Retirement is a wonderful thing. When my good lady, Isabel, goes out, I can sit in peace and quiet and let my mind drift off into the past. The other day I started to think of all the bosses I have worked under.
One company I worked for, Irish Express, was based in the Republic of Ireland just outside Dublin. In the UK, it was called Express Cargo Forwarding. I worked dayshift for them with occasional nightshift holiday cover. One day a couple of guys drove into the yard and introduced themselves as the new UK managing director and his assistant.
We were all called into the office to be shown a slide show telling us how well the company was doing. As the dayshift drivers sat there, instead of being out on the road, I thought, what a waste of time and money. A company magazine could've done the same job. For me, first impressions weren't great, but it was about to worsen.
This new managing director had a great idea to change the name of the UK side of the business to be the same as the Irish side, Irish Express. He ordered a load of stationary with the new name and even had a couple of the trucks from English depots repainted. When the guy who owned a company in the UK called Irish Express saw those trucks, the poop hit the fan, as the saying goes. We later found out our new managing director had no experience in trucking and knew nothing about transport in general. In fact, his last job had been in a cell phone company. But surely a little research would've told him the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK. I can only imagine he must've been one heck of a cell phone salesman if he had talked his way into a job as managing director of a transport company.
Before Express Cargo Forwarding, I worked for Lep Transport for about seventeen years, where I met my buddy, Les. They ran their own trucks and employed their own mechanics for many years. So, it was a bit of a shock when they told us we were being made redundant. That news was swiftly followed by telling us we would now work for Southern Transport, who had won the contract to supply and maintain the trucks at Glasgow and Prestwick Airports.
The boss of Southern Transport, John Paterson, was another son following in his father's footsteps. But John's idea of how to run the company was slightly different from his father's. The contract to supply three trucks to Glasgow and one truck to Prestwick changed from the general haulage the company was used to. Lep had some big contracts with IBM, Polaroid and Wang computers and started giving loads to Southern Transport's trucks. At first, it was full loads down to Heathrow Airport in London. As time passed, Southern Transport was getting most of its work from Lep. A few drivers who had worked for his father were angry with John Paterson for putting all his eggs in one basket and abandoning their other contracts.
It all came to a head one day in the office when an argument with a driver called Albert ended up in a fight. Albert was sacked, of course. Another driver was sacked for a misdemeanour, and then trucks started to break down at the side of the road. Sabotage or vandalism was blamed when they discovered sugar in the fuel tanks.
But one of the broken-down trucks had a tragic end. The garage manager borrowed one of the company's small box vans every year to take the local scout troop to their summer camp. When he came across one of the company's trucks at the side of the road, he stopped to see if he could help. As usual, not all the traffic coming up on the breakdown was as alert as it should've been. A truck had to brake hard, bounced off the central barrier and crushed the garage manager from the waist down. He passed away in the hospital later that day.
Then came the day the cops and the ministry of transport came into the yard and said there had been an "anonymous" phone call. The cops blocked the entrance to the yard while the ministry went through all the driver's hours and wages files. Most of the drivers still working there were fined for exceeding driving and working hours, and the company lost its operator's licence and closed.
Who sugared the tanks or made the anonymous phone call was never proven, but it makes you wonder if it was some of those ex-drivers how they could be so bitter as to do that to people they had worked with for years is beyond belief. Just because they disagreed with the way the boss's son ran the company.