Truckers Transport Hope in the Wake of Back to Back Hurricanes
In the days prior to the Texas flooding from Hurricane Harvey and the trail of destruction that Hurricane Irma deposited across Florida and adjoining states, there were unsung heroes at work delivering not only necessities for survival but also seeds of hope. The people I speak of are the truck drivers that deliver food, water, and medical supplies to staging areas in preparation for recovery. They deliver gas to stations that have been drained by mass exodus and local consumption from panicked patrons. There is nothing more comforting when the shelves are bare of batteries, generators, water, radios, plywood and other hurricane-related items than to be told that the truck is on its way and will be here soon.
Well before Hurricane Irma came to shore, relief supplies were moved to the Florida Keys in case US-1 was impassable due to a storm surge. FEMA set up several incident staging depots in a variety of locations such as Orlando International Airport, Homestead AFB, and Alabama’s Maxwell AFB. When Harvey cut off pipelines, terminals and refineries, surplus gallons of gasoline were trucked from Florida to Texas. Only days later, those same truckers were making the same trek back to Florida delivering 36,000 barrels of fuel that Governor Rick Scott secured from emergency contractors to replenish supplies. State police escorted delivery trucks to gas stations along evacuation routes. According to gasbuddy.com, a retail price tracking service, more than 1,800 stations along those routes were without fuel on Thursday, September 7th. On Friday, September 8th, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a suspension of hours of service regulations for fuel haulers in 26 states. This suspension included those truckers hauling emergency services, supplies, personnel, and FEMA mobile homes into or out of the state.
In the aftermath of these back to back disasters, truckers were again on the move transporting humanitarian relief. Among those truckers was Brian Hansen, a former Truck Driver Institute graduate. Brian drives for Tyson Foods and was first dispatched to Houston delivering “Meals That Matter”, a humanitarian food program sponsored by Tyson. Meals that Matter delivered 916,018 meals to Houston and Conroe, 700,000 meals to area food banks, and 32,000 meals to team members providing a total of 1,648,018 meals. Brian not only drove one of the Tyson trucks but also helped unload it and went out into the community to hand deliver food to those in need. “I have lots of stories and memories of this experience. Some of them heartbreaking but all of them will stay with me my whole life.” Brian shared with TDI (Truck Driver Institute) staff members. “The picture of me with the lady in the grey tank top is one of them. Her house was completely wrecked. She and I spoke for quite a while and during our conversation it came out that she had actually taken 5th place in America’s Got Talent. These are the kinds of people we were feeding! What a satisfying experience this was.” Brian was again on the road Tuesday, September 12th headed to Jacksonville, FL to deliver another Tyson sponsored humanitarian effort in which frozen foods are dispersed to various charitable organizations who in turn prepare the food and serve it to disaster victims and volunteers.
When you see a convoy of 18 wheelers headed south in the coming days please take a moment to remember those unsung heroes of the highway. They are carrying bleach, diapers, pet food, first aid kits, flash lights, batteries, food, clothing, construction materials, and cleaning supplies. They are doing their part to help rebuild the communities that are trying to lift themselves up from the chaos and destruction that the flood waters and horrific winds left behind. A smile and a thumbs-up will let them know they are appreciated for all they do that sometimes goes unnoticed in the midst of reconstruction. TDI would like to thank all of the drivers that are taking part in the relief efforts. We appreciate your long hours and dedication before and after the devastation that rocked the coastal states.