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Talking Freight

Considerations of Freight in Disaster Planning

December 14, 2005 Talking Freight Transcript

Jennifer Seplow:

Good afternoon or good morning to those of you to the West. Welcome to the Talking Freight Seminar Series. My name is Jennifer Seplow and I will moderate today's seminar. Today's topic is Considerations of Freight in Disaster Planning. Please be advised that today's seminar is being recorded.

Today we'll have three speakers - Vince Pearce of the U.S. Department of Transportation - Office of the Secretary, Lt. Colonel David Binder of the Florida Department of Transportation - Motor Carrier Compliance Office, and Eric Fuller of Xpress Direct.

Vince Pearce works in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, leading the agency's national emergency response program. Within this context, he is responsible for conduct of Emergency Support Function 1 - Transportation, under the National Response Plan. In 2005, this included transportation for the evacuation of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

He has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from NC State, an MBA from Harvard, and 26 years of professional experience. He has managed numerous transportation projects and programs in planning, design, implementation, and operation of transportation management and intelligent transportation systems, including design of over a dozen traffic management centers domestically and overseas. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Mr. Pearce formed and subsequently led the combined emergency transportation operations team at FHWA addressing all-hazards preparedness, response, and recovery. This team's areas of responsibility included homeland security, national defense preparedness, agency continuity of operations, planned special events, disaster management, and traffic incident management. He serves on the Transportation Research Board's highway security panel, and is an Advisor to the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has spoken extensively on security topics, and authored numerous articles on transportation security and disaster management.

Lieutenant Colonel David Binder serves as the Deputy Director of the Florida Department of Transportation's Motor Carrier Compliance Office, a state law enforcement agency with 467 employees, including 253 sworn law enforcement officers. These officers enforce Florida Statutes as well as the Code of Federal Regulations, with a specialization in commercial vehicle enforcement.

Lieutenant Colonel Binder received his undergraduate degree in public administration from Barry University in Miami and he is currently pursing his Masters degree in Public Administration at Florida State University.

He began his law enforcement career as a Florida Highway Patrol Trooper in 1983. During his career he served as a Traffic Homicide Investigator, oversaw drug interdiction efforts in Southwest Florida, and was an investigator specializing in theft and fraud. As part of those duties, he was assigned the task of writing the FHP's truck and cargo theft strategic plan. He joined the Motor Carrier Compliance Office in January 2000.

Lieutenant Colonel Binder serves on the Steering Committee of the Florida Commercial Vehicle and Cargo Theft Task Force and he previously served as Secretary/Treasurer of the State Law Enforcement Chiefs' Association.

Lieutenant Colonel Binder recently received the first Law Enforcement Leadership Award from the Florida Trucking Association for his work on Cargo Theft issues, hurricane recovery, and other industry related projects.

Eric Fuller grew up in the trucking industry with his grandfather, father, and uncle all running public trucking companies throughout the years. Eric has been officially working in the industry for ten years. He has been a terminal manager, as well as worked in sales and operations. He has been the Vice President of Xpress Direct for two years. Xpress Direct is a division of US Xpress that handles all of the special needs and disaster recovery projects for US Xpress.

I'd like to go over a few logistical details prior to starting the seminar. Today's seminar will last 90 minutes, with 60 minutes allocated for the speakers, and the final 30 minutes for audience Question and Answer. The Operator will give you instructions on how to ask a question over the phone during the Q&A period. However, if during the presentations you think of a question, you can type it into the smaller text box underneath the chat area on the lower right side of your screen. Please make sure you are typing in the thin text box and not the large white area. Presenters will be unable to answer your questions during their presentations, but I will use some of the questions typed into the chat box to start off the question and answer session in the last half hour of the seminar. Those questions that are not answered will be posted to the Freight Planning LISTSERV. The LISTSERV is an email list and is a great forum for the distribution of information and a place where you can post questions to find out what other subscribers have learned in the area of Freight Planning. If you have not already joined the LISTSERV, the web address at which you can register is provided on the slide on your screen.

Finally, I would like to remind you that this session is being recorded. A file containing the audio and the visual portion of this seminar will be posted to the Talking Freight Web site within the next week. Due to the size of the file, recorded files are available for viewing/listening purposes only and cannot be saved to your own computer. We encourage you to direct others in your office that may have not been able to attend this seminar to access the recorded seminar.

The PowerPoint presentations used during the seminar will also be available within the next week. I will notify all attendees of the availability of the PowerPoints, the recording, and a transcript of this seminar.

We are now going to wait a few minutes until 1:00 to give others a chance to join us. At 1:00 we'll start with the first presentation of the seminar. So, Operator, please put everyone back into hold at this time.

It's now about 1:00 and I see that many others have joined in so let's begin. Today's topic, for those of you who just joined us, is Considerations of Freight in Disaster Planning. Our first presentation of the day will be that of Vince Pearce of the US Department of Transportation Office of the Secretary.

If you think of questions during this presentation or during any of the other presentations, please type them into the chat area on the screen. Questions will be answered in the last 30 minutes of the seminar. However since the first presenter has to leave a little early we will take his questions immediately following his presentation. If you have questions for Vince, please type them in and we'll take five minutes to address them. With that I'll turn it over to Vince Pearce and we'll get started. You can go ahead.

Vince Pearce:

Thank you. First I have to apologize for my voice. I've had a pretty serious case of laryngitis since last Friday. The good news is I don't feel as bad as I sound. I ask that you stick with me. What I want to describe to you today is based on our experience moving commodities during hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma this year. Specifically I would like to give you background about what we did and talk about five major issue areas that relate to the movement of freight as part of a disaster response.

As Jennifer said in the introduction, I'm responsible for Emergency Support Function 1 - Transportation under the National Response Plan. That doesn't mean that we're the only people who have transportation resources or assets. It does mean that ordinarily when federal assets are moved, that FEMA comes to us and we facilitate and provide the transport for the movement of goods - it could be ice, water, or meals and 300 firefighters and firefighting equipment or plane loads of marshals. We do a quite variety of things.

