Truckers weigh money, safety to deliver loads as Ike threatens Gulf Coast

| 9/11/2008

Despite Hurricane Ike bearing down on the Texas and Louisiana coasts, some owner-operators are risking it in an effort to make money and deliver their loads before truck traffic is shut down indefinitely in the affected areas.

On Thursday, Sept. 11, thousands of people who live along the Gulf Coast were evacuating their homes in preparation for Hurricane Ike, which may reach Category 3 or Category 4 strength before it slams into the Gulf Coast late Friday or early Saturday.

OOIDA member Danny R. Schnautz of Clark Freight Lines, Pasadena, TX, says his company’s office is about 30 miles inland from where Hurricane Ike is scheduled to hit. He told Land Line on Thursday, Sept. 11, that there’s a lot of uncertainty as the company braces for the hurricane.

Schnautz said some owner-operators were choosing to work on Thursday because they are worried they won’t have work next week because of Hurricane Ike. In recent months, owner-operators have been financially punished by record-high fuel prices and rocky economic conditions. They have been trying to take all the loads they possibly can to keep their businesses aloft.

“People that actually have a profit motive – like owner-operators – down here are saying, “Can I go ahead and work today because I need the money?’” he said. “We are doing our best to move all of the loads we can right now because our owner-operators want to make money and they want to work.”

Schnautz said Clark Freight Lines has trucks that deliver in and out of the Port of Houston’s Bayport and Barbours Cut Container Terminals daily, but that they received word that the terminals were closing at noon – and possibly earlier – on Thursday.

“So we are still sending trucks around and we don’t know if they’re open, which is causing us some uncertainty here,” he said. “We’ve seen traffic already building up and that’s going to be a big problem.”

Land Line learned late Thursday afternoon that the Port of Houston Authority will be closed for business Friday, Sept. 12, but “expects to be open for business and fully operational on Monday, Sept. 15.”

If you are headed to or from the affected Gulf Coast states, you should check out the following evacuation routes and traffic updates. Click on the following states to find pertinent information, including maps of evacuation routes.

  • Louisiana – Call 877-4LA-DOTD (877-452-3683) for road conditions
  • Texas – Call 800-452-9292 for road conditions
  • Mississippi – Call 866-521-MDOT (866-521-6368) for road conditions.

It’s a good idea to set up weather alerts on your computer or cell phone for when you travel to particular regions affected by hurricanes, tropical storms or tornadoes.
Always carry a first aid kit, a flashlight with fresh batteries, and bottled water. It’s also a good idea to keep your fuel tanks topped off.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer