Unique cargo

Truckers News Staff | October 01, 2010

In the hustle and bustle of trucking industry news, the singular nature of what some truck drivers tote behind their tractors often is forgotten. A large component of the industry has nothing to do with general freight, after all, and the dynamic nature of so many hauls can be absolutely exciting.

In the following mini-features you’ll find several profiles of unique loads and their no-less-unique drivers, from living cargo to one of the biggest, treacherous heavy hauls we’ve seen.

Drivers play critical role in saving a species

By Todd Dills

Sea turtles eggs and hatchlings

FedEx Custom Critical operator Bob Reddick is thinking of hanging an emblem of a turtle in a child’s car seat on the side of his 2008 Freightliner 2500CRD sprinter van, contracted to FedEx Custom Critical. He spent the greater part of July and August on a once-in-a-lifetime series of hauls, part of a two-truck team helping transport loggerhead sea turtle eggs from nests on the Gulf of Mexico to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. When they hatched there, he then worked with U.S. Fish & Wildlife reps to move them to the agency’s site in Jacksonville, Fla., for later release into the Atlantic. Through it all, he says, “we exercised the kind of care that is required to protect those in car seats.”

FedEx came to be the transport primary in the emergency operation, embarked upon when the Fish & Wildlife Service determined the oil-polluted environment in the Gulf would be too toxic for endangered sea turtle hatchlings, by virtue of the Custom Critical division’s reputation for specialized transport solutions, says FedEx media relations representative Deborah Willig. The company’s willingness to donate time to the project certainly helped. At the end of August, “the project has just wrapped up,” she added, and the company had helped in transporting “270 nests — 14,000 hatchlings have been released into the Atlantic with a week to three weeks of hatching to go.”

Bob Reddick

In the Mercedes-Benz diesel-powered van he typically runs solo in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, the Stafford, Va.-based Reddick fed specially palletized and cooler-packaged eggs “mostly from Gulf Shores, Ala.,” he says, to a larger tractor-trailer unit operated by Ron and Margaret-Mary Shellito, of South Carolina. Both rigs were temperature-controlled at 85 degrees, cargo palletized with specially designed skids with pneumatic bumpers to lessen road shocks.

Each pallet could well accommo­date six coolers, held in slots, containing turtle eggs (about the diameter of two quarters side by side) and/or hatchlings (the size of business card). “Each cooler might have 30 to 60 hatchlings,” says Reddick of the haul from Cape Canaveral to Jacksonville at the other end.

Hatchery workers carefully lift the loggerhead turtle eggs, secured in Styrofoam containers that were transported from various Florida Gulf Coast beaches, from a specially-equipped FedEx truck to a climate-controlled facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

How the eggs are handled will determine whether the embryos live, and slight variations in temperature play a role in the eventual turtle’s gender.

In the third week of August, as oil levels in the Gulf were deemed safe for turtle hatchling release, Reddick says he was able to participate directly in a beach release at Port St. Joe, Fla. “That was an adventure,” he says. “The herding turtles expression really fits. They come out when we release them and take them out and put them on the sand. They orient themselves by the light of the stars or the moon. You need to not have any other light around.”

Reddick describes the turtles as majestic animals. “They claw their way out of the nest up to the surface of the beach, find their way down to the water and are constantly repulsed by the waves — it was very interesting and uplifting to see them making their way down to the water.”

Team drivers Ron and Margaret-Mary Shellito, have more than 26 years of experience with FedEx Custom Critical and more than 8 million combined safe miles. They were the lead drive team transporting endangered sea turtle eggs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean coast for release. “If you’re able in your life to do something where you’re able to help save a species,” Ron said, “it’s something that makes you feel that you’re doing something worthwhile for the country and for the world.”

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