Truckers Final Mile faces increased demand, challenges raising funds
February 8, 2021
For Robert Palm of Truckers Final Mile, the calls have been frequent.
Over the past year, it has been common for the charity, which pays to return truck drivers to their families in the event of death, to get two or three requests in a week. Just last week, Palm said Truckers Final Mile responded to help the family members of two deceased truckers in one day.
Demand for the service, Palm said, has been at an all-time high. At the same time, the charity faces its biggest challenges in securing donations. With most in-person truck shows canceled in 2020, Truckers Final Mile lost one of its most successful ways to generate funds and gain exposure.
“We’re getting more and more calls for help,” said Palm, an OOIDA life member from New Mexico who founded the charity in 2013. “Shows kept being canceled, and a couple of sponsors reduced their donations this year because they’ve been struggling with the effects of COVID. We’ve had a couple trucking companies refer families to us because they don’t have the budget for it either.”
The pandemic has made it more difficult to raise money and has complicated the process of getting deceased truck drivers home.
Out of the dozens of deceased truckers the charity has helped in the past year, Palm said seven were confirmed to die of COVID-19.
“A couple of them made it to hospitals,” Palm said. “Some passed away in their trucks. They thought they could beat it. They said ‘I can get through this myself,’ and then died in the truck.”
In addition to truckers dying of COVID-19, the pandemic has made it more difficult to get deceased truckers home regardless of the cause of death.
Palm said that in hot spots, such as California, funeral homes may have a two-month wait before they can start preparing bodies for their return because they are overwhelmed by the number of deaths.
In some instances, Palm said last week that they were being told that it would be 25 business days before anything could be done to prepare the bodies. In other parts of the country, Truckers Final Mile has dealt with deaths in the middle of the week and the funeral home was able to conduct services that weekend.
Prices vary drastically depending on where a truck driver died and where he or she is from.
Palm said the goal is to take one worry away from the families who just lost a spouse and a father or mother.
“We don’t want the family to have any burden here,” Palm said. “We don’t want them to use their life insurance policies to pay for this. Some of these families suddenly become single-parent homes. Our mission is to eliminate the burden of that cost for the family.”
In January, truck driver Manny Licon III died in Tennessee. Truckers Final Mile is taking care of the costs to get his remains back to Texas.
“I can’t explain how grateful I am for Truckers Final Mile and Robert (Palm),” said Johnny Licon, son of Manny. “When the funeral home sent all the bills and paperwork I had to fill out, I was a mess and almost broken down. Robert took the time to go through everything with me. If it wasn’t for their help, we wouldn’t have been able to get my father back to Texas.”
Land Line Staff Writer SJ Munoz contributed to this report.