Death on the Road: Families often struggle to get truck drivers home

Recruiters from truck companies across the country are taking every step to attract drivers to the industry when it comes to contract payments, incentive payments and social media campaigns.

However, the founders of truck driver charities are often out of industry priority when it comes to taking care of themselves, dying of medical conditions or being involved in deadly conflicts on national highways. Is called.

Robert Palm, founder with 40-year truck veteran Trackers Final MileHe says in the book he heard almost every excuse for not paying or why not to help a small career or megafleet executive take a deceased driver home. ..

This is because, unless there is a contractual agreement, there is no federal obligation to oblige the trucking company to pay the cost if the driver dies on the road for any reason.

“Some carriers say drivers are a top priority and treat them like a family,” Palm told Freight Waves. “It’s time to prove it. Put your money behind your words.”

Truck companies can quickly retrieve equipment and cargo, but often send sad families to Trackers Final Mile, which relies solely on donations, to deal with tragic arrangements and costs.

Palm, who runs the charity from the truck cab, and four other volunteers in the truck industry are passionate about the mission they launched nearly eight years ago.

He never names his career, but his own to pay for the shipping costs of some megafleet dead drivers in North America where he and other members of his group have invested billions of dollars. When putting money from your pocket into chips, Palm doesn’t chop up words 2020 earnings.

“I asked the owner of a company to tell me that the deceased driver was his best driver and he thought of this driver like his son,” says Palm.

He said the owner’s fleet had the latest trucks on the market and they were “maximally decorated” with chrome and chicken lights.

“If this driver was like the owner’s son,” why would you call the Trackers Final Mile to pay for getting him home? “Palm said. “If you go to work with a driver, but you can’t afford to bring the driver home if something happens, or he sacrificed everything to help you build a successful business. To help my family-you shouldn’t be in the industry. ”

Since January, Palm’s charity 501 (c) (3) has helped a family of 54 drivers. After stopping to check for snowstorm and strong wind warnings in Wyoming, Palm is worried that the number will increase in the next two months. The recent surge in COVID deaths from truck drivers is also a concern for him. His charity helped pay the shipping costs for seven drivers who were found dead on the rig after a coroner determined that the drivers were positive for COVID-19.

The maximum number of families that Trackers Final Mile has supported in the past year is 56. With 10 weeks remaining in the year, Palm’s organization is preparing to exceed that number.

“We need continuous funding because we are running with near zero reserves this year,” Palm said. “We need more sponsors to end this year.”

Prior to COVID, Palm said the track show circuit was a major source of funding for his charity.

Since the start of the pandemic, where all major track shows have been forced to cancel the event over the past two years, the Trackers Final Mile and countless other tracker charities supporting drivers and their families have been hit hard financially. I did.

Some carriers will step up

It’s important to note that there are “amazing careers that take care of dead drivers and donate to support the Trackers Final Mile mission,” Palm said.

Sherry Walker, CEO of the Canadian Women’s Truck Federation, a non-profit networking platform, said she was sad to read Freight Waves’ article on the widow of a truck. Tabisa Mosie struggles to bring home her husband Doug Mosie’s body After he died of COVID on a truck.

Tabitha Moshier was forced to charge a credit card for nearly $ 2,000 to fly the body from Maryland to North Carolina in time for her birthday on September 30th. She paid before she realized that Truckers Final Mile could help with transportation.

Tabitha Moshier describes a six-day logistics nightmare trying to take her husband Doug home after being found dead on a truck. She later learned about Trackers Final Miles.Submitted photo

Like many drivers, Doug didn’t have life insurance, Tavisa said, because he was hired as an owner-operator to drive for a company leased to XPO Logistics.

Walker said situations like Tabisa Mosie happen “more often than most people understand.”

“Without the Trackers Final Mile, many families would be struggling alone,” Walker said. “A good career will take their drivers home.”

Buddy Moore Trucking Inc in Birmingham, Alabama. Susan Kilpatrick, Executive Vice President and CFO of, agrees with Walker.

“We have always felt that it was our responsibility to bring the driver home in the event of a tragedy on the road,” Kilpatrick said.

According to the SAFER website of the Federal Automobile Carrier Safety Administration, her company has 471 drivers and 472 power units, carrying general cargo, metal building materials and paper products.

Companies that step up in this situation are often exceptions, not rules, according to Palm.

FreightWaves contacted medium and large carriers over the course of several days on policies to bring deceased drivers home. At the time of the press, no one was responding.

