Are you ready?
Truckers face unique challenges when preparing for hurricane season

By Jami Jones
senior editor

It looks like it could be another doozy of a year for hurricanes. And truckers need to be ready for it.

“For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become ‘major’ hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

In 2005, there were a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of those hurricanes were considered “major,” of which a record four hit the U.S.

Just because fewer storms are predicted than in 2005, that doesn’t mean fewer will hit land, according to NOAA officials.

“Although NOAA is not forecasting a repeat of last year’s season, the potential for hurricanes striking the U.S. is high,” Lautenbacher said.

It is also important to remember predictions – while based on science – are just educated guesses. Predictions can be wrong. And that very point is noted in the 2006 outlook report.

“The main uncertainty in this outlook is not whether the season will be above normal, but how much above normal it will be. The 2006 season could become the fourth hyperactive season in a row.”

With all that said, one lesson learned from the 2005 hurricane season is that being prepared is essential.

“Whether we face an active hurricane season … or a below-normal season, the crucial message for every person is the same – prepare, prepare, prepare,” said Max Mayfield, director of the NOAA National Hurricane Center.

Stay informed
While it would be nice to have an idea which one or two specific areas are more likely to experience hurricanes this year, that just is not possible.

“It is currently not possible to confidently predict at these extended ranges the number or intensity of landfalling hurricanes, and whether or not a given locality will be impacted by a hurricane this season,” the NOAA report stated.

That means hurricane-prone coastal states need to be on the ready – which is a lot of territory for truckers to cover.

But, it’s not impossible. The best, and really the only place to start, is for truckers to stay on top of the forecast in areas predisposed to violent weather.

Many radio and television newscasts have updates that stay on top of the situation through the National Weather Service and NOAA. Activity that could produce the kinds of weather systems that could turn into tropical storms, and eventually hurricanes, is watched closely. So the information and the predictions are there to help truckers start planning evacuations and routes.

Most radio stations in hurricane-prone areas carry the NOAA alerts, and it would be advisable to tune into local radio stations. And, as technology has progressed, there are now radios, such as the one featured in this issue’s “What’s New,” that make hearing these weather updates much easier.

Make it all your home turf
A well-stocked cab is a trucker’s best ally. The right supplies will make a possible evacuation or possible “weathering of the storm” that much easier.

First things first, all truckers need to have a current trucker-friendly atlas. For those who prefer the high-tech Web versions, remember cell towers and phone lines could go down during the storms. A current atlas will prove to be critical when evacuation efforts hit and you’re forced to leave an area or route around bad weather.

Second, and perhaps one of the most daunting items on the list to have in the truck at all times, is a list of emergency phone numbers. With so many states, especially when you start considering the inland areas that could experience flooding and other natural disasters, the list can get very long.

Trip planning will play a big role for the independent owner-operator. Having a fist full of phone numbers when severe weather hits could mean finding the best way to get out of the path of the storm, or being stuck in the middle of it.

Good numbers to have on hand include the state highway patrol, the state office of the Red Cross and even county law enforcement and fire protection services.

You also should not hesitate to use all of the resources at your disposal when going into an area where the weather situation could turn sour. Trucking companies, shippers and receivers can all help route you around severe weather, provide you with contact numbers in the state and, in a worse-case scenario, even help you find refuge if you are unable to get out of the area in time.

The well-stocked cab
Another lesson learned during the 2005 hurricane season is the need to almost over-prepare and have a good amount of survival supplies on hand. And this could really be one area where truckers could actually have the advantage over residents living in a hurricane-prone region.

Over-the-road truckers tend to have well-stocked cabs. However, the American Red Cross recommends having a three-day supply of meds, food, water, etc., on hand for each person.

Katrina taught us a valuable lesson in that rescue efforts could take weeks. The better the supply, the better off you will be in the long run. Try to set aside some supplies for emergencies only.

Saving your own skin
Many truckers faced a dilemma this past hurricane season – violate HOS and get out of Dodge, or comply with the regs and get stuck in the middle of a hurricane.

While it would seem that logic would kick in at some point and truckers would be allowed to save their hides, just like people living in the area, it didn’t always work out that way. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association fielded a number of questions and took a few complaints on this very subject during Katrina and Rita.

According to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesman, there is an automatic HOS exemption if an authorized government official issues a declaration of an emergency and the motor carrier is providing direct relief to the protection of human life or public welfare.

Specifically, federal regulations – CFR 49 Part 390.23 – allow the temporary lifting of certain safety regulations for any motor carrier or driver providing direct assistance in relief during a declared emergency. This includes easing the HOS regulations for drivers.

The spokesman said truckers in an evacuation area wanting info on whether an HOS moratorium is in effect should contact a regional service center.


The Boy Scout approach

Never knowing where you might be going from one day to the next makes having the right survival kit in place critical.

Truckers are good about having flashlights, batteries, first-aid kit etc. on board at all times. But, faced with the challenge of being stranded because of either the actual storms or the aftermath, expands the list of necessities.

  • A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and ready-to-eat canned goods, such as tuna fish, peanut butter, crackers, canned fruit, juice boxes, etc. Please remember that you want to replace stored water and food every six months.
  • A battery-powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries
  • A manual can opener
  • Copies of important documents, including birth certificates, insurance policies and social security cards. Your original documents should be secured in a locked box or safety deposit box.
  • Comfortable clothing and footwear
  • One blanket or sleeping bag per person
  • A first aid kit, including prescription medicines
  • Emergency tools, including tools to turn off utilities
  • An extra set of keys
  • Cash and credit cards
  • An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses
  • An up-to-date, detailed map of the state/area
  • Phone numbers of emergency assistance agencies
  • Don’t forget your furry cab mate – pack extra pet food and supplies.



This list includes the location, phone number and territory included for each regional service center. These numbers will be valuable in determining whether hours-of-service waivers have been issued for a region either threatened or hit by a hurricane or other disaster.

Eastern Service Center
(443) 703-2240
CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NJ, NH, NY, PA, Puerto Rico, RI, VA, VT, WV

Southern Service Center
(404) 327-7400

Midwestern Service Center
(708) 283-3577

Western Service Center
(303) 407-2350 

American Samoa, AK, AZ, CA, CO, Guam, HI, ID, Mariana Islands, MT, ND, NV, OR, SD, UT, WA, WY