Port of New Orleans asks for help from truckers

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The Port of New Orleans is looking for truckers to haul cargo to held rebuild the city’s economy after Hurricane Katrina’s destruction.

“We have a lot of hard-working truckers right now in the port,” says Chris Bonura, port spokesperson. “We know that as we continue to grow and the demand for trucking increases, we will need more.” Bonura says that truckers willing to work for the port would be offered free housing.

“The caveat is that they have to be hauling for the port,” Bonura says. “We don’t actually hire truckers, the shippers do. We have some housing that is available aboard the Maritime Administration ships that are docked in the port. We have three ships docked right now — these were sent to us after Hurricane Katrina to start the recovery process. We can help them (the truckers) get onboard.” Bonura said the free living quarters are not available to truckers hauling debris out of storm-damaged areas.

Before the hurricane, a busy day at the port saw 1,000 truck drivers haul 1,500 truckloads. The port now has 150 drivers working, and they can haul only 450 truckloads a day. About 70 percent of port cargo is brought in or carried out by truck. The port hauling involves local and regional runs to and from the port. Many of the companies hiring truckers “are putting together very competitive packages,” says Gary LaGrange, port chief executive officer and president. “Drivers who want to be a part of rebuilding of this great city and this region would be welcomed with open arms.”

The port resumed commercial operations Sept. 12. Cargo levels have increased steadily since, and operations are at almost 45 percent of pre-storm levels. But many New Orleans area truck drivers lost their homes, rigs or both during Katrina. There was an estimated shortage of 20,000 truck drivers nationwide before Katrina, and the storm’s impact on fuel prices has not helped the situation. The massive federal trash-hauling efforts in New Orleans have depleted the local truck driver supply even further.

Interested company drivers and owner-operators can get more information by calling the Louisiana Motor Transport Association at 225-928-5682.