*Written by Dorothy Cox and approved for reprint by www.thetrucker.com
A group of people trying to evacuate southern Florida had been waiting hours at a gas station for enough fuel to get them inland, away from the worst of Hurricane Irma. Finally, they saw an 18-wheeler coming around the corner with a bulk fuel delivery and everybody stood up and applauded.
The story “brought tears to my eyes; I just love this industry so much,” said Phil Byrd, president and CEO of Bulldog Express. “Trucks don’t just make a pickup or delivery, we make a difference.”
That might be jut a slogan for someone else. But with a company based in Charleston, South Carolina, part of “hurricane alley,” Byrd knows firsthand the disruptions hurricanes, floods and tornados bring to people’s lives, homes and businesses. Days are spent without food, electricity, clean clothes, a hot shower and creature comforts most of us take for granted.
For a while, people like the folks in Florida who cheered the arrival of gas for their cars, knew how essential trucks and the people who drive them are. But with time, that “dulls,” said Byrd, as things return to normal.
Yet – often unnoticed – trucking continues to be involved in a variety of relief efforts, from acting as a collection site for relief goods, like Bulldog’s sister company, Hornady Transportation, in Monroeville, Alabama, to donations from WTI Transport client Ziegler Meat, delivered by WTI (of Tuscaloosa, Alabama) to a food bank in Houston for free.
All of these companies, Bulldog included, are part of Daseke, North America’s largest owner and consolidator of flatbed and specialized transportation with a combined fleet of more than 3,800 trucks and 8,200 flatbed and specialized trailers.
Flatbeds and open-deck trailers deliver building materials and more, so Daseke companies have been kept hopping during hurricane seasons, Byrd said, even Smokey Point Distributing, out West in Arlington, Washington, and Central Oregon Truck Company in Redmond, Oregon.
“I’m not aware of any [Daseke carriers[ that haven’t been involved in some shape or form” in relief efforts, Byrd said.
Of course, hundreds of other carriers and drivers nationwide are also providing relief to hurricane victims, not to mention carrier employees and drivers who have had their own homes flooded.
Carriers, themselves, have been flooded.
Bulldog lost power for two and a half days but ran on a backup generator, Byrd said. “We had some employees whose homes flooded from water surges; others’ homes were damaged by trees from the high winds and there were electrical power outages. We were personally impacted by Irma, for sure.”
With the economy picking up, capacity is tightening and turnover is increasing, “so these problems impact everyone in trucking,” Byrd said. “Then you add in humanitarian relief. It requires you to be efficient and use your capabilities in a wise way.”
Despite being squeezed from all sides, “trucking always meets the demand,” Byrd said. “We’re resilient.”
For carriers that, like Bulldog, are in areas prone to flooding, there has to be an “exit plan,” he said.
His company is ISO certified and able to service customers with critical needs and protect previous cargo – often high-dollar cargo – by moving it farther inland if need be.
Days before Irma, he said, there were company meetings morning and night to perfect a strategy to protect assets and cargo, exact evacuations and continue operations from a remote, inland location like Atlanta or Ashville, North Carolina.
“We weren’t just waiting for the storm to happen. We knew where personnel were going and we were taking capabilities to do our duties remotely.
“We moved equipment and cargo inland to protect it from the path of the hurricane. There are time-sensitive schedules in nonaffected zones and they expect continued service.”
From the time a hurricane is forecast to hit, to the time it makes land, to its aftermath, it’s an exhaustive process, Byrd said of hurricane victims.
It would seem trucking might feel beleaguered by this cycle of storms.
That’s where a family of companies comes in handy.
“We collaborate among our family” of carriers, he said. Although “we run autonomous operations we’re very connected and depend on our sister companies. When one company is in need, every other Daseke company is there to help. That’s unique.”
So as Hurricane Maria is on the horizon, companies like Daseke will be watching, ready to spring into action if necessary.
“You can’t take things for granted with a Category 3 storm,” Byrd said.
Other Daseke companies are the Boyd Companies, Clayton, Alabama; Lone Star Transportation in Fort Worth, Texas; R&R Trucking in Duenweg, Missouri; E.W. Wylie in West Fargo, North Dakota; the Schilli Companies in Remington, Indiana; J. Grady Randolph in Gaffney, South Carolina; Big Freight Systems in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; and the Steelman Companies in Springfield, Missouri.
Written by Dorothy Cox, Assistant Editor for TheTrucker.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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