One Step Forward and Two Steps Back
(the truckers Waltz)

Chapter 4


Bill didn’t sleep very well that night; he kept waking up and looking at the clock. Jeanne was right, he was acting like a teenage boy on his first date, but the excitement made him feel good.

He lay there for a while thinking about the time he bought a used Mack from a dealer. The history was vague and from just looking at it he could see there was a lot wrong with the truck, but basically it was what he was looking for.

He was 60-years old at the time and had decided that he was getting a little to old to be low-beding, running around the bush loading and tying down equipment. The company he was working for was also running refrigerated vans, hauling fish, but the tractor he was running was too heavy for the highway fish haul, so he was looking for a lighter tractor and the Mack fit the bill.

He asked the dealer that was selling it, if he could have the truck for a day to check it over and they agreed. The salesman who had taken the truck in on trade hadn’t run the truck through their shop, before he wrote the deal and as far as he was concerned it was in good shape, but Bill could see lots wrong with it.

He took the truck to a shop that had a dynamometer and had it put on the dyno. The beauty of doing this is, it’s just like taking a truck out for a road test with a load on it and the technician can check everything under load. He can check the temperatures, how the oil pressure acts under load, he can do a blow-bye test, tell how much blow-bye there is, which can tell you what condition the bearings and piston rings in the engine are.

Bill was thinking, ‘This isn’t any different than going to the doctor for a check up and having a stress test, but if all this information isn’t analyzed properly, by the technician it’s not much good.’

If you stand outside the truck as he puts it through the gears, under load, you can listen for any foreign noses indicating driveline problems. After this checkup he had them check out the rest of the outfit and made a list of all the things that were wrong with it, all this cost him money, but he would have a better idea of what he was looking at and the last thing you want is surprises when you are starting out with a different truck.

He took it back to the dealer, the salesman was a little shocked by the size of the list he gave him, but Bill explained to him, if he was going to sell the truck to anyone, he would have to do the work.

They sat down and started to make a deal, settled on a price, he had him write into the contract, they would have to inspect the truck and put an MVI sticker on it certifying that it was road worthy, after they had done the work that needed to be done on it and that it would have to pass an inspection at the weigh scales.

He also had him write on the contract that everything that was on the truck would have to be in working condition, including the radio and tape deck. After a lot of haggling the salesman agreed, so they signed the papers.

The first trip he took with the truck was to the bush with a small load of bridge building timbers, everything worked well until he was almost off the bush road, heading to the Highway.

It was dark by this time and when he went down a little hill, crossed a little bridge and started up the hill on the other side, he put on the power, the engine revved up and nothing happened. He tried a couple of other gear and the same thing happened, nothing.

He hadn’t heard any strange noises, so he didn’t think it was the transmission or differentials. He put on his back up lights and could see the back left hand wheels hanging out on the axle, what? He got out, checked and there were the tires, wheels, brake drum and axle sticking out of the axle housing. Some idiot hadn’t tightened the axle nut and lock nut and they had come off.

At this time of night there wasn’t anyone around, so he-man handled the wheels and everything attached to it, including the axle, into the ditch. It was all too heavy for him to put on the deck of the trailer, he though if someone comes along and seen them, they could have them, if they were big enough to pick them up and put them in their truck.

He then dumped the air out of his suspension after putting a block under the axle housing of the missing wheel, chained the axle housing to the frame and plugged the axle stub with a rag so he wouldn’t lose all the oil out of the differential. He got back into the cab, loaded air into the suspension, engaging his axle inter lock allowing him to drive off with the front differential.

Heading back to town with three wheels on his wagon, he was thinking how lucky he had been that it happened on a bush road, if those wheels and tires, along with everything else had come off on the highway; at highway speed some innocent persons might have been seriously hurt.

The next morning, bright and early he took the truck back to the dealer and when he showed them what had happened. He told them where the missing parts were. He also told them they had better get out and get them before someone thought they might have a better use for them and picked them up, unless they wanted to put all new ones on.

After he told the shop foreman at the dealership that he wanted all of the axle nuts checked and tightened, he phoned the salesman to get authority to do it. The salesman balked and said to Bill, “You bought a used truck, not a new one; you have to expect something to go wrong. It won’t be perfect”

“Well Mister, we signed a contract that said, that truck was certified safe for the road, after I tell them what happened last night and just what else could be wrong with that truck, when I take it over to the scales for an inspection, you can be assured that they will be having a good look at your inspection license.” They went back through the truck and had a good look at everything and fixed a few others things at their expense.

