How to find a stolen truck in a matter of hours. Self guidance.
What happened to Evgueni and Elena Khlopkovy in Mississauga on a Thanksgiving weekend in October this year, is translated in a short note in constable Sibley's of Peel Region Police report: 12:10 reported a stolen truck and a loaded trailer...
What happened to Evgueni and Elena Khlopkovy in Mississauga on a Thanksgiving weekend in October this year, is translated in a short note in constable Sibley's of Peel Region Police report: 12:10 reported a stolen truck and a loaded trailer (belonging to the Klopkovy) which disappeared from a Husky truck stop 6625, Kennedy Road, Mississauga, ON. 16:30 the truck and the loaded trailer were found. We don't know how constable's participation in the search and discovery of stolen property was reflected in his report (he declined an interview) but the owners actually found their truck and trailer themselves, with a big help of their friend Olga Khmurov. All three are owner-operators. Evgueni and Elena are a family team - company Skye Road Express from Dunvegan, Ontario. Olga is an owner-operator with QuikX, Mississauga, Ontario. This is what the story participants told us.
How to find a stolen truck in a matter of hours. Self guidance.
The guys missed their drop appointment in Mississauga because they spent over 9 hours unloading at a Wal-Mart in New Jersey. As it usually happens, they missed all consecutive appointments.
Elena: The thing is, we had a 5 am delivery appointment in Mississauga. Due to our huge delay at Wal-Mart in New Jersey we picked up the load for Mississauga later. The shipping was open 24 hours, and although we were late they said: "No problem, we will still load your truck." When we informed the receiver in the Medical Centre in Mississauga that we would be late for our appointment time on Thursday, he responded: "I won't take you, you had an appointment and now you lost it." We call again, with the request to be unloaded, they say: "No, absolutely not." We decided to go there anyway and see what to do next. When we arrived they greeted us with "we are doing inventory control." I asked when they eventually take the load; "tomorrow is Friday, and it is not a holiday. "We are doing inventory control. Go to your yard and come back Monday." But our yard is in Ottawa. I told them: "Can you imagine, we will have to drive 300 miles one way there and then 300 miles back." Then they took pity on us and agreed to unload us, only on Saturday however. It was Thursday evening, so we had to wait for two nights. We went to a Husky truck stop at Kennedy Road and Courtney Park in Mississauga.
DorogaRoad: Was it your first time at this truck stop?
Elena: Yes, it was, Olga reassured us (she was in Chicago at that time). She said: "It's a good truck stop, and they have good food, too. So I will be in Toronto tomorrow, pick you up and take you to my place." We went to Husky and agreed to call each other the following day. At night, when we slept, I woke up. It seemed that someone lightly knocked at the door. I turned, the truck was shaking, and then everything went silent again. Later we analyzed it that's what thieves probably do. They scratch the door a bit, if the truck doesn't shake, they scratch again, if it doesn't shake, there is no one inside and they can act.
We got up in the morning, had breakfast, browsed the internet, then Olga came from her Chicago trip: "OK, I am coming to pick you up now."
Unlike Khlopkovy whose house and yard are 500 km away from Toronto, Olga lives barely 100 km away (it's not a distance for a trucker!), and she is very hospitable.
Elena: I feel uneasy; my gut was telling me that something is wrong. I said: "Olga, I feel worried; we should probably stay here." And she responded: "Don't worry, we will put an additional strong seal onto the trailer, everything will be fine." I hesitated for a while but Olga insisted: "You'll take a shower, have a good rest why would you sit in the truck for another day?" So she convinced us, we locked the truck and went to her place.
DorogaRoad: What kind of load did you leave at the truck stop?
Elena: This may seem like "funny" stuff.
DorogaRoad: What is it?
Evgueni: Adult diapers.
Elena: (laughing) Yes, adult diapers of various sizes, for a medical centre.
DorogaRoad: So you stayed at your friend's place and relaxed. And then she drove you back?
Elena: Yes, the following day, on Saturday, Olga brought us back, and surprise! - there is no truck, no trailer on the site. We didn't believe our own eyes. We all shouted out at once: "Where's the truck, where's the trailer?"
Evgueni: We told staff inside the building: "there was a truck here ", and got a response "we don't know anything, please try the office." So we did.
Elena: In the office they told us: "If the towing didn't take the truck away, it is definitely stolen." Assistant Manager Trevor called the towing service to ask if they received a truck with a trailer, and they said no. So the next step was to call the police. We asked: "How long should we wait for police to arrive?" "Who knows..." We walked around for a while, of course, we felt terrible, we were shocked. The trailer, the truck everything was gone!
DorogaRoad: Did you wait for the police to arrive?
Elena: No, we left our phone number with Trevor so that he could contact us when the police arrived, and went on our search. We can't just stick around and wait, we were nervous; we should do something and look for our stolen truck and trailer. We had an action plan from the very beginning.
