My father passed away on March 8th, 1999 and with that anniversary coming up, I was reminded of how I found out about it. Like most of you, I've learned of a lot of important news while away from home and behind the wheel. Back in 1999, I didn't have a cell phone yet, but I did have a trusty beeper! My wife and I had a plan that if she needed me and it wasn't an emergency, she'd beep me then put our home number in for me to call. If it were important and needed me ASAP, she'd enter our home number followed by 911. Sure enough, on the evening of March 8, 1999, I was hauling gasoline and headed toward Virginia with a load when I received the 911 message. I pulled into the first gas station I saw that had a pay phone. She told me the news and I was shocked since he was only 55 years old. At that point, I still had to deliver the load of haz-mat, but thankfully this was short haul and I didn't have far to go. However, with the bad news on my mind, I had to really concentrate on my job making sure that the load of 3 grades of gasoline was unloaded safely and correctly. After everything was done, I was able to head home.
I have a few more stories like that, but the point is when the news comes we probably won't have an ideal situation to deal with it. What if I were in California when I received the call? As you probably know, this happens all the time. Drivers will receive devastating news while far from home and may sometimes be unable to relinquish the responsibility of their load as quickly as they need. Company drivers and owner-ops leased to large carriers will probably be able to get someone to take the load over or have a secure place to drop it. If that's not an option, I recommend that you call OOIDA (assuming that you're a member). They will be able to find you a place to drop your trailer or to safely park your entire rig in order to catch a flight back home if necessary. There are also trucker charities that can help out if needed.
Taking care of the logistics of your load is actually the easy part. Fellow truckers will gladly help each other in their time of need. It's the devastating news that a driver receives while on the road and away from home that will be the real challenge to deal with. Firstly, the driver will be shocked of the news and should get off of the road as soon as possible. Driving large commercial vehicles takes 100% of our attention and when that can't be achieved, we need to park it as soon as practical. Once that step has occurred, arrangements to get home can be made. Remember to keep calm as best as you can in order to stay safe and prevent even further tragedies.