Emergencies at Home

| July 05, 2005

Back at home
When Robertson arrived at Brenners Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, his only child was still in a coma, and he’d stay there for eight days. The boy’s body had tried to come out of it, but doctors kept him in the coma so that his swelling brain would have more time to heal itself. The skull fracture had not been a major problem, but the brain had been bruised and was swollen, and for the boy to make it all the way back, that swelling had to be eased.
After the coma came the suspense of wondering whether Joseph IV would recover completely.

Crawford kept in touch with Robertson by phone as the days went by with Joseph IV in the coma. “I also let him know that his job was not in jeopardy, that we would wait for him as long as it took to get resolved to a point where he could leave home and come back,” he says.

Fortunately, Robertson’s son is making a remarkable recovery. “He’s back. He’s like he was before. He’s back to making As and Bs in school like he used to,” Robertson says. “He’s still in a wheelchair, but that’s basically so that the pelvis can heal before he gets up and walks and runs again. He doesn’t have seizures or have to take medication for seizures or medication for pain.

“It’s really pretty miraculous.”

Critical decisions
The choice of how and when to get home after a personal emergency is ultimately up to the driver. But fleet officials are almost always happy to assist – offering advice and logistical help.

Harold Kendrew of Alexandria, La., was working for Tyson a couple of years ago when he received word that his father had died after a long illness. The company immediately offered to fly him home from Louisville, Ky. “I don’t like to fly, and since I knew I would have to wait for other family members to get home, I decided to drive back,” says Kendrew, who now drives for Total Logistics Control. “The company found a truck for the load I was under and another load heading south, which I took. They were very helpful.”

Good companies never back their drivers into a corner during a true crisis. Tales of drivers abandoning their loads in the middle of nowhere because of a company being unreasonable in an emergency situation are not common, according to owner-operator Kelvin Sanders of Radcliff, Ky., who is leased to CalArk.

“Drivers really have the last say,” Sanders says. “I don’t know of a company that wouldn’t allow you to go home if you’ve got a personal emergency at home. I think almost all companies will work with you. They really don’t want you out there on the road if your mind is occupied with a lot of emotions. That’s unsafe.”

In Robertson’s situation, Crawford, who has 90 trucks to command, called in his assistant, the company’s travel people and sales staff to help Robertson out. He also had the responsibility of caring for the load Robertson and Knight were hauling.

“They were carrying a time-sensitive load when Joseph got the call,” Crawford says. “Once we knew Minneapolis, travel worked out the time he’d get there and routed him home the fastest way they could. Once he left, the lead seat drove solo to a terminal in Chicago. She had time on her log to get there, and she could take her forced break there. We found a team in that area that had a day to spare so we sent them to pick up the team load. They moved that, and we brought another team in to take the load they were waiting for.

“It’s networking, working with our travel people and sales people. The travel people got him home. We kept sales in touch with what was going on and just which drop yard the load was going to. The sales people kept in touch with the client, letting them know we had an emergency but their load was secure and en route and giving them the new times.”
–Randy Grider contributed to this report.


Stay in Touch
Remember the old joke “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer is “Practice, practice, practice!” When trucking industry executives were asked how drivers and companies find a fast solution when a driver gets bad news on the road, they said, “Communicate, communicate, communicate!”

“Once a driver is hired, their relationship with their fleet manager is the most important relationship on the job,” says Mark MacGillivray, an in-house recruiter at Transport America. “That personal relationship is huge, and it’s the biggest factor in crisis management.”

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