Big changes for the MeRV team

| 4/22/2011

For the past year, many truckers became familiar with the MeRV stopping by truck stops and truck shows.

The MeRV, or Medical Resource Vehicle, is an RV outfitted with diagnostic medical equipment that allows for drivers to be screened for diabetes, high blood pressure and other health catastrophes. It hit the road last May with Jon Osburn, an emergency medical technician and paramedic at the wheel. Osburn is an OOIDA senior member, former Navy corpsman and multimillion-mile truck driver.

The MeRV was the brainchild of Osburn and Sirius XM radio personality Dave Nemo, a co-founder of the St. Christopher Trucker Development and Relief Fund. The MeRV was closely associated with the SCF, and the two seemed to feed off each other. The project has been backed by Boardman Medical Supply, an Ohio company that does sleep apnea testing and sells medical equipment and supplies, and has been supported by other sponsors.

The blue and white RV was plastered with large logos of the St. Christopher Fund and support for 17-year-old runner Jazzy Jordan. Websites for the SCF touted the MeRV, and the MeRV collected donations for the fund at its stops across the U.S.

Last week, Boardman vice-president and co-owner Robin S. Ivany pulled the plug on the MeRV in its current form, after exactly one year in operation.

The MeRV was operated under the direction of Greg McDermand, VP of Safety First Sleep Solutions, a division of Boardman Medical Supply. Boardman has owned the MeRV since day one, and has underwritten the expense of keeping the MeRV on the road. Ivany says she wants to continue the MeRV’s mission of education at future truck shows and truck stops, but under a new plan.

Dr. John McElligott, who helped found the St. Christopher Fund and helped make the MeRV a reality, said he was surprised to learn last week of the changes. McElligott spoke highly of the effort.

“We probably sent 200 people to the hospital. (MeRV driver) Jon Osburn and the people out there did a lot.”

“We took a big hit to invest in that vehicle,” Ivany told Land Line Magazine this week. Ivany said the outreach of the MeRV didn’t meet the company’s expectations.

Recently at the Mid-America Trucking Show, Ivany spoke randomly to truckers and was surprised that not everyone knew of the MeRV. She was less than impressed with the MeRV’s impact after a year. Also, the vehicle was becoming synonymous with the St. Christopher Fund.

“It’s not fair to the drivers to say it’s the St. Christopher Fund-mobile. We still want to work with the St. Christopher Fund, and we still plan on doing things in conjunction with them. We just want the drivers to understand it is not the St. Christopher Fund-mobile.”

Ivany said that the MeRV is currently in Ohio, near Boardman Medical Supply offices, where it will be reconfigured and repainted to make the MeRV’s ownership clear before it hits the road again. Ivany said the MeRV will have a new page that can be found under the Boardman Medical Supply page available here.

“We just need a different strategy,” Ivany said. “We want people to understand the mission is to promote health and education. In the same respect, we need to get it so the vehicle can generate more business so we can keep it out there.”

“I don’t want people to think there was some problem inside,” Ivany said. “However, I don’t like how the operation was running. As a businessperson, I want to see it run more smoothly.”

MeRV director and former BMS employee Greg McDermand doesn’t agree. McDermand, who was fired last week, posted today on Facebook that BMS “knows nothing about trucking.”

Jon Osburn, who traveled most days of the year as the pilot of the MeRV, has spent the past few days in suspense, waiting on a decision for the MeRV’s future. For his part, Osburn said the MeRV was a spectacular success.

“It was one hell of a year,” Osburn told Land Line. “There have been some ups and some downs, but the amount of people we’ve helped is incredible. It was hard work and long hours, but it was one of the greatest adventures I’ve ever had in my life.”

Osburn enjoyed meeting thousands of drivers and said the MeRV was able to help thousands of drivers in the last year and more than 100 drivers with acute health issues get emergency treatment.

During an interview with Land Line Magazine Tuesday, Osburn remembered so many drivers he helped or sent to the hospital with heart attacks and gastrointestinal bleeds. He recalled their faces. He spoke of two pregnant drivers who were further along in pregnancy than they realized – and one had complications. The list goes on.

On Tuesday, Osburn said he was packing a rental truck to move his belongings for the 2,000- mile trip back home to Boise, ID. He said he looked forward to seeing his wife and daughters for the first time in more than three months.

On Wednesday morning, however, Osburn received a phone call from BMS. The MeRV will return to the road, and BMS wanted Osburn to continue driving it.

“We’re going to get the MeRV back out on the road together,” Ivany told Land Line Magazine Wednesday afternoon. “Jon is a part of our team, he’s going to be with us.”