In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, one nonprofit is trying to be proactive in its efforts to support truckers nationwide.
“We are starting to see applications specifically related to COVID,” said Shannon Currier, director of philanthropy and development for St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund (SCF).
“It is starting to hit the industry a little bit at a time,” she continued. “We are seeing those applications come in, and we are trying to be proactive and meet the needs of drivers.”
According SCF’s website, truckersfund.org, the nonprofit assists over-the-road and regional semi-truck drivers and their families when an illness or injury, occurring within the last year, has caused the drivers to be out of work.
“We are a charity specific to the trucking industry and those that have to come off the road because of injury or illness and need assistance with us,” Currier said. “We have an application online that drivers complete and release their medical forms. In each file, they have to state the medical reason that took them off the road and (provide) proof of financial difficulties.”
She said drivers and their spouses must show proof of income along with current expenses. When applicable, SCF helps meet applicants’ financial needs for necessities such as rent or mortgage, vehicle payments, insurance or utility bills. Payments are made directly to the bill holders.
Last year, SCF assisted 344 drivers with $487,000. Currier said the amount given out varies each year and that the organization sets its annual budget based on the previous year.
“The last couple of years we have been in that ballpark (of $487,000). Prior to last year, we have increased quite a bit, but 2019 was probably our largest year,” Currier said.
“The need is growing, and applications have not stopped. We have as many or more than we did last year,” she said. “We haven’t really seen the impact of the pandemic in our industry, I don’t think.”
Currier said in the 12 years that the foundation has been in place, the nonprofit has never had to decline a driver because of a lack of funding.
“And I don’t want this to be the time we start, when they need us the most,” she said.
SCF provides short-term assistance for drivers, usually about a month or two, based on the donations that are available. The SCF website offers a resource page to provide drivers with information about other options through which they can apply for additional assistance.
“(For instance) if they need to apply for local assistance with utilities or food stamps, or how to talk to doctors or hospitals about medical bills,” Currier said. “We are always sending drivers there as well, to provide some additional help.”
Two major truck-stop chains, Love’s and Pilot, have recently donated $100,000 each to the fund, and H. Robinson Trucking has donated $50,000.
“This donation reflects our belief that professional truck drivers are the backbone of the U.S., especially during this challenging time,” said Jenny Love Meyer, executive vice president and chief culture officer for Love’s Travel Stops.
“This contribution enables us to help drivers with immediate needs when they are unable to work due to COVID-19 or other medical issues,” she said.
“This is an incredibly tough time, and our hearts go out to all those who are impacted by this pandemic,” said Jim Haslam II, founder and chairman of Pilot Co. “We are committed to partnering with area nonprofits to help meet the immediate needs of those most affected, especially in our hometown of Knoxville and professional drivers across the country.”
Haslam said through nonprofits such as SCF, “We hope to provide some relief to many families and professional drivers grappling with financial hardships, job disruptions or child care challenges. More than ever, we must take care of each other and work together.”
Currier said the donations made by Pilot and Love’s are some of the larger gifts the foundation has received and that the contributions give the nonprofit “a little breathing room.”
“We are hoping others follow suit,” she said. “We have seen other donations, ranging from $500 to $10,000. Along with the increase of donations, more people are also becoming more aware of us among drivers and the general public. So we are seeing an increase of applications.”
She said Yokohama Tire recently included SCF as part of its I-racing, which she described as a high-tech video game.
“Real drivers are racing on these I-racing virtual races, and for two weeks we were their charity of choice. It opened a whole new audience for us,” Currier said. “It made the general public more aware of what drivers do and the support they need.”
Currier said SCF has already received 145 applications this year, about a third of the applications received last year.
“The need continues to grow, so we are not slowing down on our end at all,” she said.