Tradewinds Transportation had a problem every company wants – an employee who wants to do his job and do it well. The problem was the employee was limited due to a previous shoulder injury.

But thanks to some ingenuity on the part of the driver, a cooperative management team and a little help from the State of Oregon, that employee is now successfully contributing to Tradewinds and not on the state’s workmen’s comp rolls.

“We’ve known this person for a long time, even before he worked for the company, and he was a good driver,” Tony McLain, safety manager for the Albany, OR, curtain van fleet, told FleetOwner.

The driver had been injured at a previous employer, which did not take him back after a stint on disability. The shoulder injury prevented him from lifting more than 50 lbs. Tradewinds, which runs a mix of Kenworths, Peterbilts and Freightliners, chose to offer the driver a job, making improvements to his tractor to help him open and close the hood within the 50-lb. limit.

The cost, McLain said, was nearly $5,000 to outfit the rig with automatic chains. Then, the driver repaid the opportunity. Seeing an ad in a magazine for Litens Automotive Group’s HoodXpress, the driver approached McLain about purchasing the $895 item for the truck. McLain, familiar with Oregon’s Preferred Worker’s Program which helps rehabilitate and retrain employees to leave worker’s comp and return to the workforce, took the idea to the driver’s caseworker.

After some testing, the caseworker approved the purchase and authorized payment for the product and installation with state funds.

The HoodXpress is an automatic truck hood opening system that operates using a key fob. The system is designed to operate under heavy snow conditions as well, Litens said. It took just a couple of hours to install, McLain said, putting the total cost to the state at around $1,100, much less than a driver collecting disability payments for years, and much less than the $5,000 cost to retrofit the tractor.

Each state has different rules and regulations, but with the driver shortage facing many in the industry, McLain offered a bit of advice. “Every state has their own system, but contact your local worker’s comp office because you never know what’s available.”

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