The expression, “you never know what’s over the next hill” must have been invented by a trucker. For most of us, that’s what makes it exciting. But what’s down the road may include a possibility of you getting sick or hurt. For this, you need a plan.
What if you end up in a hospital far from home? Everyone carries an ID, but will that help others contact your family? Make sure you carry a list of people to notify and how to contact them. Also, keep a list of your doctors and how to contact them, along with pertinent medical information (if you have an illness or reaction to medications).
Does the company you drive for or are leased to have a good reputation for handling driver emergencies? Can you depend on them to make that call to your family if you are unable to do it yourself? What if you end up in the hospital and your truck is in a truckstop? Do you have a plan?
What if your illness is serious and it ends up being a long-term thing? There are still options after you’re off for one month. You should start to assess your situation and have a prognosis of how long you will be off. One thing to think about if it’s going to be long term, is the possibility of putting a driver on your truck. In most cases, if the wheels don’t turn it makes no money, and the bills keep coming. The first thing you must do is contact your insurance company if you’re going to park your truck. You need to change your coverage, and if you put a driver on, he has to be approved by them.
At the same time, at home, the bills keep coming. What types of insurance do you have — workers’ compensation, disability or cargo insurance? They don’t do any good if no one knows about them. You have to know how to apply for benefits. When I bought my last truck, I was refused disability insurance on my loan. When this happens it’s like someone slammed a door in your face. The best thing to do is start trying other doors. In my case, I bought straight short-term disability insurance. That covered the amount of my truck payment. You must keep some money aside for emergencies, at least enough to cover your bills for two months. You never know what’s over the next hill.
Contact your lenders. Find out if you can make interest-only payments. They may even let you skip some payments. But contact them first. Always record when you talked to them and who you talked to.
Are you a veteran? If so, there are local Veterans Administration offices with funds available to help veterans, even if you own your home and business. You may qualify for help. It’s not how much your gross income is, it’s your net income that can make you eligible, and if you’ve been off work for six months, with a driver on your truck, you might not be showing much of a profit.
You have to open all the doors available to you. You may find many of them locked, but you will never know unless you turn the handle.
Now let’s talk about the event we don’t want to think about. Does anyone know where to look for you if something should happen? I always tell my wife where I am going and the approximate route. I have a cell phone with no roaming or long-distance charges, so we talk two or three times a day. This also helps the home life. It also gives me an excuse to have her call for directions and set up appointments. After all, we all know it’s the woman’s job to ask for directions. I’ve seen that somewhere in the driver’s manual.
Does someone have an extra set of keys and know where you keep all your papers (permits, logbooks, freight bills)? You still have to turn in your paperwork if you want to be paid, and someone might need to deliver your load.
A long-haul driver must be prepared for anything, good or bad. He drives defensively and he needs to run his business the same way. You may not be able to predict what’s around the corner, but you can be prepared to react if you have a plan.