Katrina has been a real experience for us as I think it has been for many. We've moved about 16,000 truckloads in response to Katrina and are very wholly engaged in the movement of motor homes and travel trailers to provide housing for the citizens whose homes were destroyed in the storm and subsequent flooding. One of the things worth noting about our transportation is that we really don't have fixed storage for ice. FEMA has ice stored in 27 warehouses around the U.S., so a request to move ice may have us starting at any one of those places or other courses with which we have no prior experience so what we respond to is a large national requirement. Of course the most obvious challenge we have is knowing where everything is. Particularly in the days immediately following a disaster, we get a large number of requests, many of them are for support to entities in dire conditions. We worked for several days to try to get fuel for the generators in Baylor Hospital in New Orleans. That was literally keeping the hospital running. They were concerned about people on ventilators or other electrical devices. Although we would like to go with a just in time concept, one has to remember the storage space is in fact a very scarce entity in the disaster zone so much of the materials may be damaged due to lack of space or debris or other issues. So we work with distribution centers, what we call staging areas, well outside the disaster zone and down into the zone itself.

FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security are adjusting the time logistics require. We will like to see how that will be applied both positively and negatively during a disaster. Knowing where every asset is becomes really critical. One of the things that happened to us was after Hurricane Rita the temperature in Texas sky-rocketed. So the normal demand for ice which we were prepared to deal with became a much greater demand for ice than we anticipated. A lot of ice doesn't come from the southern states, it gets made in the Midwest and northern U.S. and so we faced an unexpected, and critical, demand to bring in ice to keep food good and lives livable until the power came back on. One of things we constantly have to deal with is to know where the assets are because loads may be redirected. State and local officials may have better visibility of where specific goods are needed and so once those loads get down in the disaster region we may find trucks diverted to one location or another. We need to know where they are so we can provide them assistance on useable routes and in particular routes where they can find fuel and finish their mission and return. Here's the real challenge - we may have to do that without any land line or cellular communication. Our industry depends a great deal on cellular communications and after hurricane Katrina we had virtually no communication.

Security is another challenge. It's not at all unheard of, it's certainly been in the media, that in fact there was localized lawlessness after Katrina passed through Louisiana. Haulers of commodities had to think about the safety of personnel and pay loads. It may not just be the bad guys that represent that threat. In fact, local officials may also appropriate these federally provided assets without the consultation of the providers and yet again we are responsible for our employees and need to know where they are and that they're in safe condition. Security is an issue both en route and at the destination. If you're moving a scarce commodity, for example if you were moving fuel oil during the height of the shortages and price hikes are common, then that's the thing that's highly desirable in the disaster area.

There needs to be appropriate consideration of what regulations can be relaxed so that disaster response can proceed at a deliberate pace. This is not a one-entity-controlled all environment. We have federal, state and local regulations that we have to deal with. One of challenges that we face in the federal regulatory environment is hours of operation and that's one we had to be very aware of. Bus vehicle operators in the disaster zone may be scarce so extended hours of service might be appropriate. Likewise, overloads may be appropriate in the transportation structure. Obviously the more of the goods you can get in the disaster zone the faster, the more relief you'll be able to provide to the disaster victims. Use of untaxed fuel may also be necessary. We used a fair amount of fuel provided by the Department of Defense and provided in some cases fuel that was potentially direct from refinery stores to keep both our economy going and to keep our responders able to carry out their mission in the disaster zone.

One of things that is key is access to waivers. We express our great appreciation to the Federal Highway Administration and USDOT for the websites they set up making the waivers and contact information for every state available. One of the things not always thought of is that waivers may be needed far outside of disaster zone. Our first source of oversize loads came from Cumberland, Maryland. It was not a disaster zone, but a place where we needed help to get the house trailers and portable structures down in the disaster zone. Another unique thing with the Katrina is that the waiver periods have gone on much longer than the typical month that we have dealt with historically for hurricanes.

Given the situations that may be faced, knowing that a load you're hauling is a disaster relief load becomes pretty important. During Katrina we did something pretty simple and it worked pretty well. A FEMA region office created a letter with the FEMA logo and appropriate text saying, "Hey, the folks operating this vehicle are carrying a genuine disaster response load. Give them due consideration." You've got to remember the loads get hauled by the private sector. It's not like they're carrying military ID or pre-issued FEMA ID or something like that. These are trucking firms from all over the nation and we need to be able to give them something so that local law enforcement, fuel providers and so forth recognize the critical mission they're on.

Delays are something we deal with in the freight industry constantly. Delays in the disaster zone are pretty much standard operating procedure. One of the sources is that the logistics process itself is not an exact science. Understanding the needs and typing of the needs may lead to pretty serious backups. Similarly it's not just the logisticians that are charged with this. The elected officials will telephone and make their will known and sometimes we end up with significant amount of resource at least temporarily greater than demand. When you get a queue potentially miles long in the staging area or moving down into a distribution point, you may have delays from processing time. Of course you continue to hear stories in the media about labor shortages in New Orleans and Louisiana, southern Louisiana in general. There may also be routing problems because of debris or damage to the infrastructure and we've already talked about lack of communications. The challenge is getting word to the drivers that the route or designation may need to be changed if a facility is no longer available or whatever. So creating the flexibility, working in a way that's flexible in dealing with the demands and understanding they are part of the way of life is really important to success.

My conclusions, hauling in a disaster response environment has some things in common with regular hauling. We need drivers, fuel and maintenance and folks to off-load, on-load and cross-load. It's also got things very much unlike regular hauling, such as dealing with debris and security, the more concentrated security issues and some of the designations that we do have and so forth. So there's definitely something for which a clear understanding is valuable. Flexibility is the key whether it's to delays, or permitting or whatever understanding of how movement of the disaster response works and realizing that deadlines are going to be important, but we're going to be faced with many challenges. Understanding the process is essential and whatever can be done to make communication easier, whether it's two-way pagers or Blackberries or a couple of different carriers on cell phones, whatever. There are going to be problems but the more you can communicate with your vehicle and its operator the more likely you will find what's really happening and will know where the load and operator are and to be able to maximize both the mission accomplishment and your financial benefit from the relationship. So that's about it.