Bill fell into a deep sleep and when the alarm went off at 6:00 AM, he jumped out of bed with a start that woke Jeanne; she rolled over and through sleepy eyes looked at the clock. “For heavens sake Billy, It’s only six o-clock, you have two hours to get there. If you keep jumping out of bed like that you’re going to have a heart attack.” Then rolled over and went back to sleep.

Bill got up, got dressed and made a pot of coffee. After he had his second cup of coffee and cigarette, he washed out his cup and the ashtray; put it away so Jeanne wouldn’t see it. She had been trying to get him to stop smoking and although he was trying to stop, old habits die-hard and he was getting sneaky about his smoking.

When he got to the dealership Steve was already there, looking over the yellow tractor, “She looks good, but I really don’t like the color.”

“Don’t worry about the color, it won’t make you a penny, with a little pin stripping it will look as good as anything on the road. Actually yellow is a good color, they claim that it’s the safest color on the road in any weather.”

“Well maybe your right, it sure is outstanding.”

When Jack got in that morning, he got all the documents that Eddy had kept and as Steve and Bill went through them, Bill noted that the transmission had been rehearing 60,000 mile previously. “What was the problem here, why did he do the transmission?”

“Nothing, just general preventive maintenance,” answered Jack.

“What about the differentials, I don’t see any thing about them having been done, but I see that they have been checked regularly?”

“Bill, you are worse than an old woman, we check out the whole drive line, the oil in the diff’s was as clean as the day it was last changed and if you look here you can see when it was done,” he said as he pointed to the documents. “There wasn’t anything on the magnetic plugs either.” “Now do you want it or not, because I have been getting a lot of inquires about it and I can’t hold onto it to much longer.”

“Okay, but you will have to give us a few minuets, you figure out what the bottom line is, Steve and I will get a cup of coffee and take a walk around the lot and talk about it. I think we have a deal if you can put it together, what do you think Steve?”

“I think so, but it all depends on the numbers and I’ll have to let Rose see it.”

Steve and Bill walked around the yard drinking their coffee and discussing the deal when finally Bill said, “I don’t think you can do much better than that Steve. I think it’s a good truck and you got a good deal.”

“I think so Bill, but I will have to get Roses OK, I don’t think there will be a problem there. She’s behind me 100%.”

After all the paper work was done, Steve went home and picked up Rose. When he brought her back and showed her the truck the first thing she said was, “It’s really pretty, I think the color is great.” Bill and Steve looked at each other and Bill smiled.

Steve turned and shrugged looking at Bill, he gave him thumbs up and they both laughed. Rose climbed into the cab and looked around, running her hand crossed the dash board and over the leather upholstery, with a smile on her face, then she looked into the sleeper, with a little cry of delight she stepped out of the cab and said to Bill, “Do you think he will ever want to come home once he gets into this?” as she pointed into the cab.

So Steve had a tractor, every thing had gone through, now it was just a little matter of putting it to work, but first there was a matter of giving the company he was working for his notice and quitting.

When he walked into the office to give them his notice, the terminal Manager said, “I understand you have bought yourself a tractor?”

“I sure did and I’m here to give you my notice. I’ll be leaving.”

“Do you have any idea what you are going to be doing with it; do you have a job for it yet?”

“Nothing as yet, but I have been looking around and have some ideas.”

“Well I’ll tell you what, you’re a good steady man and we would be sorry to lose you, so when I heard you were buying one I talked to head office and we decided that if you wanted to bring it to work for us, we would be more than happy to have you and your truck working for us. You could go right to work with it and wouldn’t have to worry about two weeks notice”

“That’s great, but I will have to think about it, can I give you my answer to-morrow.”

“You bet we will talk to you then.” As Steve walked away he had all ready made up his mind.

As soon as Steve got home he phoned Bill and told him what had happened, “Hey that’s great, you know exactly who you are working for and that the cheques will be good, have you talked to any of the other lease operators yet?”

“I talk to them all the time, the steadies all seem to be quite happy, but you know what its like, some people are never happy, no matter where they are.”

“Well the important thing is the cheques are good and they are always on time; just make sure there are no kinky clauses in their contract before you sign it.”

“Bill-----I would just like to thank you for all the help you gave me, I really think that I’ve learned a lot from you and that with out it, god only knows what I would have ended up with. Rose thinks you’re a genius to, thank you.”

“Thank you Kid and good luck,” as he hung the phone, he sat down at the kitchen table with a warm feeling running through him and looked at Jeanne, sitting across the table, smiled and said. “You know Sweet heart, I really feel good, I think those two kids will do alright in that stupid business. How about I take you out for supper to-night?”

Go to Chapter 5