Emergencies at Home

| July 05, 2005

When a driver gets news of a crisis at home while he’s thousands of miles away on the road, what’s the first step?

Craig Harper, chief operating officer for J.B. Hunt Transport, advises drivers to contact their fleet manager, project manager or driver manager immediately and fill him or her in on the situation. Then the company can take action.

“In a crisis situation we basically let our drivers tell us what they need and we make it happen,” Harper says. “Our driver and his or her safety are our No. 1 priority. We visit with the driver and make sure they are doing all right emotionally. We then respond basically however the driver needs us to respond. Drivers, like anyone, react differently to certain situations. Some want a load through their home; others want to immediately get out of the truck and fly home.

“For example, a driver with a death in the family, if we are involved, we evaluate what the driver’s needs are first,” Harper says. “We try to find out if the driver expected this news or was it a shock. In some situations, professional help or counseling may be needed. The most important thing is working with that manager and jointly getting a plan together to get the driver home in the most appropriate way.”

Marten Transport Safety Director Dan Peterson also asks that drivers who run into a crisis on the road let them know all of the circumstances.

“Once we are notified of a situation we evaluate the request and determine the best solution,” says Peterson. “It may be swapping loads with another driver, letting the driver drive home with an empty trailer and/or even making arrangements to get to an airport if necessary.”

Companies have various ways of helping and making sure both the driver and the load get taken care of. Companies can quickly adapt their everyday policies to meet an emergency.

“We’re used to moving drivers, to having different terminals suddenly have to change plans, to changes in destinations or pickup or delivery times, and we can use those procedures when we have to get a driver home in a hurry,” says MacGillivray.

A lot of companies, J.B. Hunt for example, use TransAlive, a voluntary service that specializes in meeting the needs of the drivers and their families when they experience an accident, illness, heart attack or even death on the highway.

“Another assistance we use is hiring an adjuster to assist drivers by taking them to the airport, packing their belongings or any other help a driver may need,” Harper says. “We really try to do what each case dictates and how we would want to be treated if in the same situation. Each individual event is handled specifically for that driver’s needs.”

Drivers need to know what their company will do if they run head on into a crisis on the road. Guessing, wishing and hoping won’t do it. Be prepared.

When drivers sign on, they should ask questions about how a company handles a crisis on the road during orientation and “get that commitment and understanding as they get started with a new company,” Harper says.

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