On-site Health Care

PDMD founder Dr. John McElligott hopes to improve truckers’ quality of life.

The recently opened Professional Drivers Medical Depot in Knoxville, Tenn., is the first in a series of truckstop medical clinics planned to open across the United States.

Each PDMD clinic will be dedicated to an outstanding driver who lives to serve his country. The Knoxville clinic, located off I-40/75 at Exit 369, is dedicated to professional driver Charlie Gibson of Desoto, Texas, who has driven a truck since his first run in 1945 in the service during WWII. Gibson’s photo will be displayed at the clinic in Knoxville.

The truckstop medical clinics are the first health care centers dedicated to serving truck drivers on the road, PDMD says. The organization’s mission is to improve driver health by increasing the accessibility of health care on the road. The organization also includes a nationwide hospital network, which provides quick emergency evaluations, diagnostics and lab screenings.

“There is no medical care for truck drivers on the road unless they go to the emergency room,” founder Dr. John McElligott says. “This will make it more convenient.”

McElligott supervises the Knoxville site and is funding all future sites to be built in the next three years. The clinics will provide services such as DOT physicals, drug and alcohol screening, treatment of work-related injuries and personal illness, prescription refills, flu shots and pneumonia vaccines, among others. Each service is offered at a flat rate so uninsured truck drivers can afford health care. Truck drivers with insurance will receive a bill to provide their insurance company after treatment, McElligott says.

PDMD has completed more than 1,500 medical surveys in order to gather important health information about today’s truck drivers. With the data, the organization plans to tailor its services to the health issues and risks associated with the industry. Last November, the Knoxville clinic provided free flu shots with the surveys and continued the service through the end of February.

Partner Insights
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Flu shot sponsors included Parkwest Medical Center, Dave Nemo on XM Radio 171 Open Road, Crittenden Regional Hospital, David Haynes and Royanne Thornley with FSG Bank, Purdy Bros. Trucking, Petro Stopping Centers, StrataG, Truckers News, Weight Watchers, the Board of Directors of PDMD and the staff of Occupational Health Systems.

For more information, log on to this site.
–Rachel Telehany

Through the Flames
Tanker driver rescues woman trapped in burning vehicle

United Petroleum Transports driver Brian “Brownie” Brown was traveling west on Highway 470 in Topeka, Kan., when he noticed an SUV about 300 yards ahead of him start to veer back and forth on the road.

Then the vehicle took a hard right and rolled off the road and down an embankment, finally crashing into some trees and bursting into flames.

“I wondered if I was going to sleep tonight if I didn’t stop,” recalls the Eskridge, Kan., resident. “My wife was in a bad accident about a year ago, so when I saw that happen, I got goose bumps and I knew I had to help.”

Brown, who was driving a full fuel tanker, secured his rig safely off the road and put the flashers on before grabbing his fire extinguisher and running to help. Another driver who had stopped yelled for Brown to call for emergency help on his cell phone. Brown yelled back, “There’s no time for cell phones. Whoever’s in that car right now, we gotta get him out of there quick.”

Hoping the other driver would follow, Brown maneuvered through broken trees to get to the vehicle. He saw that the female driver was unconscious, so he pounded on the passenger window, not knowing whether she was alive. Meanwhile, flames engulfed the engine. Brown tried to buy some time by using his extinguisher, “but every time I tried to extinguish the flames, they came back harder,” he recalls.

The other driver reached the car, and while he pulled open the passenger door to try to remove the woman, Brown continued to attempt to extinguish the flames. Although she was conscious now, the woman couldn’t move her legs, making it difficult for the other man to get her out alone. Brown finally threw down his extinguisher and went to help.

“That was the most terrifying part of it,” Brown recalls. “Flames were melting the metal, blowing fuel all over the hot exhaust. I smelled the fumes from the burned-out plastic for two days after that.”

The two men carried the woman about 200 yards and then watched as the flames broke through the dash and enveloped the car. “If we had sat down and made a phone call, she wouldn’t be here today,” Brown says.

Brown received a Truckload Carriers Association Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch, and United Petroleum Transports received a certificate recognizing the new Highway Angel in the fleet.

Eyes on the Road
Trucker teams up with eye institute and Truck.Net to prevent and cure blindness

After a motorcycle accident, 30-year-old Mark Harter woke up from a three-week coma to find he was blind.

The accident had damaged his optic nerve in one eye and ruptured his retina in the other, leaving his right eye completely sightless and his left so impaired as to qualify it as legally blind. The scarring on his eyes was so extensive that doctors were afraid to operate and cause more damage.

The trucker from Indianapolis had a year of rehabilitation in front of him and no way to know whether he would make it back on the road.

“Driving was my life,” Harter says.

The accident left him with a choice: feel sorry for himself or try to make a difference in the lives of others.

Harter called the Boston-based Schepens Eye Research Institute, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, and spoke to patient liason Rich Godfrey about his idea to help truck drivers prevent and cure blindness. Godfrey encouraged him to write a proposal, which he submitted. And then he waited.