J. Seplow:

Thank you Vince. I promise I won't make you speak too much longer. I mentioned we'll do things a little differently today since Vince has to leave a little early. We'll take questions for him now. I'll start off with the questions that have been typed in. If you think of questions, you can type them and we'll also open the phone lines and take five minutes to address questions for Vince and move on.

The first question we have is was there any means (or attempt) to track trucks in the disaster zone during the cell outage following Katrina?

V. Pearce:

Well, there are a couple of answers. The first is some of the vehicles, in fact had GPS transponders and were using data networks that would get us that information back. That didn't just give us a communication with the driver but it gave us a sense of where the assets were. The other was when the logistic areas are set up by FEMA and those of us who work in the area bring in communications assets. Even though we didn't know where the vehicle may have been in between two of the staging areas we sort of knew where it had been last at a staging area and then it would check in again when it got to a distribution point or another staging area.

J. Seplow:

Thank you. The next question is how has ESF-1 outsourced management of disaster logistics? Who was responsible for coordinating all logistics activity?

V. Pearce:

Logistics is actually a FEMA responsibility. FEMA tasks us to provide transportation consistent with their logistics planning so the answer to your question is that the logistics planning and operations itself is a FEMA responsibility. FEMA then contracts or has other agencies contract for the goods just as they ask us to move the goods down in the disaster area. Once into the disaster area typically the responsibility becomes the state and local responsibility for physically distributing the goods to individuals and families.

J. Seplow:

Okay, did you establish any form of legitimacy for shipments and drivers to prevent bogus shipments that could be a WMD?

V. Pearce:

That's a tough problem. The answer is with airplanes it's easy because we control the airspace but for other kinds of vehicles, on the law enforcement side they were keeping a pretty strict eye and that includes the National Guard and active military. Because with any disaster there is a concern about the potential for looters as well. So we in transportation were not taking actions this would have prevented that kind of threat except in aviation, but law enforcement and military as part of their standard disaster security role were doing things that would have had some success there.

J. Seplow:

Okay, the next question is as a state official in Kansas it would have been better during the disaster if there were a web site or some official place I could have looked to see who the designated transporters were. Is this possible to do in the future?

V. Pearce:

That's a tough one. We've been asked that question by some other entities. The answer is that we aren't doing that right now for two reasons. The first is that we use a great, great number of small haulers. Of course one of the federal -- something that's important to the federal government is small disadvantaged business contracting, as you know being with the state agency. Our primary contractor does a great deal of business with owner operators and small firms. So it would be a very, very long list. The other problem is since we do contract that to the private sector they view that information as to who their subcontractors are as proprietary. I appreciate the comment and we will keep thinking along those lines as to whether something can be set up because we understand the benefit would be mutual and thank you for mentioning it.

J. Seplow:

The next question is, to your knowledge, was anyone in the freight hauling industry involved in the Hurricane Pam exercises. This was the first ever "post storm" exercise and I would think they should have been.

V. Pearce:

Yes, I believe DOT's primary contractors were involved in the exercise. That was actually before I took this job over so I'm not absolutely positive. Yes, I believe, I have heard the direct contractors for several of the emergency support functions were involved.

J. Seplow:

In the perfect world what technologies would have been most beneficial during these events?

V. Pearce:

I'll tell you the place I would have started would have been some kind of ubiquitous communications ability. We had just distributed satellite phones to our personnel. It turned out we didn't have good experience with satellite phones and we misunderstood the limits of using them and we all experienced some surprises. Ideally what I would like is something like a cellular phone or walky-talky you can walk around at staging area with hundreds and thousands of trucks there and you can do it day or night and don't need cellular towers or land lines to work. That kind of ubiquitous communication is where the assets are, in my dream.

J. Seplow:

That's all the questions we have typed in. I think we'll hope the phones just to see if anybody wants to ask a question over the phone. If not we'll go to the next presentation.

Operator:

Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question press star followed by one on touch tone phone. If your question has been answered or if you wish to withdraw your question please press star followed by two. I'm showing no audio questions at this time, ma'am.

J. Seplow:

Okay, what we'll do is move on and give Vince a chance to rest his voice. Thank you, Vince. If anybody thinks of additional questions for Vince, what you can do at the end of the seminar I'll bring back the slides with the presenters e-mail addresses and you can send them directly to the presenters or you can send them to the freight LISTSERV or to me and I'll get it to him. We'll make sure any additional questions make it to Vince to get them answered for you. What we'll do now is turn it over to Lieutenant Colonel David Binder of the Florida Transportation Motor Carrier Compliance Office.

Lt. Colonel David Binder:

You'll notice from the title of my presentation the part after the colon is "Florida's Experience," and unfortunately Florida's had more experiences with hurricanes than we care to. Basically for the last two hurricane seasons we've been under siege and we continue to learn from each and every hurricane response we go through. In addition to our own issues with Katrina, the state of Florida assumed law enforcement responsibility in the six southern counties across Mississippi and we went out there and helped them for the first several weeks after Katrina so I'm going it talk about that as well.

There's a couple areas I want to focus on, fuel, emergency orders, permits, prestaging issues, road closures and traffic flow. The fuel issue is something that really impacts us hard in Florida. We don't have a pipeline. All the fuel that we bring in to the state of Florida is brought in by barge and then trucked from the seaports we have in Florida. As the hurricane approaches the peninsula the captains fo the port close the ports to the marine traffic and often the entire port is closed which means barges can't get to it to off load fuel to tank farms and with it being closed the tank farm can't distribute it to other tankers to redistribute. Trucks have a little less impacted than cars due to the fuel capacity and range that trucks have. What we started doing is staging refueling tankers for trucks at the logistical staging area. If you come in and we can top you off and send you onto your final designation and make sure that you can get there. The previous presenter was pretty tactful in saying that sometimes other governmental entities will appropriate fuel and supplies. What we do in Florida because sometimes it's inevitable that an agency is going to escort a tanker and accidentally grab the wrong one. We have refuling vehicles for law enforcement, fire and things of that nature. And we have our marked patrol cars give fuel escorts or escort to all fuel tankers to make sure the tankers get to the right location. We in Florida, we have predesignated sites where we station tankers not only do we have to meet the land transportation fuel needs, but because of the barrier islands and people refusing to evacuate we have to go out by vessel to check on them and do search and rescue operations. We predesignate fueling locations and we bring in containers and set them up to refuel boats as well as cars.

