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Truck drivers keep supplies moving in natural disasters

Posted at 10:21 AM, Sep 07, 2020

When natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires hit, many who live dangerously close to the devastation are told to evacuate. Truck drivers who are delivering important shipments to those areas, don't have that luxury.

"In 2012, when I just got my CDL, I actually did relief supply for the hurricane that hit New York and New Jersey. I was teaming [with another driver], I was training and it hit. They asked me to stay on for another month," said Wayne Cragg, an experienced truck driver who owns and drives his own big rig and delivers shipments all over the country for various companies.

Cragg has delivered supplies in the middle of and in the aftermath of countless natural disasters, including Hurricane Sandy. Often times, truck drivers are bringing necessary equipment or supplies, but in order to get them there, they have to take their own safety precautions so they don't end up victims themselves.

"When I did a run into New Jersey that hit pretty hard, when I first got there that first week they still had standing water when we had to back in [to the dock]," said Cragg.

Cragg ensures he has three major supplies when heading to the scene of a natural disaster.

"F.F.W. - fuel, food and water. It's huge, especially the fuel. A lot of other things you might be able to get off of other people, but fill up. One tanker full for our trucks, we can go a long time when you fuel up and you never know what's going to happen," said Cragg.

Pilot Flying J, a national chain of truck travel centers, provides fuel, food, showers and other amenities for truck drivers when they're on the road.

"As you track the weather, we all got a little lucky in terms of it. It took a little jog to the right. We had six stores down for a period of time but again, we recognize that we have amazing team members that work around the clock to get us up and running," said Pilot Flying J's Chief Operator, Jason Nordin.

Nordin says they had to shut down two locations in Texas and four in Louisiana during Hurricane Laura. Their location in Lake Charles, Louisiana is still closed due to damage.

"We'll work with the local authorities. In certain markets there was a four mile evacuation order so we obviously work with them. In some cases we'll work with the local authorities to stay open a bit longer if certain law enforcement need to have fuel. We'll work out the last possible moment to make sure we stay safe," said Nordin.

Often times, truck stops and gas stations have to follow evacuation orders during wildfires and hurricanes to keep their employees safe. Nordin says when they have to shut down, they try to get back up and running as soon as possible.

"We take great pride to stay open as long as we can and open as quickly as we can because we do recognize our role to take care of the first responders, take care of the trucking drivers that are trying to move things not only through the market to other markets but also for the local community, for those that live there," said Nordin.

Wayne Cragg remembers being stranded at a truck stop while trying to deliver supplies to a wildfire in Oregon five years ago.

"Unfortunately, it hit a big area on I-84 and that actually stopped me one night. It was the strangest thing because the fire kept going up and down the hills with the wind which they blocked us off on 84. I thought I was going to get by it because it was open before," said Cragg.

Cragg and Pilot Flying J are thankful to all the truck drivers delivering supplies amid natural disasters this year.

"Here we all are once again delivering to the places and the floods and hurricanes and fires. So, my hope is that the American public should just say we are always there when things happen," said Cragg.

Bringing relief in an emergency, no matter the trek to get there.