When trucker Percy Davis suffered a stroke in Manteca, Calif., the trucking company he drove for didn’t hesitate to respond: The fleet flew a driver out to California and reclaimed the truck, leaving Davis to convalesce in a hospital.
Even though the company had promised to help, in the end it stopped returning calls, leaving it up to Davis’ family to find him a way home. “We still haven’t heard from them,” says Percy’s sister Sherri. “I can’t believe that a trucking company would say, ‘You’re through doing for us, so we’re through doing for you.'”
The issue was further complicated by Percy’s medical condition. The stroke had devastated his mind and body, leaving him paralyzed on one side and requiring heavy medication. Doctors were forced to amputate his leg when blood clots formed there, and the condition made it difficult to move him back to his hometown of Houston, because he could not sit up. Car travel was out, and moving him by plane and ambulance too expensive.
“The cheapest way to get him back was $12,000 aboard a medevac jet,” Sherri says. Because Percy was with his carrier for only a few months before the accident, he didn’t have insurance, and the family was footing the bills. Sherri says they were stuck.
That’s when she discovered Bob and Carol Hataway. When doctors decided Percy could be moved, Sherri began looking for help. A friend put her in touch with Werner Enterprises, which in turn referred her to the Hataways.
The couple operates AmCoach, a one-bus service that helps truckers stranded on the road by injury or illness. If a trucker is too debilitated to travel by plane or commercial bus and cannot arrange for travel, the Hataways hit the road in their patriotic-themed bus.
Bob and Carol Hataway drive AmCoach across the country to help truckers in need.
AmCoach is part of Bob Hataway’s non-profit company TransAlive USA, an organization of volunteers dedicated to serving drivers and their families when they experience an accident, illness or death on the road. AmCoach, a recent addition to TransAlive, is an effort to extend the group’s ministry.
“A lot of companies don’t step up to the plate when their drivers are hurt or in trouble. They never hesitate to pick up the truck, though. But we can go get truckers who need help and bring them home,” says Hataway, a former fleet owner who has been involved in transportation since he was 14. He says he became interested in helping truckers in 1975 after meeting a truck driver injured in an accident in Hillsboro, Texas. Hataway and a group of local volunteers helped the driver and his wife cope with the aftermath of the accident, which included three major surgeries.
The event changed Hataway, and he saw the potential to help other drivers caught up in similar circumstances. Partnering with others in the industry, he founded TransAlive to help truckers and their families cope with over-the-road tragedies. In 1987, JB Hunt partnered with TransAlive to give support to its own drivers. Today, TransAlive includes more than 130 carriers and covers more than 250,000 drivers and 100,000 volunteers.
The idea for AmCoach began several years ago when Florida-based carrier HL Stansel approached Hataway. The carrier had a driver ill and on the road in Calgary, Alberta. Hataway researched ways to get the driver home, but all the options were very expensive. He began looking for affordable ways of transporting drivers.
“‘We’re in transportation,’ I said. ‘We can do this by bus just as well as plane, and we can go door-to-door,'” he says. With some corporate backing and lots of equipment donations, Hataway refurbished a bus shell, and AmCoach was born.
The project is funded entirely with contributions from companies and individuals. For instance, Speedco provides all oil changes for the bus, and Pilot pays for the fuel. Other companies like Alcoa, Cummins and Detroit Diesel have made equipment donations, and fleets like US Xpress, Werner Enterprises and JB Hunt have given money. AmCoach has a private bedroom with an adjustable bed. The bus can sleep up to eight, including the Hataways, and has a shower, kitchenette, lounge area and luggage bay.
The 40-foot Eagle Bus is decorated in red, white and blue, and has an eagle soaring down its side. The motif, which was wrapped on the bus in November 2000, proved appropriate when Bob and Carol took the bus to New York City to help with relief efforts following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The couple gave out coffee and work gloves to the hundreds of truck drivers hauling debris from the World Trade Center site.
The Hataways don’t ask families or companies to pay for anything. In fact, the last driver the couple helped was suffering from heart failure and had just started a new job. He couldn’t even borrow $25 to pay for food on the journey. So the Hataways shared their food with him on the bus.
In the case of Percy Davis, his family was able to pay for fuel (AmCoach now has a fuel sponsor), which was a lot less than the $12,000 a flight home would have cost. “Thank God we found Bob and Carol,” Sherri Davis says.
For more information on TransAlive USA, call (800) USA-HURT or go to www.transalive.com.