The previous presenter also talked about relief from regulations. When the Florida governor signs an emergency order it triggers relief for safety regulations under 49CFR. We have weight restrictions we give up the 95,000 pounds with five axles hauling relief supplies and waive IFTA and IRP requirements. The last thing I'll mention and the last principle is FEMA letters. It's our desire to get as much as relief into Florida as we can and it's our desire not to abuse it. We see a potential for abuse by using the FEMA letters. I'll give you an example of manufactured housing, although it's used for temporary housing. But getting hit with six hurricanes in the last year or two and a half years I can't imagine any other state needing it more than Florida. Yet, the manufacturing housing here in Florida the FEMA work is few and hard. We get skeptical when we see manufacturing housing leaving Florida under the FEMA permit letter. It becomes dicey in us making judgment calls. We always try to if we're going to make an error, err on the side of getting it for Floridians. We vary from state to state. Back several months ago we called another state and said hurricane's coming. We're lifting these regulations. We would like you to comply and y'all do the same thing. A mid-level manager from that law enforcement agency said it's not his state's problem, it's Florida's problem. A few months later it ended up being his state's problem as well.

I can see an opportunity, and we discussed this about a week or so ago with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, of us getting together a committee so we can have uniform emergency relief regulations and guidelines so you as the shipper you don't have to guess when you depart in one of those 27 locations that has ice and you don't know until you're en route if you're going to Florida or Alabama or Mississippi, you shouldn't have to guess what the regulation is. We should have some uniform guideline codified and let you know what it is so there's no surprises. If you pick up a load of ice in New England you shouldn't be challenged by those states that aren't feeling the impact of the natural disaster because you're en route here. I think there's something we can go on the government law enforcement side to get uniform when we come up with relief from regulations or issues that impact you.

There's several ways we try to get the word out to you. We use the trucking associations, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. We have a great relationship with individual carriers, we communicate with our neighboring states and we have two websites that are available up on the screen. The first is my agency's website and the other is kind of one-stop shopping for anybody that wants to engage in trucking business in Florida. It links you up not appropriate regulatory in the state of Florida. We post here. If you come to Florida and have the website addresses you can print out maps, permits and the Governor's Executive Order and see what you're exempt from by going to the website. It's kind of one-stop shopping and I really encourage you to use those.

Pre-staging. Governor Bush is extremely adamant about getting relief supplies to people immediately. We plan on taking care of the first several days with our state assets and state resources without waiting for help from the outside. So we pre-stage logistical staging areas that we have throughout the state. I'll show you a picture here in a minute of the comfort stations that we have at our weigh stations where we have parking, restrooms and a clean facility for truck drivers to use on day-to-day basis and we pre-stage there and stage close enough to the impacted area that we can get relief supplies in there in hours. We try to stay far enough away the area that the relief supplies are not impacted. Here's a picture of the comfort station we have. If you look to the left there's parking for 50 trucks and the brick structure itself has vending, restroom, things of that nature. A driver can pre-stage there at any point in time if they're travel through Florida and they don't want to go to the rest area or truck stop and mix it up with four-wheelers there's a clean, safe environment for them to utilize.

One of big problems we have post-storm is road and bridge closures. Florida because of just the geography of our state we have a lot of bridge problems. We're starting to see deck displacement, we have erosions and obstruction's and flooding. This is one of those pictures I hoped or wished was recreated by some technical person from the Internet. This is a real life picture of the westbound lanes on Interstate 10 where hurricane Ivan hit. You can see the driver was in the cab of the truck with the bridge deck got displaced and he ultimately perished. And there you can see the eastbound lanes of that same bridge post-hurricane Ivan. We're seeing significant bridge damage because of storms we've had and the nature of them being as strong as they are. This bridge will probably not be rebuilt and fully functional for another year and a half or so. Right now we have a temporary bridge structure in place. We are not allowing overweight or over dimension loads, they have to take an alternate route. When we responded to Mississippi we found we are not the only people to have problem bridges. This is the U.S. 90 bridge in southern Mississippi. You can see their deck got displaced as well. There was significant road and bridge damage we've seen over the last two years' storms. One of the problems is not as catastrophic and can be fixed quicker is a washout. Usually that can be fixed in a couple of days as opposed to years it takes for deck damage and erosion is a big problem. What you can't see off to the right in the photograph there was a canal where people bring up 30, 35 foot boats, we drove across it because so much sand eroded the roadway to the beach and filled up the canal where they were land locked in there and you could drive across in an Excursion. Then we see the unusual roadway obstructions. This is an actual casino in Southern Mississippi sitting on the highway. It was used everyday and a casino is sitting on it. The roadway will be obstructed for some period of time and you know what that means in the transportation industry. I don't have to tell you. You live it.

Talking about motorist information, this is what we do to get it out. We started a 511 system where you can call from your cell phone and get traffic updates. There is a companion website and they have updated closure information that's on on during and subsequent to a disaster and we use a spattering of message boards, signs and local motorist radio and information systems. These are actual considerations before we deploy our people to the hurricanes and unfortunately they have learned it well over the past view years with the hurricanes we've had. I tell my people to prepare to go on a camping trip for three or four days. You need to take everything that you need to be self-sustaining for the first three or four days and don't assume anybody will be there to help you. Truckers are somewhat fortunate, they have sleeper berths in their trucks, they are one-up on everyone else. Food, water, medicine -- you need to be prepared.

