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Transportation companies come to victims’ aid

NEW ORLEANS, La. - There was no shortage of finger pointing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but while the blame game was still going on, members of the transportation industry were getting down to b...

NEW ORLEANS, La. – There was no shortage of finger pointing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but while the blame game was still going on, members of the transportation industry were getting down to business and helping out any way they could.

Here at home, Reimer Express was particularly hard-hit by the disaster.

Its parent company, Yellow Roadway Corporation, had employees and facilities stationed in the region.

In fact, one of its New Orleans terminals was reportedly half submerged in water.

“We’re doing a couple of things (to help),” said Reimer president, Allan Robison. “We’re a part of the Yellow Roadway Corporation, so we have a lot of employees that are tied to the region and are in trouble down there. Our company is starting to raise some money, all of our employees want to help and what we do is we match every dollar the employees donate. We do one of two things, we take the money to somewhere like the Red Cross and donate it to them or if we can find out through our parent company, if we can identify our own people and our own trouble, then likely we’ll just start to help our own people.”

Robison said the company was also prepared to deliver much-needed supplies to the region if called upon.

“But the biggest problem is nobody can do anything right now at the moment,” he added. “(Emergency officials) are just trying to figure out what they can and can’t do, and when they know, that’s where we jump in and start helping. Our problem is, before when these (disasters) have happened, people start amassing clothing or whatever, throw it into a truck and then it turns out they didn’t need clothing, so it goes to the dump. What a waste. But what we need to do is wait to find out what they need – in this case it will probably be medicine, water and food that will be the biggest problems first.”

Another Canadian carrier that has stepped up to the plate is Bison Transport.

The company has been shipping loads of bottled water from the Minneapolis, Minn. area to New Orleans and surrounding area, says Rob Penner, vice-president of operations with Bison Transport. The carrier has also been delivering supplies such as clothing and mattresses to the victims.

“We expect that in the next several days we’ll have moved 15-20 loads with more to come as we can fit it into the Fall rush,” Penner told Truck West as we went to press.

“As expected, the situation down there is difficult, but collectively we are working through some of the logistics challenges being caused by traffic and the flow of goods into the region.”

Penner said U.S. authorities have relaxed cabotage and interstating regulations to allow Canadian carriers and drivers to help out.

On the corporate level, Bison also made a sizeable donation to the American Red Cross and it was planning other fundraising initiatives as well at press time.

“We have many drivers, owner/operators and employees willing to donate their time, skills and resources to the cause, however we as a company believe it is our place to provide the corporate stewardship and we are ensuring our staff and contractors are fully paid for their efforts,” Penner said.

Loads of goodwill

Allan Meiusi, president of Cabit Internet Truck Stop, said his company was assisting by finding truckers and carriers who were available to deliver emergency supplies to the affected region.

“We moved 170 truckloads yesterday (Aug. 31) of food and water and we’re probably going to move even more than that today (Sept. 1),” said Meiusi.

The load-matching service donated its time and efforts to FEMA in an effort to find ways of getting supplies to the region.

“The need is so great, that’s why we’ve decided to do it. We try to be Good Samaritans in the industry and just in general,” Meiusi added. “We try to find trucks to haul loads of donations and what we’ve acquired from food banks. The need on this one is so large that we’re trying to spark the interest of some Canadian companies.”

Carriers wishing to help deliver supplies can contact the company at 877-477-4897, ext. 2223 or by e-mail at

Operation Ice Water

Proving that you don’t have to be a major corporation to help out is former driver James Phieffer of Belleville, Ont.

He has begun collecting bottled water and is trying to find carriers to help ship the loads to the Gulf Coast free-of-charge.

“What I’m trying to do is to contact spring and bottled water companies to get them to donate water and as well contact trucking companies to try and get them to donate one truck and one driver for one trip,” explained Phieffer. “I’m also looking to contact fuel companies. I’ve contacted Flying J, the idea being that if fuel companies could contribute on the fuel side, they’d be lifting a really heavy load from the trucking companies.”

Phieffer said it’s clear that drinking water is one of the most important things to get to the victims.

“You can go without food for a long time, but you can’t go without water for much more than four days without dying,” he said. For an update on his progress visit: To help out, e-mail

Free advertising

Goodyear was among the companies to throw its hat into the ring and supporting relief fundraising for victims of the devastating Hurricane Katrina.

The tire manufacturer used its famous airships (the only ones with electronic day and night signs) to help spread the word that donations are needed from the American public.

Chuck Sinclair, senior vice-president of global communications for Goodyear, said a variety of airship (or blimp) options were offered to relief agencies by the company.

“We talked about the possibility of flying signs over the affected areas, however it was agreed that the best way to offer immediate support is through an awareness campaign to alert the public where donations can be made,” Sinclair said.

Goodyear scrambled to accommodate its employees who were affected by the disaster by providing alternative work assignments including jobs in other Goodyear facilities. It was also considering offering mobile tire service for trucks involved in the cleanup efforts.

Relief workers in the affected regions won’t have to worry about running out of tires, according to Goodyear.

“Disaster relief is a massive undertaking and this requires an ample supply of tires, many of which are already in short supply. Goodyear is prioritizing the supply of certain types of tires for police cruisers, utility trucks, tractors, loaders and other work vehicles with plans to hold them in reserve in local warehouses for the agencies that desperately need them to support their efforts,” said Sinclair.

Great Dane is also helping out by providing refrigerated trailers over an extended period of time to the American Red Cross.

In addition to the trailers, valued at about $250,000, the company also initiated a corporate giving program for those affected by the hurricane.

Schneider chips in

Meanwhile, Schneider National waded into unfamiliar territory by working with FEMA and other government agencies to create a critical diesel fuel supply chain for hurricane rescue and relief efforts along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The carrier was called upon to create a diesel supply chain needed to fuel emergency vehicles and generators being used in the Hurricane Katrina cleanup and rescue efforts.

Three Schneider National bulk tanker trucks were involved in a police-led caravan to the Port of New Orleans over the Labour Day weekend.

A U.S. tanker containing diesel fuel was docked there and crews were siphoning fuel from the freighter to the tanker trucks which then delivered the fuel to camps in and around New Orleans.

Schneider p
rovided trucks, drivers, supervision and dispatch for the effort, the company reported. Schneider doesn’t usually transport fuel and 75 per cent of its bulk volume is non HazMat, making it a unique undertaking for the fleet.

Company drivers from the affected area have volunteered for the assignment, the company says.

“All we could tell them was bring water and clean socks, and be prepared to be out for up to two weeks. Their response: ‘Sign me up,'” said Schneider officials.

Helping out

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has been coordinating the trucking industry’s relief efforts south of the border.

It set up a specific Web site at that carriers wishing to donate money, supplies or services can visit.

As Truck West went to press, the site said there was a desperate need for dry vans and tanker trucks – and of course, good ol’ American cash.

Want to know more?

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is likely to be felt across the Canadian economy for months to come. For expert analysis on the hurricane’s impact on your customers and suppliers, read our comprehensive industry-by-industry report available online at

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