On Boxing Day, Daryn Worster, 56, a long-haul truck driver, was seriously injured in an accident near Grants, New Mexico. He died of injuries sustained in the crash.
Although Worster worked for a trucking company, his wife Joani said she received no help from the company to get her husband from New Mexico to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he would be buried.
“I can’t reach their insurance manager. I left four voicemails,” Joani Worster said. “What hurts. I first asked if I could get off and pick it up while they picked up their truck, but they never got back to me.
She is one of many surviving relatives of truck drivers in America who die on the job and feel compelled to understand the logistics of body recovery, as many trucking companies refuse to offer any assistance.
Joani Worster was able to contact Truckers Final Mile, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping bereaved families coordinate and pay for the transportation costs of a truck driver who lost his life on the road, or help with the costs travel in the event of injury or illness.
“They gave me and our four children some respite. We are paycheck after paycheck with no savings,” Worster added. “I would still try to find the money and the means to bring it home.”
Truck driving has long been one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States, with truck drivers suffering fatalities and serious injuries on the job at significantly higher rates than other occupations.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 843 truckers lost their lives on the job in 2019. Truckers killed on the job accounted for more than one in seven workplace fatalities in the United States, with a fatality rate of 26.8 per 100,000 workers. , compared to the rate for all American workers of 3.5 deaths per 100,000 workers.
A 2014 survey by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) found that truck drivers had to work under tight delivery deadlines, due to fatigue, dangerous weather conditions and a inadequate training as factors contributing to the high number of deaths and injuries among truck drivers. Covid-19 has increased risks for truck drivers and worsened working conditions, as drivers have faced reduced access to services such as food and toilets.
For unionized truckers, this problem does not exist, because the wording of master agreements covering more than 100,000 truckers ensures that companies are responsible for transporting workers and covering expenses in the event of death, illness or injury to the worker. work, according to Lamont. Byrd, director of the Teamsters Health and Safety Department.
“With deregulation, there was this race to the bottom, and these companies really made it very difficult to drive as a truck driver – long hours, hard work, not being paid for all the work done, and they have really trashed the industry. That’s one of the things as a union we’re trying to fix,” Byrd said.
Today, only a fraction of the more than 3.5 million truckers in the United States are represented by unions, forcing many workers to rely on the whims of management to help truckers and their families in the event of a death, injury or illness on the job.
Robert Palm, an on-road (long haul) truck driver since March 1981, started Final Mile Truckers after experiencing several instances during his career when he or a loved one was abandoned by a trucking company after an accident.
In 1993, he lost his half-brother in a truck accident, and his family had to collect him and his belongings and bring him home. In 1997, his family had to pick him up several hundred miles from home after a crash landed him in hospital and the company he worked for failed to provide any assistance to him or his family. .
Then, in 2010, his appendix ruptured while on the road, and he had to go to the ER and encountered the same problem, with the trucking company he worked for not providing any assistance. He was forced to arrange and pay for his own transportation from St Louis, Missouri to his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Shortly after an incident in 2012 when he stopped to help a truck driver who overturned his trailer in a ravine, he began considering starting a non-profit to provide assistance to drivers trucks and their families who are victims of road accidents and who are not helped by their employers.
“To our knowledge, with eight years of experience in this charity, there is no law, no statute, no regulation, no mandate to compel an employer or company to drive a driver home for any reason. whatever,” Palm said. “It’s something a lot of drivers need to be educated about because they think they would be taken care of by their employer.”
Palm claimed that there are several trucking companies that provide assistance to drivers and their families in the event of an accident.
“There are those who can’t, won’t or simply won’t help get a driver home. But they’ll go get the truck, they’ll go get the load,” Palm said. “It happens every day.”
Richard Ivey, 53, of Shelby, North Carolina, was driving a truck to work in Ohio when he stopped to help a mother and baby who had been involved in a traffic accident. As they were stopped on the side of the road, another vehicle rammed them and Ivey was killed on December 28.
“He was driving down the highway, when he noticed a wreck that had happened before. He stopped and the lady was trying to find someone to help her get her son out of the vehicle,” the daughter said. of Ivey, Kristen Ivey. “Another vehicle ended up hitting the car with the baby inside. The baby and his mother were slightly injured. My father’s, unfortunately, were fatal. He was killed on the cut. “
Her father’s employer referred them to Truckers Final Mile to help recover the body and the expense of transporting it to North Carolina. The death came as a shock to Ivey’s daughters, who had just reunited with their father after five years and reestablished a relationship.
“My dad was someone who would give the shirt off his back,” Kristen Ivey added. “He told us he wanted to die doing what he loved and he did. He was on the road as he wanted, helping someone else. Don’t take your loved ones for acquired because we never know what tomorrow has in store for us.