Bud asks Mark to start taking loads for a new company. At first Mark isn’t interested, but Bud convinces him it would be good for Bud’s other drivers, many of whom are looking for regular, steady loads. Mark takes the first load for the company, but the paperwork is all wrong and Mark ends up having to drive the load back to Toronto because he had taken the wrong trailer. Mark’s second load is also held up at the border, but this time it’s just a clerical error and Mark is across the border and on his way in less than 15 minutes…
On the Friday afternoon of a long weekend, Mark picked up the third load of the week from the new company he’d been working for. So far, of the two loads he had delivered, one was turned around at the border because Mark had mistakenly taken the wrong trailer and the other was delayed because of an administrative error. However, the error was fixed in just a few minutes and Mark spent less than 15 extra minutes at the border.
With any luck, this third load would prove that the third time was a charm and he’d drive right through the border without a problem or delay. He hoped.
But hope alone wasn’t going to get him into the US, so he spent most of his time in the yard asking questions of people, many of which people didn’t know the answer to.
“Am I going to have a problem at the border this time?” he asked the shipper.
“I think so.”
“What do you mean, you think so?”
“Well, anything can happen between here and there. You could break down on your way, or you could be hijacked by a gang of truck thieves who divert you to another destination, or you might have something in your past that comes to light and you’re denied entry into the US, or there could be a terrorist attack on US soil and the border could be shut down indefinitely, or…”
“Okay, okay,” Mark said. “I get the idea. As far as you know there is nothing about this load that should prevent me from passing right through Customs.”
“The broker would know that for certain,” the shipper said. “But they’ve assured me that this one is perfect.”
It wasn’t exactly what Mark wanted to hear. He wanted assurances that left no doubt. “Can you give me a guarantee?”
The shipper shook his head. “You know there are no guarantees in this life.”
Mark considered that, then said, “But you don’t foresee any problems?”
“Okay. I guess that’s going to have to do.”
“Call us if there’s a problem.”
“Don’t worry,” Mark said. “I’ve got you guys on speed dial by now.”
As Mark drove down the QEW, heading for the Fort Erie crossing into the US, Mark thought about the past two loads he’d taken over the border. The first load screw-up was totally his fault.
He could make excuses or try to blame the shipper all he wanted, but he was the one who’d been in a hurry and had taken the wrong trailer. It had been an honest mistake – identical trailers with a code number off by a couple of digits – but not a mistake that Mark was prone to making. In almost 20 years of driving, Mark had only taken the wrong trailer once before, and that had been as a result of being given the wrong paperwork.
Both honest mistakes, but absolutely avoidable with patience and diligence before heading out on the road.
And the second load’s delay at the border wasn’t as bad as it could have been. There had been no entry on file and a new entry was made up in no time at all.
It had never happened to Mark before, but he’d heard stories of other drivers who were carrying loads where the broker was unable to complete the entry because of a lack of information about the load.
In those cases, the drivers had to leave their trailer and the goods at a border facility where there were plenty of fees and penalties to be paid.
That would have been a worst-case scenario – on par with having to turn around and take the load back – and he was glad he didn’t have to do that again.
Overall, he decided, this new brokerage had been doing alright, which gave him confidence that everything would be in order at the border this time around.
As Mark closed in on the border, he was buoyed by the fact that traffic was light and he wouldn’t have to wait in line to learn his fate. Within minutes he was at the border and speaking to a Customs officer, the very same one he’d dealt with a few days ago when he was hauling the first load for this new company.
“Everything looks okay,” the officer said. Then he smiled, “Even got the right trailer this time and everything.”
Mark didn’t appreciate being made sport of. Sure, it had been his fault, but it had been an honest mistake.
“I don’t believe it,” Mark said. “Check it again…Make sure there’s no problem. I don’t want to be pulled over five miles down the road, you know.”
The officer looked at Mark for the longest time, the expression on his face suggesting that he was wondering if Mark was pranking him. “You want there to be a problem?” the Customs officer said.
Mark shook his head. “I don’t want there to be a problem, but there probably is a problem. There always has to be a problem.”
The officer took another look at the paperwork and then at his computer screen. “Well,” he said at last. “Now that you mention it, there is no entry on file.”
Mark felt vindicated, and a little bit superior to the shipper, broker and everyone else who was involved with this load. “Aha!” he exclaimed. “I was right! I told you there was a problem.”
The officer shook his head. “No. There’s no entry file required on this one. See, you’ve got a load of spare parts going to a military warehouse outside of Chicago. That makes it a government shipment and because of that, there are no taxes on it. So,” a shrug, “no entry file required.”
Mark could feel the blood drain from his face. “Oh,” was all he could say. “Okay.”
“Yeah, so, I guess this is the load you’ve been hoping for,” the officer said. “Better be on your way, then.”
Mark pulled out of Customs and spent the next few kilometers wondering why he felt so lousy about getting over the border without a problem. There had been no delay, no headache, and all the paperwork had been in order. “Then why do I feel so let down?” he said aloud. And then it came to him.
Mark Dalton actually likes it when things are difficult. If things were always easy or went smoothly, where would the fun be in that? Although he hated to admit it, he’d enjoyed the past few days because always wondering what might happen when he reached the border had made life more interesting. There was only one thing to do.
He dialed up Bud.
“Bud, this is Mark.”
“Mark me off the case…These guys have got a handle on the border now. It’s time for me to find a real problem to solve.”