From the Ashes

| October 07, 2002

A year after Jerry and Judy Reese made this delivery to Ground Zero, they have rebounded from an economic setback that nearly cost them their truck.

Costs are mounting in other ways, too. Canadian trucker G.M. Patterson, who crosses the border a couple of times a week, says delays at customs can amount to several hours. But that’s better than the weeks after Sept. 11, when delays typically lasted four to five hours.

“Border guards are doing a lot of spot checks and asking for ID,” he says. “But delays are a hit or miss thing.”

In the past 12 months, hazmat fleets have added photo ID badges and increased scrutiny of their satellite tracking systems. Since federal officials first revealed that terrorists might hijack a truck and turn it into a bomb, enforcement officials have increased their inspections of trucks and routinely pull over hazmat loads.

“Hazmat is looked at more dramatically all the way around,” says Cameron. “The minute they see placards, everybody stops and everybody looks. It used to be that they would notice a hazmat load, but it would be no big deal.”

James Suttles, president of Dana/Suttles, a large fleet specializing in hazmat, says his drivers are delayed frequently. Enforcement officials are letting up on inspections somewhat, he says, but chemical plants are getting tougher.

For most of last autumn drivers flocked to truck stop chapels and ministries, says Joe Hunter, president and founder of Truckstop Ministries. “Needless to say, our phone lit up 24 hours a day after Sept. 11,” Hunter says. “There was significant anxiety there.”

Hunter, a former trucker, and others say time has allayed the concerns of many truckers. The economy is also slowly picking up. Load boards and freight brokers have reported large increases in available loads. Fuel prices have remained relatively low.

Jerry and Judy Reese say the past 12 months were rough, but things are looking up. “God works in mysterious ways. When you do a good deed you get it back in return.” The couple founded a new business hauling trade show materials and equipment this year and have returned to showing their rig at truck shows. They’ve also started a second trucking enterprise, hauling furniture from North Carolina. Their children are partners in that venture.

For many truckers, the return from the brink is ongoing. Income for the owner-operators who use American Truck Tax dropped 5 percent to 8 percent after Sept. 11. But that should change as the economy rebounds.

That’s the experience of the Camerons, whose income is beginning to bounce back. Regardless of Sept. 11′s financial impact on him, Tom Cameron says, the personal involvement of hauling medical supplies, water and other aid will have a lasting impression.

“I wish I could do that every day – to do something good is really rewarding,” he says. “I’m ex-military, so I’m trained not to cry. But an experience like that brings tears to your eyes.”

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