A month later Harter got a call from Melanie Saunders, director of annual giving at Schepens. The institute loved the proposal and wanted to team up with Truck.Net, a directory, recruiting and message board website for truck drivers and company owners headquartered in Lebanon, Mo.

After discussing the project with Truck.Net President and CEO Craig Zwiener, who has known Harter for years, and Schepens president Dr. Michael Gilmore, the group launched the “Eyes on the Road” website in December 2006.

The mission of the organization is to raise funds within the trucking industry for eye research and health care. Eyes on the Road also hopes to raise awareness about blindness and provide information about sight loss to truck drivers.

“Our aim is to inform the truck driving community of eye-related conditions that affect them,” says Zwiener, whose son also has an eye condition, juvenile macular degeneration. “It’s a matter of making them aware of conditions like dry eyes and aged macular degeneration.”

Harter can no longer drive, but he hasn’t given up his ties to the industry. He is now the operations manager for Beemac Trucking out of Indianapolis. The quote at the bottom of his e-mails expresses his philosophy: “Effort equals results.”

“Mark is a very energetic guy and he adds a lot to the industry,” Zwiener says. “Anything we can do to help him out and the industry, we are going to do it.”
–Rachel Telehany

Follow the Links
Eyes on the Road:


Schepens Eye Research Institute:

The Diesel Queen
Longtime country singer Edie Foy makes a comeback on the road

“You know what I was doing yesterday?” Edie Foy says. “I was out at truckstops, handing out CDs.”

Many years ago, she was in the music business. It was 1963, and her all-girl band, The Edie Foy Show, was making waves in honky-tonks around the South. At a show in Nashville, country music producer Buster Williams found Foy and the girls, and promised to make Foy “a star overnight.” Thus began a 24-year-long affair with Williams, of which Foy says simply, “I never regretted it.”

Along with shows at bars and county fairs, Foy frequented the KWKH Louisiana Hayride Cast Reunion, the biggest country music show next to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Foy was slowly but surely making a name for herself among music giants like Elvis Presley and Johnny Horton, with hits like “Busted by the Fuzz” and “Nameless Man.”

On their way to the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas one night, Foy fell asleep on top of a drum set in the back of the van. Her band woke her up in the middle of the night to practice a song that had given her trouble the night before. Slightly annoyed, she started to warm up her voice. When the van came over the top of a hill, Foy saw the most beautiful sight she had ever seen – the Hoover Dam.

“The next thing, I could see the lights of Las Vegas,” Foy says. “I will never forget those sights. They woke me up to see the sights, not to practice the song.”

But when Buster Williams died, Foy hung up her spurs and guitar for good – or so she intended.

The country music darling from Shreveport, La., is back in the biz with her band, Hiway 71. After appearing as part of the KWKH Louisiana Cast Reunion: One More Ride, Foy started writing songs again and putting out albums. Her new album, The Diesel Queen, pays tribute to the hardworking truck drivers she knew when she drove a truck for Ryder.

“Not one soul had paid any tribute to these truck drivers,” Foy says. ” It takes a mighty strong woman to drive a diesel truck.”

The album features 10 tracks, including “Diesel Queen,” “I Don’t See Me” and her old favorite, “Busted by the Fuzz.”

“My band and I got arrested in Mom’s Westwood Lounge for playing after hours,” Foy recalls. “I wrote that while they were holding us in the police station.”

Now 75 years old with three daughters, grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Foy is enjoying life and the rebirth of her music career.

Diesel Queen is available for $10 at this site.
–Rachel Telehany

Ode to the Trucker
Charles Farris writes true-life stories about everyday heroes of the trucking industry

Charles Farris has never been a truck driver, but his neighbor is. After hearing about his neighbor’s daily life on the road, Farris decided to do some independent research about the industry and what it takes to be a truck driver.

“I had no idea that 70 percent of accidents were caused by four-wheelers,” Farris says. “I figured that truckers were doing things right, and we were doing things wrong.”

The more he read and talked to people, the more he wanted to write a book about trucking and the people who keep America running. His book, Trucker: A Look at America and Its Most Vital Industry, shines a spotlight on truck driving, including how trucking has impacted history and how truckers save people’s lives every day.

“The most important thing is that their first thrust is safety,” Farris says. “A lot of truckers are committed to it.”

Farris is an electronic test chamber salesman from Arlington, Texas, and has been married to his wife, Karen, for 36 years. It took him two years to finish Trucker, and his favorite part was interfacing with truck drivers, trucking organizations and companies like Peterbilt and Firestone, he says.

“Truck drivers don’t often get complimented,” Farris says.

On the cover of his book is a picture of a man named Paul Martino who used to drive a volunteer “pusher truck” to help rigs up the steep climb at the legendary Donner Pass in the High Sierra Mountains in California. The truck has a beefed-up bumper and a 20,000-pound slab of concrete over the rear axles for traction.

“Martino pushed people up the grade so they could make it,” Farris says. “He was a volunteer.”

Trucker: A Look at America and Its Most Vital Industry can be purchased online at the Barnes and Noble website or at this site.
Rachel Telehany

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