By David Tanner, associate editor
When a truck driver goes missing, do you know what to do or where to turn? Contacting authorities and filing a missing person report are important steps, of course, but what if you had access to thousands of truckers – the eyes and ears of the road – through your computer or smartphone?
After being asked to share information about a missing driver on a Facebook discussion group she administered, Kari Fisher recognized the need to branch out and start the Missing Truck Driver Alert Network.
Kari, an OOIDA member, is married to OOIDA Member Lee Fisher, an owner-operator leased to Moore Brothers out of Norfolk, NE.
Kari says her first experience with locating a missing driver showed her the need was there to start the group.
“We know there’s a need out there, and we decided that we’re going to go ahead and try to close the gap,” Kari said. The former emergency dispatcher moderates the online group while Lee drives. Their page now has more than 3,000 members.
The eyes and ears of truckers have helped locate 14 drivers since February, she said recently. The reason is simple.
“I would want somebody to look for my husband,” she said.
Word gets out through the Facebook group and missingtruckdriver.com, but if you’re just looking for someone who may be on a “walkabout,” this is not the place to do it.
“You need a police report. A missing person’s report needs to be filed. We need the company involved, too,” Kari said. “I’m not going to go out chasing missing boyfriends and girlfriends and cheating husbands.”
Kari said the group is on the verge of launching smartphone apps to reach subscribers directly when one of their own is missing.
“They will notify subscribers in the event of a missing truck driver with a description of the driver and the truck, via text messaging,” Kari said.
The Fishers encourage everyone they meet to have a routine and check in often with friends and family.
“We encourage people to use Google Latitude or Life360 applications on their smartphones so they have a way of checking locations,” Kari said.
“When I’m at home, I can watch Lee traveling across the country. It’s a way to ease my mind. That’s something we’d like to develop into our app later on – our locator service.”
The first missing driver that the Fishers helped locate was Mark Williams Sr., who went missing Feb. 2. After posting Williams’ information on her initial Facebook group called Share the Road Discussion Group, Kari’s effort reached a driver who recognized the truck a few days later. The driver called 911. Unfortunately, as Kari put it, Mark Williams’ story had a sad ending as he was found deceased in his truck.
Trucker Hal Kiah suggested that Kari and Lee start the official missing driver group, and it’s proved its value in the driver community.
Kari was the top vote-getter in an online survey to receive the “Jason Rivenburg Making a Difference Award” during the recent Truck Driver Social Media Convention in Kansas City.
Searching for missing drivers has its frustrations, Kari admits. One reason is the jurisdictional boundaries of law enforcement.
“It can vary greatly between agencies on what could be done, what can’t be done, and when it can be done,” she said.
“With the involvement with interstate commerce, I would like to see it bumped up to a federal law when a truck driver goes missing and get the FBI involved right away.” LL