As a novice truck driver in 2002, I heard numerous horror stories about the perils of driving a big truck into Canada. Two months after my solo-driving career began, I was dispatched to Toronto, Ontario. At least I didn’t have a trailer – it had been dropped along with $500,000 worth of printing plates from Mexico at a Kodak facility in Rochester, NY.
When I got to the border, two lanes of trucks were backed up for about a mile. When I got to the border guard, he was very pleasant. He asked to see my CDL, asked me where I was from, where I was going, what I was picking up, how long I would be in Canada and where I was going to re-enter the States. He handed back my license and said, “Have a good trip.” I was in.
I picked up an empty trailer at one of our customer’s lots in Toronto and headed to my pickup. Of course my directions sucked and no one I asked seemed to know where that particular industrial park was.
After about two hours of driving around the outskirts of Toronto, I finally found it.
The warehouse where I picked up my load of pastry dough was in an office/industrial park and had a very small dock area. Add to this the fact that there were employee cars parked everywhere. There was also a trailer parked in their only other dock, making it a very tight squeeze. As I wrestled with my truck, trying to get it into the hole, the employees decided it was break time. About 15 women, primarily Asian and Hispanic, came outside to sit and smoke cigarettes. They witnessed the entire, terrifying spectacle as I tried to dock my truck. When I finally did get into the loading dock, I got a standing ovation.
Trailer loaded, I headed for Chicago. My route took me across the Ambassador Bridge and through Detroit customs. It was another long wait, and the scrutiny was a little more thorough getting back into the States. They asked a few more questions and studied my license a bit closer but finally, I was back on home soil. What really pissed me off was that I had to pay to get back into my own country.
There were other trips to Canada – some of them a little hairier than this one. I’ll save those for another time.