The founder of a prominent trucking charity recently shared an important message about the complicated reality of trying to return a loved one with their family after the person passes away while out on the road.
Robert Palm is a veteran trucker and the founder of the IRS 501(c)(3) recognized charity truckersfinalmile.org, a group that works to reunite truck drivers with their families in the event of death, illness, or injury that occurs while they’re out on the road. The group was founded in 2014 and has helped nearly 300 trucking families.
On February 28, Palm took to Facebook to share wisdom he’s gained in his years behind the wheel and in helping trucking families in times of crisis.
Check out his message below and visit www.truckersfinalmile.org to learn more about the work that the group is doing to serve the trucking community.
Robert Palm via Facebook:
Aw this might be a bit long … please read. (and share)
**warning** Strong Content
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Many have not (and we hope you never will) experience the loss of a loved one while that loved one is out on the road away from home.
Our highways are filled with snowbirds trying to outrun winters grasp. Or motorcyclists on an annual pilgrimage. Or maybe the cross state traveler taking a short jaunt to visit a relative. That businessperson making a sales call or meeting in an adjacent city.And truckers. Truck drivers can and often do travel several hundred miles in a given day. They can be away from home for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Some truck drivers actually live in their trucks.
Trucking is a ‘hit single’ lifestyle that also has a ‘B’ side. Rarely do we see that ‘B’ side. The glamor of the open road. Being ones own ‘boss’, making a new route to see America the way many never will, the promise of a decent wage and a career capable of supporting family handed down to the next generation.
But trucking’s ‘B’ side is a career in an industry often rated among the most dangerous. It means watching your children watch you leave home. Missing birthdays. Missing those first steps, the first home run, the recital. Trucking’s ‘B’ side means breaking promises. A truck drivers family has a kinship with any military family. While our ‘deployment’ may not be as long, nor overseas, our families must remain resilient, adapt and be patient and strong.
The Federal Highway Safety Administration reports that in 2019, more than 850 commercial vehicle occupants lost their lives in a highway collision. This is a 31 year record high. Additionally, while all were not ‘admitted’ to hospital, 20,000 were injured severely enough to be transported from the scene by ambulance.
Should you choose to search, there are four criteria that make up a DOT reportable accident. They are: a fatality, transport of an injured person by ambulance, damages exceeding $4,000, or any involved vehicle being towed from the scene.
NOT factored into this report are any other causes of loss of life such as heart attacks, strokes, stabbings, shootings, suicides, and more.It is likely that the trucking industry may lose as many as 3000 – 5000 drivers annually.
When a truck driver (or any traveler for that matter), should pass away out on the road away from home, there are many logistical issues that will need to be addressed as well as costs.
And I must speak in generalities here as each instance will have its own circumstances. Many times, TWO funeral homes must be involved. One in the home town where the deceased will be received, one in the town where the loss of life occurred. Rarely, but it happens, that three funeral homes may be involved. This occurs mainly in a rural area where a funeral home may be ‘on call’ where no coroner is available. Already one can see that this process can be intimidating. A ‘home town’ loss of life may be devastating, but just dealing with a singe home town funeral director is much easier.
So much goes into this repatriation process. The funeral home in the town or city where the loss of life occurred will ‘recover’ the decedent from the medical examiner or mortuary.
Again in generalities, there may be a charge for this. Usually a ground transportation cost of around $200.00. The loss of life town funeral home will then make preparation and travel arrangements.
There (may) be a cost for what is called autopsy repair, or repair for any organ or tissue donations. Those costs can be around $300.00.While in the care of the loss of life town’s funeral home, they will also secure transit and travel permits and initiate the death certificate process. Death certificates (in most situations) are required to be issued in the state where loss of life occurred. Each state has varying requirements, some must be signed by a judge, some signed by a coroner, and some may be issued as ‘pending’ while results of toxicology or other test results are determined. (It is possible, that issuance of a certified death certificate with manner and cause of death may not be available for several months).
Once preparations are complete, generally the loss of life town funeral home will schedule an airline flight for the decedent to his/her home town. A couple notes about these flights. With no offense intended, the airlines consider remains as freight. Weight limitations (over 350lbs total weight) may apply and/or incur additional charges. Also, the airport itself must be certified and not all are. The reason for this is that should there be a flight delay, a mechanical issue, weather, or delay in picking up the remains, the airport must have secure storage and handling procedures in place. If not, ground transportation charges may be needed to ground transport the decedent to a certified airport.
In one example, a truck driver passed away in Casper, Wyoming. That airport is not certified and the closest was Butte, Montana. Once preparation, death certificates, travel and transit permits are in place, the loss of life town funeral home will schedule the flight and transport the decedent to the airport.
Upon arrival to the home town or nearest certified airport, the home town funeral home will pick up the decedent and transport him or her to their facility in preparation for final services.Costs.
All told, one may see the following costs just to get a deceased truck driver (or any traveler) home to be laid to rest. Please remember, these are generalized averages only and each circumstance will have its own variables. Recovery from location of loss of life: $150.00. Autopsy/tissue donation repair: $300.00. Ground transportation ($2.50-$3.50 mile): $100.00, embalming: $875.00, permits, fees, death certificates: $200.00, air tray: $150.00, flight $700.00 and factor in an additional $150.00 in ground transportation to pick up the decedent at the home town airport. Total cost: $$2,625.00.
The question now becomes, who pays that? Some funeral homes, especially those outside of your home town, those that do not know you or your family, may want their part up front. Sometimes, perhaps if your family has a history with using your home town funeral home, they may ‘advance’ these funds for you. But you or your family are ultimately responsible.
Should the decedent be a military veteran, your local funeral home can help with the paperwork for a veterans benefit. However, that process can take several weeks, and you will need a certified death certificate. Remember, that death certificate is being issued in the state where loss of life occurred and may only state ‘pending’ at this time. Also note this for any insurance claims. Your local funeral home may ‘attach’ or lien any claim. While in our example the cost of bringing a decedent home is $2,625.00, there will be additional charges for opening a grave, services, obituary publishing’s and so on. In total, these costs can wipe out a minimum insurance plan. And what if just one of those payments on that policy was missed?
Insurance was designed to replace the workers earnings so that their family would be able to transition forward through this tragic time.There are many many companies, and this can not be understated, that absolutely have their drivers and their families backs when it comes to loss of life out on the road away from home. Reality is however, (that ‘B’ side), is that there are no laws, regulations, statutes nor mandate requiring any company to bring any driver home for any reason. And some, have referred their drivers family directly to us.
YOU should know your company’s policy and intent (in writing) before you leave orientation. Remember, should you be changing companies mid career, those benefits you have now may not be portable and you may have to wait 60-90 days for new coverage. Check with your provider, but many times ‘workers comp’ ends with loss of life of the driver.
truckersfinalmile is an IRS recognized 501 (c) (3) charity organization with a distinct Mission: to reunite North American Truck Drivers and Their Family in Times of Crisis. Program 1 of our Mission is focused on getting a deceased truck driver home. While we do not physically transport any decedent, we assist the family with advocacy, logistics, and the costs associated with getting their beloved truck driver home to be laid to rest. truckersfinalmile.org is recognized as a vital resource for the families of truck drivers and for the individual truck driver behind the wheel in times of crisis.
We urge you to fact check this post, learn more about our organization, like and share our page, and should you find us to be a worthy organization, consider a tax deductible donation (and ask your employer, friends, groups, to match it) today at:www.truckersfinalmile.org