I think one of biggest issues that we're coming up with right now is that second bullet point. Obviously for looting reasons and crime control reasons, local governments enact curfews. The unfortunate reality to those of you providing transportation services to retail stores and bringing in all the things we're in desperate need of often encounter local law enforcement who are enforcing curfew. There's conflict between the local curfew and just good judgment and doing what we need to do; I'm not sure how we'll fix that overnight but that's on the radar screen as a major issue. Some of you involved in the associations, if you can get your associations to assist in that, we need to get some kind of resolution to the issue. We are always getting requests for law enforcement escorts and we have to say no to just about everybody unless there's a legitimate security need. The previous speaker, Vince, spoke about people misappropriating the supplies. I sympathize with the driver going where the law enforcement officers tell him to go. Because of those reasons and people engaged in criminal activity we are to make sure the loads go to the intended designations. There are often requests for us upon reentry for escort convoys of trucks thinking that it's going to expidite them getting to their designation. People need to realize at the time of reentry there's gridlock. We can sit there with lights flashing and we won't be able to expedite people getting from point A to point B when there's gridlock like that. It's great to put you on the shoulder but you get to bridge and it ends and you have to merge back into the traffic. And we're back in the gridlock.

The planning and anticipation of Florida bridge closures when winds get 39 miles per hour. Detour routes was the example of I-10 bridge if Pensacola. That's a detour route for a long time. Often detour route takes you downtown to a congested area and you need to be prepared for that. The vehicle size and weights what's the normal detour route and maybe even a second that will take you out of your way more.

This doesn't have anything to do with hurricane response or recovery but as Jennifer mentioned I'm on the steering committee of the Florida Commercial Vehicle and Cargo Task Force. Every year for the past several years we've held a legislative security summit. Every year as working with law enforcement in the industry and elected officials we've been able to do several things in Florida that have reduced cargo theft in Florida. Unfortunately, as one attendee said last year you're doing such a good job in Florida that they are about to steal Atlanta, that we just displaced people in different states. We have done things to make law enforcement more effective. This year's summit is on the 25th and 27th of January down here in beautiful Tallahassee. This is a true public/private partnership. It doesn't cost you anything to attend the summit. A lot of the strategies that we come up will do nothing more than save you money and help your business. Log on the webpage and fill out the pre-registration form and fill it out and we'd love to see you in Tallahassee.

J. Seplow:

Thank you, Lt. Colonel Binder. We will take questions following Eric's presentation. If you think of questions, please feel free to type them in and we'll get to those after the final presentation. Eric, if you will give me a minute I will turn control over to you. I will let you know when you can begin. Okay, and our final presentation after day will be that of Eric Fuller of Xpress Direct. You can begin when you're ready.

Eric Fuller:

Thank you. My name's Eric Fuller and I'm vice president of Xpress Direct. To give a background on Xpress Direct, we are a division of U.S. Xpress, an expedited solutions provider. We handle the outside the normal transportation needs for a lot of our customers. We handle last-minute freight solutions, which means picking up in four to six hours. We provide capacity when there isn't any other capacity in the marketplace. We also do disaster recovery projects and holiday search projects. We handle special equipment needs that others are not able to handle. Through a number of carriers that we have that we contract with and also through the U.S. Xpress network we have the availability to 5600 company tractors and some of our own equipment and we have availability to the whole U.S. Xpress network and we also have 20,000 trucks through other carriers that we contract with that we also have available to us as well.

Our experience on the disaster recovery side. We've actually been doing Hurricane recovery since 2003. In 2005, we pulled over 5600 disaster recovery loads for a number of government agencies. We are not contracted for a government agency, we're a subcontractor to places like FEMA, DOT and state governments. We pulled over 2300 loads of disaster recovery for the private sector as well, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, companies like that. The issues which we face during disasters is disruption of the normal freight network and communications issues, issues with the safety and infrastructure, as well as issues we faced during the disaster recovery effort itself.

Now, the disruption of freight network side. The season in which hurricanes occur is actually very problematic since August through November is the busy freight season from that's when a lot of our customers are starting to ship their holiday shopping needs to a lot of stores. So from August to November, we actually see from a 55 to 75% increase in our volumes than any other time of the year. Unfortunately, this is when the hurricanes are busiest as well. I know there was 16,000 total loads pulled for the government hurricane relief. This number can be a little misleading because there were 16,000 loads pulled but on average from our standpoint on average the trucks sat anywhere from five to ten days at a staging area before they actually delivered and also since we were delivering straight to the coast we found a lot of times it took anywhere from a day to two days to get that the truck back to the regular network. I can get seven to 14 days that this truck is out of regular network which pulls capacity out nationwide. We saw areas in California, Pacific Northwest, Northeast, all these areas were affected due to the hurricanes due to very little excessive capacity. All extras were pulled is the coastal areas for the hurricanes. From our standpoint in the carriers and shippers we saw a lot of people started to use rail. Usage went up during these disasters because there wasn't a lot of excess capacity. We found we were fronting customer freight on rail.

On the communication side the wireless networks were down and some areas they were actually down for a few weeks at a time and we had an issue with satellite communications as well, where some of the bandwidth was being used up by the government. Often times when we had a driver in the hurricane area it would take anywhere from 8 sometimes as much as 16 to 20 hours to actually get the message through to the driver from the time we send it to the time the driver receives it. The normal time is anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds. It made it very difficult to talk to your drivers and to give our drivers instructions especially the drivers that were on Hurricane Rita recovery themselves.

Now, also, we had issues with safety and infrastructure. The biggest thing was lack of information on bridges and roads that were damaged or out. It seems like the information doesn't get in the hands of the drivers or even the companies for the drivers so we can get that information to the right people who need it. A lot of our drivers really just kind of had to drive until they ran into a closed road or a roadblock and turn around and find another way to get to their destination. If there was a way to put some kind of listing on Internet so that all the companies that were involved could actually access this to see which areas we could send our truck in. And really from our standpoint a list of roads or a list of bridges that are out really doesn't do us much good because we're sending drivers thousands of miles away hundreds of miles away we really don't know if that particular bridge or road is in his route. Since most of the loads originated in really the same point and are delivered to the same point if there was a list of approved roads it would make it a lot easier for us all in the trucking industry as opposed to list of roads.

