, Mark took the wad of cash from his shirt pocket and pulled off five $100 bills. He held out the money and without hesitation the kid pulled them from his fingers as if they were a receipt from a cash register.
“This way,” he said, walking toward the rear of the shop.
Mark followed him through the mostly empty repair shop and out the back door of the unit. There, parked just where he’d left it yesterday was Mother Load. In fact, it looked as if she hadn’t been moved at all.
“Okay,” the young man said.
Mark didn’t answer right away, but it didn’t matter. The young man had already turned and was entering the shop through the rear door.
“Hey, wait a second…” Mark said, but it was too late. The door to the shop was closed and Mark was alone with his truck…and down $500.
He took a few steps closer to his truck and checked where the safety stickers were supposed to be affixed. To his amazement, they were there all shiny and new and proclaiming that Mother Load was good to go for another year on Canada’s highways.
He outstretched his hand and ran the tip of his finger over the sticker. It was real, and it was on his truck.
‘But how?’ he wondered.
Mark dropped down to inspect his brakes. They hadn’t been touched.
He checked the tires. They had not been replaced. ‘So that was how,’ he thought. They didn’t do a damn thing to the truck other than slap a safety sticker on it.
Mark stood there for several moments, thinking.
So, they didn’t do an inspection. But the sticker was on the truck and he could get the repairs Mother Load needed at some other shop and the net result would be that his truck would be safe and legal for another year on the road…all for several hundred dollars less than if he’d gone about his safety inspection in the usual way.
So, he was coming out ahead.
But was he really?
As he started Mother Load and let her idle a while to warm up, the ethics of what he’d just done began to weigh on his mind.
Sure, he’d gotten a new sticker, and he’d saved a few hundred dollars, but there was something really wrong with this transaction.
First of all, it was illegal and as much as Mark could say he didn’t know they hadn’t done an actual inspection, no one would ever believe him. He’d been driving too long to convince anyone that he was so naive.
And then there was the matter of safety. What these guys had done was put trucks on the road that were potentially dangerous – for the truck owners to drive, and for other drivers to share the road with.
That just wasn’t right. It was bad for truck drivers, bad for the industry, and bad for road safety in general.
Mark wanted to do the right thing, but how?
Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of Safety first.
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