Innocent driver pays price for drug charges

Avatar photo

Drivers beware! The sealed trailer you hooked on to the truck could be a loaded with trouble.

Zenon Bialkowski, 70, is an example of how a trucker’s life can change for the worse despite doing their job professionally and by the book.

The award-winning driver was arrested, detained and charged with attempting to smuggle 188 bricks of suspected cocaine into Canada.

Picture of Zenon Bialkowski
Zenon Bialkowski (Photo: Leo Barros)

Bialkowski made the news in October 2022 when Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers at the Blue Water Bridge in Point Edward, Ont., discovered the suspected drugs in the trailer he was hauling.

A little over a year later in December 2023, the Crown dropped all charges against him. Bialkowski continues to pay the price.

Health affected

The incident has taken a toll on his health and finances. He has stomach and rheumatic issues. “The doctor said it is due to stress, he told me to try and relax. Psychologically this is not good for me,” Bialkowski said.

He paid his defence lawyer $34,000 in fees. And he’s not worked since he was detained. In 2020, the longhaul driver had won a one-million-mile safe driving award while working for Landstar System.

Trouble was brewing but Bialkowski didn’t know it when he was instructed to pick up a hazmat load in Laredo, Tex., headed for Mississauga, Ont. It was a simple drop and hook – drop off an empty trailer, hook on to a loaded one, and drive away.

The driver, working for an owner-operator contracted to Landstar System, arrived at the facility in the evening of Oct. 13.

After dropping the empty trailer, he located the sealed pre-loaded trailer. “I checked the seals on the loaded trailer and took pictures as usual,” he said.

What he did not notice on the paperwork is that the freight arrived on one trailer from Mexico and was transferred to another trailer. His daughter noticed this much later. Someone had access to the freight during that time, he said.

Bialkowski did notice wrong placards were attached to the trailer and he put the proper ones on. While leaving the facility, the trailer was inspected by a guard.

The trip to the Canadian border was interrupted by a drive tire that needed replacing in Memphis, Tenn., which took about eight hours. While driving to Canada, the broker informed Bialkowski that the customer in Mississauga was busy and freight had to be delivered to Montreal within the same timeframe.

Delivery location changed

A stressed-out Bialkowski told the broker that the additional 500-plus kilometers of driving meant that he would not be able to deliver the load on time.

He arrived at the Canadian border post in a disturbed frame of mind. “The only thought in my mind was how was I going to deliver the load the next morning on time?”

The CBSA officer directed Bialkowski to the secondary inspection area. After X-rays were taken, irregularities were found in the load. He was asked to back his trailer into a dock and the freight was unloaded. The drugs were found between boxes of freight in the middle of the trailer.

Suspected cocaine found in a truck at an Ontario border post.
Canada Border Services Agency officers discovered 188 bricks of suspected cocaine in the trailer Zenon Bialkowski was hauling into Canada in 2022. (File photo: CBSA)

“They came and handcuffed me, saying I was smuggling drugs,” he said. After spending a few hours in a cold cell, RCMP officers transferred him to an even colder cell at the Ontario Provincial Police detachment in Petrolia, Ont.

The next afternoon he was transferred to the Sarnia jail. After spending about a month in custody, he was freed on bail. His daughter provided $50,000 cash and $100,000 surety against her home. He lived under house arrest with his daughter and her husband.

Criminal record not cleared

He has his medicals coming up next week. He is not sure if he will return behind the wheel. Bialkowski is still waiting to clear his criminal record. His lawyer told him it will take time.

Presently, Bialkowski lives with his daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. “She is feeding me,” he said. “She doesn’t want me to go back on the road.”

He keeps busy fixing things around the house and is learning computer programming. With his life turned upside down, he hopes his story will serve as a cautionary tale.

“Seals mean nothing. I did everything by the book and still got into trouble. How can you avoid this? I drove for 20 years and nothing like this happened.”

Avatar photo

Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.


  • This happens way too often that when the driver is sick or injured or charged the trucking company the lease ops or company driver is left with a huge legal and or medical bill. The O T A or the C T A did nothing to help this driver in my opinion we need much better protection for all truck drivers who cross the border including lease ops

    • Maybe the truckers should start by saying I’m not driving your trucks to pull any loads unless we sign a contract saying my legal fees are covered for anything that happens to me while pulling or in your equipment. If every driver does this than the trucking companies will have no choice but to make a legal contract up for every driver to sign.

    • Exactly this is ludicrous what they have done to him and the position they have left him in! If you ask me it should be the company he was driving for that should pay the price and all his medical and legal fees. This is a shame what they have done to him and they should pay dearly in my opinion !

  • OMG! What a mess. This story sounds like it should be cut and dry…..” Don’t shoot the piano player” (it’s an old saying). The guy was just doing his job! I feel really bad for this guy and his family.

  • I’ve been driving for 33+years now, and I’m now in a driving job where I don’t cross the border. I haven’t been across it in a truck since July ’08 and I haven’t missed it one bit. I always hated being treated like a second class citizen crossing the border. Good riddance.

  • This drug business is a on going thing easy money lots of students come from india get there license a middle man approaches them saying you could make this much in a trip you make in a year. What happened with the older gentleman is called a blind shipment. He could and could not be telling the truth. If the owner of the truck he is driving it’s an Indian guy then he is on it. I did this for 10 years. Dispatching drugs through my company. Had over a 100 trucks in 2 years, then got caught did time in the states. That stopped me but some go back to the same thing.

  • It just goes to show you . No matter how good you do the job,no matter how much you care in the trucking industry The trucker has so much responsibility must I say more. My heart goes out to this article god bless

  • Once again, one is guilty until found innocent!