“I make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and operate new equipment, but interact with the CEO of a company that can’t or won’t fork more than $ 2,500 to take a deceased driver home. “We do,” said Palm. “But then these same CEOs look back and spend thousands of dollars on advertising and photo shoot recruitment. show How well they handle drivers. It is unacceptable. “

Unusually dangerous work

NS US Labor Department website States that professional truck drivers are one of the highest injuries and illness rates of all professions due to the potential for highway road accidents. Truck drivers also have one of the highest mortality rates of all professions.

According to the latest BOL statistics, 2,122 workers died in road accidents in 2019, up 2% from 2,080 in 2018.

A significant number of those who died worked as commercial truck drivers.

According to the BLS report, “one in five fatally injured workers was employed as a driver / salesperson or truck driver.”

Chart: US Labor Department

For the past 18 months, Palm and his small volunteer group working behind the scenes at the coroner’s office to get a death certificate, coordinate arrangements with the funeral hall, and talk to a sad family. Had a blow to.

According to Palm, his group often makes 14 or more calls to arrange transportation and navigate the government’s bureaucracy. In some cases, the process can be postponed for weeks or months until all toxicology and other reports are complete, allowing the coroner to issue a death certificate.

“These families often don’t have access to money or insurance without a driver’s death certificate, so we know how important it is for our support to help them,” he said. .. “If we ask for help, we don’t ask about insurance policies, nor do we ask if GoFundMe is set up to cover the cost. We don’t care. People are financial. It’s good for them if they can help them. They just suffered a big loss. “

Since 2014, Palm and his volunteer committee have helped a family of more than 350 truck drivers. Truckers Final Mile has never invoiced a charitable-backed client.

Molly Owens, the mother of Stephen Owens, 36, who died while waiting for the truck to be unloaded in Wisconsin, thanked the group on her website. For taking her son back to Florida. The truck driver’s widow thanked Palm’s charity for paying for the funeral hall to bring her husband home.

On average, his charity coordinates the arrangements for one or two drivers a week. However, according to Palm, his group helped a family of four drivers with funerals and transportation expenses for a week. The cost was about $ 10,000.

There are times when we ask, “How did we get it done?” But the Lord and our devoted sponsors always come for us, “Palm said.

How to donate

Palm used his money to buy a trailer and paid it back to further support the Trackers Final Mile mission.

According to Palm, a $ 250 tax-deductible donation will allow truck driver families and companies to add to the charity’s newly packaged trailer, if they have a driver’s name, CB handle, or military type. increase. This charity’s new funding initiative, called the American Heritage Memorial, has space for 1,000 names on the trailer. If all blocks are sold, $ 250,000 could fund the Truckers Final Mile initiative over the next three years and help charities build up reserves to fund other projects. there is.

Earlier this year, 23 children had lost their parents on a truck that helped Palm’s charity go home.

His organization was established Jingle bell and santa To make sure these kids have gifts under this Christmas tree.

“This is the first Christmas with no mom or dad,” Palm said. “We know that toys cannot replace the loss of parents, but perhaps it can occupy their time for some time.”

US trucks travel nearly 73% of the country’s cargo, and the industry generated nearly $ 800 billion in revenue in 2019. American Truck Association..

Some carriers have an internal program that works to bring a dead driver home. But Palm has to agree that these drivers register and remove weekly deductions from their wages to cover “just in case” transportation costs they would hopefully never need. I said it wouldn’t be.

However, driver orientation with new carriers can be overwhelming, and sometimes those important boxes are not checked or families bring their loved ones home if a tragedy hits the road. I think I have a responsibility to return.

Palm said he wants the industry to come together and treat the dead truck driver as the military provides to soldiers. He wants industry stakeholders to develop policies so that if he leaves the company and immediately contracts with another carrier, there will be no gaps in coverage.

One situation stands out for veteran Palm, who served in the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army from 1975 to 1980.

“The driver who took the two tours in Afghanistan decided to become a truck driver,” said Palm. “The driver wanted to pull a tanker to carry dangerous goods after spending several years transporting dry cargo, but the company he was with for six to seven years did not have a tanker.”

He signed a new tanker company to advance his career and raise his salary to support his family.

“The driver was at the orientation and was told that his profits would start in 90 days,” Palm said. “The military veteran of these two tours died on a truck on day 82. I called his old company and his new company, both saying he wasn’t eligible for benefits. So we helped bring this man back to his family. This shouldn’t happen in the $ 800 billion industry. “

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