A lot of water we were pulling was actually 50 to 60,000 pounds. Normally we can't pull anything over 45,000 without forward-looking. The thing we weren't receiving was info for weight loads for damaged bridges and highways. If we could get that information it would make things easier. Unfortunately this year, we didn't have it and it was a kind of the leap of faith whether you pull over a bridge or highway that looks damaged or not. Also on the safety and infrastructure side, many trucking companies near the hurricane damaged areas were without power and phones, some of them for weeks at a time. A lot of these companies were helping with the hurricane relief and they weren't able to communicate with trucks when they were sitting. There's no other way to get information on where the driver needs to go. Not only did it pull capacity from the hurricane Rita recovery, but out of the entire freight network nationwide. We saw a need for a company to apply for priority and restoration of sources. We also saw a scarcity of fuel. We found that fuel within two or 300 miles on the coast with our drivers settling a week at time we would see them run low and we had a drivers run out of fuel. A couple ran out of fuel once they left the staging area to deliver to their designation and ran out of fuel on the way to their destination.

On the disaster recovery side we had a couple of issues that we come on the disaster recovery side itself. A lot of times freight is in position for the hurricane. We think it's great and allows us to get water and what have you to people that need it quicker right after the hurricane passes through. Unfortunately what we found is the freight and trucks and equipment would be prepositioned in the hurricane zone. We would have to make a decision if we would pull our drivers and equipment back out of path. Unfortunately what that does is add to the congestion on the interstate getting out of the hurricane area. Obviously we don't want our drivers or equipment if the path of the hurricane but we also don't want to put our drivers in a situation where they don't feel comfortable. We had situations -- a driver got down there they were putting drivers in a safe area in a military base. The driver didn't feel safe. If the diver doesn't feel safe we will let him pull back to an area which he feels safe. I think you'll find a lot carriers will have a same attitude. A lot of them don't want to put their equipment or drivers into an area that doesn't feel safe. There may be a place to preposition further inland and off the major highways. What we saw is that we didn't deliver stuff any sooner by pre-positioning. A lot of the drivers that pulled out in the prepositioning areas got out in time and delivered just as soon as the guys that sat down there in the prepositioned areas. We need a just in time program to eliminate the wait times. On average the drivers spend days actually sitting at a staging area often times a military base. We think the government could access more capacity at a cheaper rate by eliminating or minimizing the wait time. Also a lot of large trucking companies do not participate in disaster recovery for this one reason. They have regular customers that they deal with year in and year out and they find not knowing when their truck is going to be available is not worth it to them to have trucks sit there a week or two at a time. It pulls a lot of trucks out their network and makes it difficult for them to take care of those year round customers. On the Xpress Direct side this is kind of our business and we plan by this and we're not affected by the wait times as much. But we find a lot of other carriers are affected by the wait time and it does become an issue and actually for one the disruption to the freight next work as well. It would actually reduce the disruption by having the trucks tied up for less time.

I need to focus on last mile. We also find a lot of confusion, understandably on the last mile of delivery from where the goods, the water, the MREs actually are needed in the disaster area. We also came across times when we had actually had loads that originated sometimes within 100 miles or less of the delivery point and we would point and travel 500 miles to a staging area and sit a week at a time and then travel back to the delivery area. For example during Wilma we had water picked up in the Miami area taken to Jacksonville and sat five days at a time and delivered back to Miami. We think there would be a benefit to create a system to deliver straight from origin to delivery and cutout the staging areas as much as possible or all together if possible. Also another aspect that we came across was confusion on who was truly in charge. There were numerous individuals from a number of different agencies and companies directing our drivers where to go on the ground and often times we were being told something completely different from the companies that we deal with who are our direct customers. Drivers were also often sent to sites where they did not need supplies anymore or the sites had been shutdown all together.

Now in conclusion, we see a need for their to be an Internet site or some way to provide information on safety or infrastructure issues either over the Internet or some way to get that into hands of drivers themselves who actually need this information. Also to have one agency or group manage the logistics so all know their role beforehand. A standard operating procedure or fact document to get in the hands of carriers so all the carriers know their role in that process. Also I've talked about this a couple of times to create a just in time process. This would lessen the impact of the disasters on the national freight network, it would reduce costs for the government and probably for the carriers as well. And reduced congestion in the affected areas by limiting the amount of trucks driving back and forth due to all this confusion. And that is the end of my presentation. Thank you.

J. Seplow:

Thank you Eric, and thank you to all three of the presenters for the presentations. We're going to go ahead start with the question and answer session now. I'll start out with the questions typed in online and after we get through those we will open up the phone lines if you have additional questions. Vince Pearce has left to go to another meeting. His e-mail address is shown on slide on the screen so you can send them to him or the LISTSERV or me and I'll get the questions to him. We're going to start off with questions for Eric, since you just gave the last presentation, and Lieutenant Colonel Binder if you want to respond to any of these questions as well please feel free to.

The first question for you Eric is, aside from Internet sites, how else can real-time information be delivered to shippers and carriers, such as via dispatch centers and how many of these are there nationwide for just long-haul shippers?

E. Fuller:

Well, we actually have one dispatch center here centrally located. Really the Internet would be the best way. If there was another way where to just send information directly to the certain carriers that are involved, that would probably work as well. But given the fact that a lot of our people during the hurricane are spread out we have people on-site that we send in and if a wireless network is working and they are able to get on the Internet then they would be able to access these sites as well. We would be able to distribute some of these through an e-mail if there was something sent directly to us. Probably the Internet would be the best way to distribute this to all the different carriers that are involved.

J. Seplow:

Okay, thank you. Next question I'll ask you first Eric, but I think Lieutenant Colonel Binder may want to answer as well. I'm from British Columbia, so I'm not familiar with the SE states road system, but no one mentioned pre-designated Disaster Response Routes. Are there some? And if yes, how effective was their use?

