By Robert Lake
When Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast, it was clear this was going to be the “big one” that everyone in this area has always feared. It came on the heels of Hurricanes Dennis and Ivan, but its cost – both human and financial – is unprecedented.
How truckers, trucking companies and trucking families fared in the disaster area is not known at this time. As the weeks unfold, information will become more available and Truckers News staff will continue to bring you the most up-to-date accurate news you’ve come to expect. Right now, the big industry story is the loss to the infrastructure, the price of diesel and the unbelievable shortages. Truckers report running out of fuel and having to divert routes to find available diesel. Tempers are flaring and tension is rising as the fuel shortages disrupt the already disrupted area.
Three days after the hurricane, Truckers News editors headed out to Mississippi, traveling as far as they could go on a tank of gas. At truckstops along the way, they found among the heartbreaking stories of loss, tales of courage. At one TA truckstop, employees were cooking burgers and serving truckers a hot meal even if they couldn’t pay. No showers, no running water and little fuel, but still an inspiring sense of community gathered around the gas-powered grill.
It’s no surprise that many of the stories involved truckers as first responders. Some of the stories heard in these dark early days after Katrina show the heroic nature of truckers.
Some involve truckers immediately offering their services to haul goods in for relief efforts. Deborah Gleissner from Dothan, Ala., is a driver for U.S. Xpress. She delivered bottled water to the Mississippi area and had to unload her rig by hand. As soon as she was done, she headed back to get another load, saying she was honored to be part of the relief effort.
Another story involved a trucker who picked up a nursing home evacuee, respirator and all. There were tales of truckers helping animals and truckers communicating road and fuel availability conditions via CB radio. Jeff Simpkins chokes up when he tells the story of how his company, Covenant Transport, relayed the message he’d been waiting for – that his mother was alive. He lost everything else in his Biloxi, Miss., home, but his mom was safe and sound. The fact that his company offered aid, information and moral support was something he says he’ll never forget.
Nobody will forget Katrina’s fury anytime soon. It remains to be seen what the long-term impact on fuel, food, goods and services will be. No matter what happens, the knights of the road will continue to roll.