    This is outrageous. How can a trucker be liable when there are so many rules and procedures and paperwork galore to support the cargo they transport?
    When in fact drivers pickup loads that more often than not are crated and shrink wrapped, and all the driver has is paperwork.
    It makes no sense for a person who does his job well and followes the rules, should be penalized and have his/her life upended.

    Where’s the justice in this..

  • That’s a horrible way to finish a career,,,the government got me too,,,what has to happen is a insurance company has to step up and give us some kind of coverage that protects us from these unjust ways of the law and I’m not talking about those dicks at workers comp, something that would take care of the victims and thay can recoup there costs any way thay can


  • Crazy how in Canada charges get dropped/withdrawn or you’re found innocent and it still stays on your record unless u pay thousands more for a lawyer to get the system to do what should’ve been done while the charges were being dropped I also found this out the hard way after charges were withdrawn but at a later arrest they used the dropped charges to interfere with bail

  • This was always a valid fear we had when hubby was hauling out of Laredo to Canada. He stopped going south completely in Oct. 2001 and has never gone back.

  • The poor guy..i feel so bad for him…has a go fund me in his name been set up yet to pays his hefty lawyers fees and the daughter reimbursed for posting his bond?? Surely something should be done…A Million Miles Award…and lived by the book…the guys a champ…the stress and panic and anxiety he must of experienced is rather heartbreaking to say the least…

  • What is an honest man supposed to do in a situation like that, I guess CBS is more interested in the PR of the bust then in the duped honest trucker. So they got the trucker what about the contractor customer that leased him and made all the last minute changes? I am no lawyer but come on????

  • This could happen to any of us that pick up preloaded/sealed trailers at any Texas Mexican border cities, or in Southern California for that matter. I once asked a border patrol officer at a checkpoint north of Laredo, TX what would happen if they found drugs in my trailer, and it was preloaded and sealed. His response was ‘tell it to the judge’. I won’t pick up preloaded trailers from Mexico anymore. But I would sue the crown attorneys office in this case. They have to be pretty damn stupid to carry it this far.

  • ALWAYS check your paperwork! Read all of it. Check to make sure that the seal numbers and the trailer or container numbers all match what the paperwork says.


  • This is exactly what happens when you replace The Act of Common Sense with the law. Those “investigators” knew within 24 hours or less the guy was innocent. And if they didn’t, they are not fit for duty. Take their badges.

  • The OTA should become involved in this matter to help this man clear his record and assist financially.

    • Well said the O T A needs to have one company payroll truck driver on the board and one health care provider on on the board. And come up with policies to protect the drivers

  • Unreal what this man is going through. I’ve been trucking since 91, and did long haul for a few years and yea picked up many sealed trailers. Well in early 2000’s got into dump trucks in Ottawa and a much better job. Since then I have not missed the black top job of long haul. Never will do it again after hearing this. The man needs to sue the company in Mexico, and company in Texas the broker he worked for. This is a sad industry sad driver pay all for what? Get put in jail for doing your job and yea we for some reason can’t break the seal to check load for verification or loaded properly. I broke a seal once cause I saw the trailer leaking a fluid and did it without permission for saftey reasons. Then went inside to company and I refused the load. Ya, I decided that my license and job security is my decision not any others to decide for me. So, I got a different haul the next day. Point is that nobody should have gone through this and I think he’s going to have to sue them all involved with a good lawyer from the USA. Big money here for him for sure, and to teach these shippers and all involved a lesson on stupidity and selfishness and of course being a human being with common sense! Hey Alberta is when we moved to for new jobs in the oil field he should check it out the countless jobs for class 1Q here. I’ll never go back to Ottawa or Ontario ever again. Kevin

  • Sad, unfair and unfortunately, God is good and your reputation and name will be clear up. This hiccups is a window open for blessings. Cheer up old man.

  • Poor beggar. Did nothing wrong but pays the price.
    When he was found not guilty, he should have been free as a bird. Clearing a criminal charge should not have to “take time”, but done immediately.
    I can understand the way he is feeling. This could happen again to him again or anyone.

  • I worked in the warehouse/shipping business for 40+ years. Sealed loads such as this are usually marked ” shippers load and count”. The shipper should have been the one charged in this case not the driver. The OPP should have contacted US customs so they could follow up at the Texas border. OPPseem to need a lesson in shipping protocols.

  • Better supply chains are needed where seacans and trailers can be scanned at drop off or atleast locked in a compound with live security. Tags are better than locks. Its pretty rare that someone will tamper with a tagged seacan because you cannot simply retag it without a portsmith. You cannot open it without destroying the tag. You cannot produce a fake tag without having access to the portsmiths manifestos, access to the material information system used to track it and know the barcoding system used to label it. If the border cant read the tag they should have the right to enter but not if they can.

  • He should consider suing the receiver, the broker, and the shipper. But after paying $34,000 to a lawyer for a case that didn’t go to trial, I wouldn’t trust a lawyer!

  • That is a very sad story
    Kind of looks like there was no support from Landstar
    Which doesn’t surprise me!
    When you hook to a sealed trailer you can only go by what is on the bill of laiding or paperwork so makes me wonder why Landstar didn’t step up with their corporate lawyer and help him !

    • I agree both landstar did nothing. This happens all the time with legal issues and injuries after a crash with a big truck with some other very large trucking companies.

  • The drivers that pull the loads should apply the seals themselves after inspecting the load they are assigned to , and if it’s a second driver delivering the same load then the same thing he must break the seals inspect the load then reseal the trailers doors , unless it’s a tanker.