Evgueni: They told us at Husky that a month ago two stolen trucks were found at this truck stop. It made us think: where would it be most difficult to look for a stolen truck? Among other trucks. If it is just park on a street it will be suspicious. Also the fuel level gage in our truck is broken. Even if the tank is half full, the indicator shows zero, and the red light is on. So any driver who gets behind the wheel will think: "I shouldn't go too far." Besides, it is not a good idea to drive far because if you leave the city there are either police or weigh stations out there. Within the city borders police almost never stop trucks.
Elena: So we drove to all nearby truck stops and open yards, fortunately Olga knows the area. At first we checked a Flying J, then another Husky (Dixie/Shawson), then we went to a PetroCanada truck stop (Dixie/Drew Rd). That's where we found our "Prokofich" (this is a sweet name, which Evgueni and Elena gave to their 'breadwinner', - DR).
DorogaRoad: You did arrive at the truck stop, and your truck is there?
Elena: Yes, on the corner, without a trailer, carefully parked.
Evgueni: The thief driver was a real professional; he did a great parking job. When I park, the front wheels are usually not in the perfect position the steering wheel not always straight. In this case the truck was parked in a straight line one could check the distance between the curb and front and rear wheels with a measuring tape, and the hoses were accurately removed. I opened the truck, looked inside. GPS valued at $500 was there. So was the camera. Personal belongings, two cigarette blocks not even touched, only noticed footprint of dirty gloves on the panel. The thief was definitely a tall person the seat was almost at the floor level.
Elena: So we call the police to tell them that we found our truck.
-What do you mean? It can't be true!
-Yes, we did.
-Where did you find it?
-At this particular truck stop.
-How did you find it?
-Well, we drove to various truck stops, they told us
-Who told you?
-A guy from Husky told us that similar cases did happen, and so we were in a hurry to search for our equipment.
When the police officer arrived, we rushed to explain what had happened, interrupting one another, but he was so calm. Of course, we were excited and filled with emotions.
Evgueni: So I started walking around the truck, looking closer at it. Then I noticed our truck used to be very clean now it had traces of mud in the back, as if the wheels had got into a huge puddle. The rear wheels must have been dipped in a puddle, the hoses got covered in mud, and everything was dirty. Of course, it made no sense to go to new warehouses/yards. Their ground surface is usually concrete or asphalt, and everything is clean there. We pointed it out to the officer. The thieves couldn't have travelled too far they would think that they were running out of fuel. The police officer agreed with everything, nodded and took notes. Then he said: "OK". We wondered: "What's OK?" "Wait."
Elena: We wondered: "What does it mean wait?" He replied: "Go back home, you will get a call. I put down your contact details. We have distributed all the information; all police units will have your license plate numbers, and so on." "So what are we supposed to do?" "Call the insurance company, inform them." "And where is the report?" "I will prepare a report but today is Saturday; you won't be able to get hold of it." He gave us contact details for unit 22 where we would be able to pick up the report, but on Monday only. We said: "Then we will go search for the trailer on our own." "Well, it's up to you." The police officer left, we are digesting it all the three of us. "Let's think logically: it should be somewhere nearby, we should look for a dirty yard." Deduction, deduction Olga is praying to her angel, I am trying to calm down. OK, let's go! We were driving around the city everything around is clean. It is difficult to explain how it happened but we only needed half an hour to an hour to track down a dirty place. It was full of all kinds of trucks and trailers.
DorogaRoad: Of course, Olga knows Mississauga and such places better than you
Elena: Of course, we don't know Mississauga at all. Then we all shouted out loud: "A dirty yard!" (Steeles Ave./Dixie Rd.) We noticed an exit from the main road, and then a gravel road surface, potholes, puddles, a huge yard. A multitude of some old trailers, trucks, buses. The most important thing is that when you get there you don't see trailers arranged in lines. They are all parked in some circles, and you can't see it from the road. But when we noticed those potholes with dirty puddles
Evgueni: We were driving along those lines and finally we see a part of our trailer. It's old, and the ventilation grids are just like two eyes, and the number is not visible, and the right edge is sooty. You should have heard the women shouting! Their screams filled the car. Olga let go of the steering wheel, began to hug us. "Our trailer, our trailer!" It was carefully parked parallel to the next trailer. They put a veneer sheet underneath; and the huge puddle was there. The puddle they drove into when they dropped the trailer, and the mud ended up on the truck. I looked at the back no seal, no lock, we had a small lock
Elena: "Where is the load? Hurrah! The boxes are there. We call our police officer. I shout into the phone: We have found the trailer." Silence.
- No way! Where?
- We told you: a dirty place, a very dirty place. This the address, are familiar with this place?
-I am three minutes away from you.
