Hurricane Ida hit hard, leaving a lot of damage in its wake across the Southeast and East Coast. For truckers, this meant encountering a variety of new obstacles, such as power outages, debris-riddled and otherwise obstructed roadways, or even problems finding enough fuel for their drivers.
“The fact that we have such a huge, massive lack of power in the state has really impacted a lot of the trucking industry, especially if you operate around the city of New Orleans,” said Renee Amar, Executive Director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association. Hurricane Ida did the most damage along the Gulf Coast–making its initial landfall in Louisiana.
Fallen trees and power lines are still being cleared from the state’s roads, although some major trucking routes along the coast continue to be washed out. For example, truck-heavy Route 26 in George Country, Mississippi is still waterlogged–its initial flooding caused the death of two people.
“Working with the [Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development], our engineer work teams are actively engaged throughout 11 parishes and have assessed 2,112 miles and cleared 403 miles of roadway from Hurricane Ida,” said the Louisiana National Guard in a Tweet.
Interstate 10 in Louisiana, a large freight corridor, is accessible; however, many New Orleans roadways are still heavily blocked from storm debris.
“Those people that are operating are going to have to figure out alternate routes,” Amar continued. “Sometimes, that’s going to be a local highway. Some of those streets may not be conducive to 18-wheelers driving on [them].”
Now, areas left in the aftermath of Ida’s damage are facing major issues regarding local electrical systems, as the storm brought about mass outages, according to Amar–even so much as knocking down a transmission tower. Luckily, many trucking companies in these areas have been able to stay afloat by using their backup generators–although these aren’t necessarily a long-term solution.
For example, a Gramercy-based trucking company was initially able to keep operations moving with its generators, but quickly realized there was not adequate internet connection to meet demands. Low electricity accessibility has also led to a hindrance of the fuel market, Amar explained.
Lafayette-based Dupré Logistics, which offers site logistics, freight brokerage, energy and chemical transport, and other transportation and logistics services, is able to haul fuel without proper electricity–but electricity is indeed necessary in order to pump fuel. Because of this, the company had at least 60 customers that were offline in the beginning of September.
“We are currently being directed by customers on where to deliver…[to] stations that have been assessed and have power or will be getting power via generator,” said Dupré’s director of operations for energy distribution services, Tony Becnel.
Many shippers in other states have seen further difficulty as the lack of fuel accessibility across Louisiana has caused folks living there to search out-of-state for fuel, noted Hal Miller, President of the Mississippi Trucking Association.
“Particularly in the southwest corner, there’s really a challenge there to keep the stations fueled up,” he said. “There [are] only so many trucks and drivers. They’re doing all they can do. It’s just a huge demand in a very small geographical area.”
To help ease the breadth of challenges like these and work toward recovery, agencies have begun issuing relief orders. Jim Gray, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary, signed an order at the end of August calling for a temporary suspension of specific commercial driver restrictions in regards to drivers working to clear roads of storm-caused obstructions, as well as to those working to restore power in areas with outages.
“I’m sure they appreciate some of that relief,” said Rick Taylor, President of the Kentucky Trucking Association. “If the carrier’s not comfortable with the relief, they obviously don’t have to use it.”
Additionally, provisions related to passenger-carrying vehicles and property-carrying vehicles and their maximum driving times were subject to an emergency relief declaration by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This emergency declaration was issued for drivers working to bring emergency relief support and direct assistance within the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.