Robert Palm, a veteran who served in the 101st Airborne, has been in the trucking industry since 1981 and he’s seen it all. As his career is winding down, he’s been looking for a way to give back to the community that has given him a living for nearly the past 40 years.
He’s had nearly every job on the open road that you can have in the trucking industry. He’s been a towing and recovery operator, a company driver, a company trainer, a Truck Driving School Owner, a State CDL Road Test Examiner, a lease operator, and finally an Owner Operator with 48 State Operating Authority.
Through his career, one thing which struck him was what happens to truck drivers who get hurt or sick while driving far away from home? Or what if a family member gets seriously ill while the driver is on the other side of the country?
If you’re like me, you’d think that the big trucking companies would more than take care of their own. And in many cases they do, but all too frequently the drivers are stuck somewhere far from home. That is why Palm started TruckersFinalMile.org.
As the Truckersfinalmile.org mission statement says:
“Truckersfinalmile.org is an IRS 501(c)(3) recognized charity, designed to reunite truck drivers and their families in the event of death, debilitating injury, or serious illness. It is a charity organization that will assist in the immediate travel, lodging, and ground transportation needs of truck drivers and their immediate families, whether to the truck driver’s location or for the driver to travel home in such a case. Additionally, in the event of loss of a driver’s life, we will pay transportation of his/her remains home.”
Palm started the charity in Albuquerque, New Mexico to serve, as he says all of the truck drivers of North America. On May 1, TruckersFinalMile will begin its seventh year.
There are no memberships in the charity. Its only criterion for helping an individual is that they have a CDL and either work for a company in the trucking industry or is an owner-operator.
As Palm says, “Our mission is to reunite those truckers and their families in a time of crisis and we fulfill that mission through several distinct programs.”
The first program, and the one that the organization is most known for, aids in bringing deceased truck drivers home to their families — regardless of fault or cause. The organization helps the family with the costs of shipping a loved one’s body home, which can frequently be several states away.
The second program is aiding truckers and their families with reuniting when a driver is seriously injured out on the road.
The third one reunites families with truckers, who get seriously ill while out on the road: It isn’t uncommon for drivers to suffer heart attacks, strokes, brain aneurysms, etc.
Their fourth program helps when a tragedy happens in a trucker’s household and the driver needs to get home as quickly as possible. They also assist in bringing needed items to drivers’ homes and also have an on-staff chaplain to help with assigning grief counselors if need be.
The charity operates exclusively from donations and Palm says that now more than ever, the charities need the public’s help.
The need for assistance has struck too close to home for Palm. In 1993, his family had to go to Williamsport, Pennsylvania to recover the body of his brother who was killed in a trucking accident.
Palm, himself was in a serious accident in Columbus, Ohio in 1997. In 2010 he had an appendix rupture in St. Louis, MO. In 2012, a tanker rolled in front of his truck. He pulled over and held the female driver for nearly a half-hour waiting for the first responders to arrive with a medical helicopter evac. He says that all they discussed was about the women’s family and her worries about how their lives would be affected without her.
“You know what it’s like to be in the trauma center far from home,” he said. “You’re in an unknown place with no family around, I can’t begin to describe it right now,” he added. “All of this comes from life experiences.”
“It was then that the Lord called on me to start this organization.”
“When you’re in a hospital 1,000 miles away from [them] and they can’t visit, it is very tough on the individual and the family.”
Once again, we asked the question to Palm, why aren’t the trucking companies, especially for operators under their umbrella, doing more? To that, his reply was that his ultimate mission is to make his charity obsolete. However, he added, “there is no mandate or rule to enforce a company to get a driver home for any reason regardless of accident, illness, etc. There are some phenomenal companies out there that do take care of their drivers and some of them go above and beyond. But it is the nature of the beast… there is no requirement for them to do so.”
Many trucking companies have actually referred truckers and their families to Palm’s charity in helping ease their worry and difficulties in times of disaster.
Truckersfinalmile.org’s reputation has been growing in the industry. It has, thus far, helped around 260 truck drivers and their families during times of need. In 2019, the organization assisted 72 families. Of those 72, a total of 51, unfortunately, needed help with a deceased truck driver — that averages out to nearly one per week. According to Palm, the 2020 numbers are following a similar trend, with another 12 so far families needing help with a deceased trucker.
Although the charity’s work continues unabated the coronavirus has hit his organization right in the pocket. He normally attends about a dozen truck shows each year, which is where he generally raises the majority of the donations for the charity. But because of the coronavirus, sponsor opportunities are lost due to the shows being canceled.
“With the number of truckers and their families needing assistance running the same as years past, we are in serious need of donations,” Palm said.
Despite the coronavirus having shut down much of the country, the trucking industry continues to march on along with the first responders and medical community. Truckers are a key cog in keeping our stores stocked with food and medicine.
If any of our readers would care to donate, you can do so by following this link. All of the donations are tax-deductable and, obviously, go to a worthy cause.