With only a couple of days until Hurricane Ian’s dreaded landfall (which is expected to begin in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday), truckers are mobilizing for the first big relief campaign of 2022. Here’s some information on how to join the effort, and what you need to do before you sign on the dotted line.
Understand what you are getting yourself into
It is not going to be butterflies and rainbows in a hurricane zone. Power will be out, phone signals will be spotty at best, and don’t expect a hot shower for a while. You’re going into a very hazardous area with downed trees and power lines, and standing water obscuring what could be sinkholes and washouts.
Before you even think of calling a dedicated emergency relief agency or load broker, make sure you have all the gear you need and everything you can possibly think of needing. Extra non-perishable food, sealed clean water, clothing for weeks and extra medication are starters.
Supplies like flares/fuzzies if legal, rechargeable batteries, remote flashing marker lights, a five-gallon fuel container for an extra bit of fuel to get out of a bad area are things to think about bringing. Basically, if it will fit in your truck and has a legitimate purpose, bring it.
You might not get paid for a while, so factoring will be your friend
FEMA and other emergency agencies are paid for the most part by the federal government. In most cases, money to pay off loads that are for disaster relief is not released until the governor or President signs off on the disaster declaration. And even then, truckers are not the first in line to be paid.
Back when Katrina tore a swath of destruction through Louisiana and other states, it took years to pay all the drivers. I’m not saying that this will always be the case, but you should know what the worst case scenario was.
So the best way to make sure your business can stay afloat while on disaster duty is to have some sort of factoring partnership that accepts bills of lading from disaster loads. Not all factoring companies will accept them because of the delay in repayment.
Having some funds on hand will also be necessary. Sometimes you and the load on your trailer are held up for up to a week or longer. The loads pay exceptionally well, but it might take a bit of a knock on the wallet to get that pay.
Do as you’re told – exactly as you are told
If you are sent to a staging area before you deliver your load, do exactly as you are told. Park where you’re told, don’t wander around taking pictures, and maintain the security of your cargo.
You’ll be working alongside law enforcement, military, and humanitarian organizations to get the cargo exactly where they want it. That might mean going off the beaten path into some sketchy territory.
Your truck might be a bit beat up or have a few souvenir dents at the end of the day, so don’t bring a show truck down into the cleanup zone and expect it to come out shining. If escorts are assigned to go with you to a delivery site, they will make sure the road is okay.
So as South Florida prepared for hurricane relief efforts to begin, truck drivers should be preparing to step up to the challenge as well.