He arrived, we showed him the trailer. He said: "Please explain once again how have you found it?" "We told you: there is mud on the truck. It should be a dirty yard, it shouldn't be far way we mentioned you the red-light fuel indicator." Then Olga said: "Let's make an ambush! I am ready to bring a truck and be on duty all night!" Evgueni told the police officer: "Let's catch them. We won't unload anything." The officer got excited, began smiling. "Go get the truck, I will make a call." A great idea, we would catch the entire gang, those who steal, transport, receive and sell. It should be quite easy.
DorogaRoad: So the police officer began calling his colleagues?
Evgueni: Yes, the idea was for us to get the truck, and for them to make an ambush. As soon as we got the truck everything is within a short distance the officer called: "You know, Elena, it probably won't work. We don't have free people at the moment. So please come, pick up your trailer, and we will mark it off, that everything was found." He watched our trailer until we came back. We were upset and angry at those thieves. We decided to at least leave them a note. Elena found a piece of paper, both her and Olga drew a thumb between index and middle fingers (it means "nothing", "nonentity" in Russia). I left the note on the ground where the trailer was parked, put a balloon, two bricks on it and couldn't help it I had never done it in my life I added the two words to the note.
DorogaRoad: Was the note in Russian or English?
Evgueni: In Russian. I had a feeling that thieves would be able to read it.
DorogaRoad: It's an amazing story. How would you explain it? You have found both the truck and the trailer.
Evgueni: They usually steal on weekends. On long weekends people leave their trailers and trucks, there is usually nowhere to unload during this time, companies are closed. It's a weekend, no one works. If we left and waited for a call from the police, the thieves would be lucky.
DorogaRoad: What can you say about the way police worked?
Evgueni: "Our" police officer hasn't helped us much. He smiled, nodded.
Elena: But after we found the truck and the trailer, police officers once blocked the road, approached us, looked at the license plate because the truck was on the "stolen" list. They asked "Who are you? Show your driver's license." "The truck and the trailer have been already found." "Oh yes, we see a note." And every time they wondered: "Where have you found it? How did you manage to find it so quickly?"
DorogaRoad: Last year we did an interview with a police officer from Peel Region, cargo theft department (DR น39, September 2010, or www.dorogaroad.com). He talked about the numbers of stolen loads and vehicles that they recover, and it is impressive. Of course, they don't work as fast as you do. Your truck was stolen, and you found it in a matter of hours!
Elena: We said to the police officer: "There must be someone else's stolen trailer on this yard." Evgueni started referring to us as Elena Holmes and Olga Watson And we told the police officer that if there was an investigation to be done, just give us a call, we have two detectives using their deduction methods. We laughed, and basically that's how it ended.
Evgueni: It's really difficult to believe that it all happened to us. It's so unusual.
DorogaRoad: What conclusions did you come to based on this story?
Evgueni: If truck thefts are frequent at truck stops, they should install cameras directed at a driver's face. Also, it is not difficult to post a note saying that thefts have become more frequent lately. It's always easier to find something if you begin searching without delay.
DorogaRoad: This is advice for the truck stop administration. What about a lesson for you and other drivers?
Evgueni: In the US, we once laughed at a woman driving a Volvo. She came out of the truck, put on a steering wheel lock and went away.
Elena: So now we understand the reason why, and we will buy the similar one.
Evgueni: An acquaintance of ours used to attach a trap to the gas pedal.
DorogaRoad: In Russia?
Evgueni: Yes, of course. Once he went outside and saw his car with an open door, and someone had gotten away with a trap. It wasn't a trap for rats, he had found a real hunter's trap somewhere.
Elena: So, a steering wheel lock, a trap don't rely on anyone, only rely on yourselves.
Evgueni: Perhaps a GPS would be helpful, too, but overall Elena is right only rely on yourselves.
A trap is a little bit too much here, but this story may serve as a good reminder to all drivers and owner-operators that vigilance will never hurt. Especially in the context of recent events the wave of truck and trailer thefts which "covered" Quebec, Canada's Atlantic provinces and Ontario, of course. On the day before this issue went to print, a major news report in Ontario was about another truck and trailer theft in the Hamilton area. It was followed by the police for 200 km as in the best Hollywood traditions. As we mentioned above, one of the participants of this story Constable Sibley of the Peel Region Police, Unit 22 (badge number is available in the editorial office) declined and interview; he first promised to call back, and later did not return calls. We spoke to Sean McKee, one of the manager's assistants at that Husky truck stop where Evgueni and Elena's truck and trailer got stolen. In his opinion, such thefts are not that common, so they won't consider posting a note "Attention! You truck may be stolen here." As for video cameras, they are directed at filling stations, like at a usual gas station, and not at the parking lot. As a saying goes, "If you are drowning, you are on your own." Exercising vigilance is important. To all truckers: have a safe trip!