Covery Story
‘In harm's way’
Truckers have a front-row seat and few options when severe weather hits

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer

‘On the front lines’

When severe weather hits, truck drivers are often on the front lines and usually have little warning to get out of “Mother Nature’s” way. Drivers who live or truck in areas known for unpredictable weather conditions understand the importance of seeking shelter when tornado sirens sound.   However, some shippers and receivers around the country do not allow truck drivers inside their facilities when extreme weather conditions arise. While they advise their own employees to follow the posted emergency procedures, truckers aren’t included in their plans.

According to a recent Land Line poll, more than 52 percent of truck drivers who responded say they have been denied refuge at a shipper or receiver during severe weather.

Recently, an OOIDA member from Maryland was at a pharmaceutical center in Memphis, TN, when tornado sirens sounded. The employees there disappeared inside the facility, while the driver was forced to wait out the storm in his truck for three hours.

Later, the driver said an employee apologized to him for keeping him waiting, but then informed him that he wouldn’t have been allowed inside anyway because he wasn’t an employee.

An OOIDA member from Ohio, who drives a dedicated route for one of the largest truckload carriers, told Land Line that this happened to him recently when he was dropping a trailer at his customer’s distribution center.

He said when tornado sirens sounded, instead of being whisked inside to wait it out with employees inside the facility, he was told to “go out to the outside carrier parking area” and wait it out in his truck.   

Other drivers sent emails to Land Line stating they have complained to their companies about their treatment by shippers and receivers during severe weather, but were told to “shut up” because they couldn’t afford to lose a valued customer.

No mention was made of possibly losing valued drivers if severe weather struck and the drivers were unable to seek shelter.        

At OOIDA HQ in Grain Valley, MO, there is a severe weather policy for those parked in the lot. They are welcome to take shelter with employees in the basement here.

Predicted ‘above-normal’ hurricane season

As deadly tornadoes pounded parts of the country during the month of May, a new threat – hurricanes – emerged in June as the six-month hurricane season opened.

In its recent 2011 hurricane outlook released in May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes. Major hurricanes are classified as Category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher.

According to the NOAA report, this hurricane season calls for a 65 percent chance of above-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of a below normal season.

The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2010, there were 19 named storms, 12 hurricanes and five major hurricanes.

Another recent Land Line poll asked drivers what kind of natural event scares them the most. More than 40 percent of those who responded said their worst fear was being caught in a hurricane or tornado. Over 17 percent responded their worst fear was a flash flood, blizzard or mudslide. These are all weather conditions that drivers have experienced this year. LL