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Logistics groups ready to help during potentially busy hurricane season

Nonprofits ready to work together before, during and after storms

Trucker dodging downed trees and debris near Lake Charles, Louisiana in August 2020. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Hurricane season officially starts June 1, but trucking and logistics groups are already making calls and posting on social media to make sure they’re ready to respond efficiently to any impacted areas.

Boots on the ground

One organization hard at work is Trucks With Room To Spare, a nonprofit based in Kentucky that connects truckers with people who need help.

Even though it’s only early April, CEO and veteran truck driver Shelli Conaway has been ramping up her recruiting process. She’s trying to get more drivers to potentially volunteer their time and trucking capacity. Conaway is also looking for more sponsors to help with donations that are used to pay volunteer drivers for fuel and other expenses. She’s spending countless hours on her cell phone, checking emails and posting on Facebook.

Trucks With Room To Spare loading Hurricane Laura relief supplies to go to Louisiana. (Photo: Shelli Conaway)

“We’re already getting contacted by other organizations that are trying to prestage supplies closer to [potential] impact zones,” Conaway told FreightWaves. “They’re trying to get stuff into the Southeast areas, into their distribution points.”

Conaway works with groups like churches and the United Way that collect supplies to go on the trucks. She has coordinated relief for several areas hit by hurricanes since she co-founded Trucks With Room To Spare in 2018. She has made helping people her mission.

“It could be my family next time, and I would want somebody to step up and help,” Conaway said.

Related: Trucking, rescue groups describe hurricane relief as ‘organized chaos’

Cheryl Pollard, who co-founded Trucks With Room To Spare, also has decades of truck driving experience. She’s been helping with hurricane relief for a long time and enjoys the reward.

“You have never had that feeling until you have actually done something extraordinary, like making sure that people in a disaster had their insulin, had wheelchairs, had everything they needed,” Pollard explained. “I can’t even describe the feeling. It was surreal.”

Pollard learned how to give back to communities after recovering from personal struggles of her own. She says one of the biggest challenges with running a nonprofit relief organization is getting truckers to understand how desperately they are needed.

“You can help us and stay in compliance,” Pollard added. “You just have to know the rules and regulations and how to go about it without spending any of your money.”

2021 Atlantic hurricane outlook from Colorado State University Tropical Weather & Climate Research. (Image: FreightWaves)

The big picture

Kathy Fulton is executive director of the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN), which helps nonprofits find the logistics equipment, expertise and services they need. ALAN coordinates from behind the scenes, which is why Fulton is thankful for grassroots organizations like Trucks With Room To Spare that can see what’s happening on local levels.

“Despite all the visibility platforms that are out there, for us as an organization, getting to that level of detail, we just don’t have the resources or the manpower to be able to sit and monitor that all day,” Fulton told FreightWaves.

ALAN, a nonprofit itself, depends on individual as well as corporate donations and sponsorships. Most of ALAN’s support comes from the logistics and supply chain industries because they see the connection between the work they do and what ALAN does.

To prepare for hurricane season, Fulton has been busy stockpiling relationships, informing partners about services and resources available to them. She’s also working on strategic spending analysis of her partners’ transportation needs.

“They’re going to have to figure out how to stretch that budget, which is already stretched because of the pandemic,” Fulton explained.

Fulton urges everyone in coastal areas to prepare for hurricane season. She said even if communities have emergency supplies ready, a storm can blow them away. So there will always be a need for supplemental support.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.