In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the switchboards of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association lit up with calls from truckers wanting to know how they could help.
Life Member Fred Lapp, from Flemington, NJ, has run a couple of loads down to the affected areas over the past week.
Lapp said he has made two trips into the Gulf region, one hauling generators for BellSouth and another one hauling a load of transformers needed to help restore power to the area.
In between, he managed to come up with a load of his own to aid refugees from the stricken areas.
"I knew I was going (in there) and I stopped and picked up a dozen cases of water and wiped out the supply of dog food at one Wal-Mart," he said. "I just took all that in on my own."
Lapp said he dropped off the load he was assigned to do, then parked his rig in a mall parking lot where a Federal Emergency Management Agency distribution was already set up.
"They opened at 7 a.m., and at 4:15 (in the morning) people were already lined up to get water and food. I just went and started talking to people, and I had everything passed out in 10 minutes. The dog food went just as quickly as the water."
Lapp had some words of advice for other truckers who wanted to drive down there and help out. The first thing, he said, is that drivers won't get into the New Orleans area without the proper authorization, such as a FEMA placard. Lapp himself had a letter of authorization from BellSouth to take the generators in.
"But you don't want to go into the ruined area because there are no people out there," he said. "You want to get out where there are tents set up at evacuation areas. You don't need the FEMA sticker to get into those areas."
Lapp said some areas are completely shut-off to incoming traffic anyway.
"In Mississippi, you can't get below Hattiesburg," he said. "But you can go into Hattiesburg and find a Red Cross shelter right there."