E. Fuller:

Honestly, if that information exists -- we didn't really receive it. We minded the state DOT websites for information and there was some limited information on some of these websites about that. But for the most part, it was really up to the driver to determine whether a certain route was safe and if he came across a road closing or something a lot of times he would back up and try again. A lot of times we didn't have information on a predetermined route.

J. Seplow:

Okay, and Lieutenant Colonel Binder as far as Florida goes, how would you respond to that?

Lt. Col. Binder:

We use logistical staging areas in proximity of the highway areas that are least affect by the road ways as we discussed. Congestion is one of the problems and one of the benefits to the prestaging is we don't get the response caught up in the re-entry traffic. I think in Florida, our website is kept up to date as to what roadways are opened or closed. You can go to the website and look at vehicle counts, pull up a highway segment and tell what the average speed is. There's a lot of good information on the website that you can use for planning purposes and dispatch purposes.

J. Seplow:

Okay, thank you. Eric, the next question for you is could intelligent transportation systems be better utilized to provide data to truckers, not only on usable roads but to assist with re routing information tied into GPS systems?

E. Fuller:

That is something a number of carriers including myself are looking at. It's kind of the new technology. That's something that probably would help out a lot as we get more real-time data into drivers and actually use a routing system. They use this real-time information that comes from the state DOTs or national DOT so that we could properly route our drivers into areas that they needed to go to. Yes, that would help a lot. That's not quite -- we don't quite have anything like that at this point. But that's something I believe a lot of a big carriers are looking at.

J. Seplow:

Okay, thank you. Lieutenant Colonel Binder the next question is you mentioned that there should be some way for agencies, law enforcement and state officials to meet periodically to plan for emergencies/disasters. I agree. Has there been any attempt to form such a committeeor plan?

Lt. Col. Binder:

I think this hurricane season changed the dynamics on a nationwide basis. We get hit with hurricanes on a regular basis in Florida. Two seasons ago we had four major hurricanes. Like the one Lieutenant said in the other state, it's Florida's problem not our problem. Now with hurricane Katrina it's not just our problem but a regional problem with focus. We met with others and our partners are USDOT and this was a large portion of the dialogue. Now, the states before where it was not their problem realize it can be their problem and we see a willingness to participate whereas before we were basically the lone wolf saying we needed to do this. Other states didn't give us the buy-in. I see the buy-in in other law enforcement and the private sector. I think we can get more participation where before it was Florida saying we need to do this. What I would like to see is to get a working group together and look at what some of issues are, come up with uniform policies and procedures so we don't have one trucking company driving across five different states encountering five different sets of rules and regulations. Those of you in the transportation industry shouldn't have to play that guessing game and I think we should get something done in the off season where it's not hurricane season and take vacations and do overwork and get something done and get something in place. I think we need uniformity or a central repository where you don't have to travel through five different states. Authority and central information is what the carriers need.

J. Seplow:

Thank you. The next question is for you as well. At any point in time, especially before a disaster occurs, does the state of Florida, have the capability to know where essential relief supplies are located (in-state and out of state), the quantity of those supplies, and which truckers will be the best positioned to retrieve those supplies and deliver them to the end users?

Lt. Col. Binder:

Emergency operations are divided up in to EFF's I work out of ESF16 and work closely with EFS1 for transportation. There's separate ESFs for food and water, energy and logistic particulars. I can't tell you exactly how that process works. But again with our they are here in Florida trying to be self-sufficient for the first several days I certainly do expect they know the answers to questions.

J. Seplow:

That's a question I can pass onto Vince and get the answer from him and get the answer back out to everybody. One last question typed in -- I think it would be for more Vince. The question is, is it possible to create a database that allows automated on line routing for oversize overweight vehicles for any state that the transporter may need to cross?

Eric, would you find that to be useful?

E. Fuller

That would be extremely useful but also there would be a need for real-time data put into a system because often times bridges or highways maybe damaged during a hurricane and after the damage has been done it may reduce the weight limit for bridge or road. There would be a need to be updating that on the real-time basis throughout the whole process of the hurricane. But, yes, that would be something that would help us out a whole lot, definitely.

J. Seplow:

Lt. Col. Binder, what are your thoughts on that?

Lt. Col. Binder:

I think that's a great idea. To show you the confidence we have on our website and how valid the data is on it, we use is ourselves to make the determination. If a bridge is closed and then opened, we know it needs to immediately be updated in database because we ourselves are using it. That data reliability is very important to us. Then going for somebody coming from another state it would be nice if they're going to travel from Virginia to Florida that they can one-stop shop all that route information at one website as opposed to having to go to each individual state.

J. Seplow:

Did either one of you have and questions that might have been sent directly to you that I may have not seen? Sometimes that happens.

Not that I'm aware.

Okay, I just wanted to check on that. Gregory at this point if you could give instructions again on how to ask questions over the phone and check up on the phone lines and ask questions.

Operator:

As a reminder ladies and gentlemen it's star followed by a one to ask a question. If your question has been answered it's star followed by two. Please standby for your first question. And first question comes from line of Steve Zimmerman.

Please proceed.

Steve Zimmerman:

This is Steve Zimmerman, I was interested about the routing. A lot of states are doing that but the problem they run into is they have a lot of data they have to put out there but they don't have the money for it. I was curious to know if there was anyway for funding to be sent to the state willing to participate in some type of national routing system. That's it.

E. Fuller:

Well, one issue on our routing system is that often times our drivers are into the affected area within a lot of times within four to eight hours after the hurricane has passed through. So often times by the time this information has been collected by any of the state DOTs our drivers are already in that affected area trying to find a route that will get them to the designated area.

Lt. Col. Binder:

In Florida we have a debris crew out and law enforcement out before the winds die down. We're getting pretty contemporary information. We go out immediately once the winds drop below 39 mph it's a hazardous situation. We have the information as timely as can possibly be. I can't speak to the other states and am not here to do a commercial for Florida. Just to emphasize a point that about data on our website - we use it to make our own decisions and that's the reliability we have to offer I believe.

