The recent truck driver shortage has left existing truckers without much support. As a result of the pandemic, many customers still rely on delivery trucks for essential items. With the demand for freight transportation only worsening, some truckers are literally dying from exhaustion.
When you’re driving for hours on end with little time to recover, it’s easy to fall ill or get into accidents. According to the New York Times, drivers also suffer from anxiety and depression due to stress. Fortunately, there’s a nonprofit to help truckers and their families.
What is Truckers Final Mile?
Truckers Final Mile is a nonprofit organization in New Mexico with several programs optimized to help truckers and their families directly. If a trucker dies inside their truck, Truckers Final Mile works with families to bring the bodies back home. The organization also has a professional grief counselor on its staff for those struggling to cope with loss.
There are also resources for truckers who are alive. Experiencing a heart attack or catching COVID on the job could cause drivers to take several weeks away from work. Truckers Final Mile can provide direct financial support during this time. The organization can also help with medical bills if a trucker has to be hospitalized due to illness or injury.
Mobility services are also available if the trucker sustains a lifelong disability from any injuries. This could include building a ramp at the trucker’s home or installing wheelchair lifts in their vehicles. The families of truckers can also utilize all of the services provided by Truckers Final Mile.
Robert Palm, a veteran trucker of 40 years, is the founder and runs the organization. Palm says he was inspired to create Truckers Final Mile because of some fundamental weaknesses in the trucking industry. While he found his job incredibly rewarding, it also came with some worrying downsides.
According to his interview on Freight Waves, trucker support from their employers is sorely lacking. Palm said he heard from a company owner that one deceased driver was apparently “his best driver and he thought of this driver like a son.” Yet, that same company owner made no effort to help the driver’s family financially or tell them about Truckers Final Mile.
Unfortunately, there’s no mandate in place saying a trucking company has to cover funeral or medical expenses. When a trucker dies behind the wheel, their priority is often to retrieve the abandoned cargo instead. Without his organization, Palm says, “many families would be left struggling alone.”
Where does Truckers Final Mile get its funding?
Truckers Final Mile is run entirely from donations, so it’s in perpetual need of funding. Even so, Truckers Final Mile helped 54 families of truckers in 2020. In seven of these instances, the transport expenses for deceased COVID-positive drivers were covered.
It doesn’t exactly shed a positive light on the trucking companies themselves. Most of these mega fleets earn billions of revenue each year, especially with demand for drivers higher than ever. It’s certainly within their capacity to cover death-related costs, but they seemingly turn a blind eye toward the problem.
How trucking companies and organizations can support drivers
Other nonprofits can help drivers in areas, such as the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada. A handful of CEOs are also in complete agreement with Palmer about the lack of responsibility from most trucking companies.
Most trucking company owners spend thousands of dollars on excessive photo ops or new equipment before direct trucker assistance. To create positive change, Palmer says the actual truckers should come first.