Story at a glance
- Being a truck driver can be a dangerous profession, as the industry reported the highest number of work-related fatalities in 2019.
- Many trucking companies don’t offer support to families after a trucker suffers a fatal work-related accident.
- Nonprofit Truckers Final Mile aims to fill that gap, providing financial support to bereaving families that need help getting their loved one home.
Truck driving can be a dangerous and grueling profession, with little support from employers when tragedy strikes. But one nonprofit is attempting to fill the void and provide desperately needed assistance to truckers and their families.
Truckers Final Mile is a nonprofit organization created by Robert Palm, a truck driver himself who over his 41-year career has experienced and witnessed countless tragic accidents involving truck drivers that ended up stranded after fatal accidents with little to no help from their employer.
Palm says that many trucking companies don’t have the means to assist truckers and their families after a fatal accident, and currently there aren’t any regulations, laws or statutes mandating that they do.
Truckers Final Mile aims to fill that gap, providing assistance programs that include preparations and transportation costs of a deceased truck driver from the location of the loss of life to his or her hometown funeral home. They also offer aid to cover the cost of transportation back home after a trucker is released from care after hospital admission because of an on-the-job-related injury.
Palmer told Changing America that every year his nonprofit receives more and more demand for help.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on average long-haul truckers work 60 hour weeks and drive more than 107,000 miles a year. They’re at risk for driving while drowsy and distracted driving, and the consequences can be fatal.
The CDC also found a variety of safety issues in the trucking industry, including tight delivery schedules, driving when unsafe, low reporting of non-crash injuries and not enough training.
“There’s all types of issues that claim a life out on the road away from home,” said Palmer.
Palmer said the issues within the trucking industry run the gamut, from parking issues, equipment issues, tensions between shippers and receivers, the amount of time trucks can spend at loading docks -- it all adds up.
Those issues on top of inadequate pay, “it’s insane,” said Palmer.
BLS says the average hourly wage for a truck driver was $22.52, with an average annual salary of $46,850, as of May 2019.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are over 3.5 million people that work as truck drivers, becoming one of the largest occupations in the country. In 2021, Palmer says Truckers Final Mile helped 76 families and since 2014 the nonprofit has helped 394 families.
Despite the issues and risks that truck driving poses, Palmer says it is a great industry to work in.
“Take a look outside the box and look at what we do on a regular, daily basis. Be it snowstorms, other inclement weather situations, pressure from a shipper, pressure from a dispatcher...we’re getting the job done.”
Palmer says despite a rapidly changing economy that demands goods quickly, truck drivers have prevailed, “the product is on the shelves because of the truck drivers in this industry.”
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