Bob Gorman:

This is Bob Gorman from the Federal Highway Administration. I was wondering if the variable message signs could be used to give real-time information about road or bridge closures?

Lt. Col. Binder:

We used them I wouldn't say immediately after the event because they become debris -- 100 mile-per-hour winds hits a sign you no longer have usage of that sign. We've been trying to deploy them and use them a good 14 months up to now where hurricane Ivan is. We try to deploy them as soon as possible because we can't pre-deploy them because of damage from the hurricane. We use the message signs extensively. One of the things we did in Pensacola a couple of hurricanes ago, we had a problem with traffic control devices blown down, the traffic lights, and the hurricane damaged them and lights and all the things that go along with that is short supply. What we started doing in the Pensacola area before the hurricane impact is taking the lights down, lashing them to the polls, having the polls rewired for generator power, as soon as the storm goes outside the area we can reattach the light, we don't have to wait for them to get from the warehouse and hook them back up to power and as opposed to days if not weeks without any traffic control devices at all.

J. Seplow:

Okay, thank you. Do we have any other questions over the phone?

Operator:

Yes, your next question comes from line of Irvin Varkonyi.

Irvin Varkonyi:

Thank you, it's a great presentation and great ideas that you've all had. I had comments and questions regarding the knowledge of roads and conditions. I think the media does a great job of showing us where damage and road conditions are. I was wondering what experience you have with that information can be used to fed into the GPS devices and others so you get real-time information. I believe with the availability of helicopters once the storm died down it's tremendous information. What I understand is FEMA and Red Cross now do routine analysis of the same media. I was wondering if that too could be fed into an information system to expedite the delivery of the truckers.

E. Fuller:

From the trucking side we were monitoring the news stations a couple hours before storms hit watching for information on road damage and sending that to our drivers via sattcom as soon as we get the information. We were using DOT website as well as any other information we could get from the media. They were very helpful in getting the information out. Often times we would find the media would have it a little bit before the DOT website or something so we were able to react a little quicker.

Lt. Col. Binder:

I would like to emphasize I think we've come up with a lot of guidance. We do need to come together on a nationwide basis. We've see disparity over responses in the last year or so and I'm hearing every state is different and it would benefit to have uniformity. I think we have a lot of potential solutions out there and first step is getting this dialogue going. Whatever happens I think it should be on a national basis, uniform and expeditions matter.

J. Seplow:

Do we have anymore questions?

Operator:

Yes, you have a question from the line of Sheena Vivian.

Sheena Vivian:

Good morning, can you hear me. Okay, I'm still trying to figure out the phone system. I called from British Columbia. My question may or may not be within direct response to the topic. It's definitely a great presentation; a disaster response route we have in British Columbia and predesignated. My issue is in addition to looking at how you get resources where they're going and the types of resources that are being sent. Sometimes for the most part what's been discussed here with regard to solicited or requested donations. What happens with donations sent from all over the country that are not necessarily part of the requested so they're unsolicited donations. Hurricane Andrew had a great amount where it stopped the scheduled shipments.

Lt. Col. Binder:

I think she has a very good point. We've seen that with law enforcement response. In Florida, we have a very structured law enforcement response system. We have freelancers who want to do good and right thing and they show up the area whether law enforcement or somebody bringing relief supplies unsolicited. Now they need to burn fuel, food, water and shelter and all the things we are trying to provide for the victims. Those unsolicited responses can be a problem but I'm not sure how we can combat that. We see a lot of that and people well-intentioned sometimes causing more problems than benefit. When I was out in Mississippi, I saw a K-Mart parking lot full of thousands of square feet of supplies that people dropped off and they weren't undercover and a rainstorm came, leaving that much more debris to remove. Without infrastructure to inventory and store and redistribute those supplies it becomes a second problem.

Sheena Vivian:

I have a question associated with the Pan American Health Organization -- I have to end up having humanitarian supply management systems. Sometimes I think we reinvent systems because we haven't had enough experience of our own. Certainly that's the case in Canada to a certain degree. I wonder if we've looked at this system for incoming humanitarian aid. They have miles of zip files for houses and there must be a component to this that we haven't looked at.

J. Seplow:

Either Lieutenant Colonel Binder or Eric, feel free to go ahead.

Both Presenters:

There's nothing that I'm aware of.

Sheena Vivian:

Can I post it to the website and maybe let you folks have a look at it?

Back on the materials unsolicited, the U.S. is you know the forerunners for developing a template to deal with that. That's where we have a connection with transportation and what's being transported. We certainly attempt to make sure as little unsolicited stuff is sent. We had a major incident in British Columbia in 2003 where we had a mass quantities of unsolicited donations show up and create problems for us. In the incidents where you had Katrina and the Florida state hurricanes this year and last year we haven't had anything that large and more problematic than anything we've suffered.

J. Seplow:

Thank you. Do we have any additional questions on phone?

Operator:

There are no more questions at this time, ma'am.

J. Seplow:

Thank you. What we'll do at this time we'll go ahead and wrap up the seminar if there are no additional questions. If you think of additional questions feel free to post them to the LISTSERV or send them to any one of the presenters.

Actually I should mention our next seminar on January 18th is titled Commercial Vehicle Size and Weight: Issues and Innovative Enforcement Ideas. We'll take a lot of questions asked during this seminar and hand them over to the size and weight team in FHWA. I think a lot of these questions are questions they can answer and we'll get them up on the LISTSERV and get responses from the size and weight team. Next month's seminar will probably address some of these issues as well and I encourage you to register for it.

Thank you to all three presenters. As I mentioned before this seminar was recorded and the recording will be posted in the next week or so to the Talking Freight website. There may be a delay because of the holiday, it may be more like two weeks. But, I'll definitely let you know when it becomes ready.

Again the next seminar is January 18th, on Commercial Vehicle Size and Weight: Issues and Innovative Enforcement Ideas. You can register for it on the Talking Freight website; we also have the February and March 2006 seminars posted as well. Thank you everybody enjoy the rest of your day and have a great holiday and Happy New Year and thank you Lieutenant Binder and Eric.

Updated: 03/29/2011
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