How to help your fellow citizens in the face of disaster

A guide for truck drivers to obtain FEMA credentials.

May 2019

Tyson Fisher

|

There was no shortage of natural disasters in 2018.

California experienced the deadliest wildfire in state history. On the other side of the country, the Florida Panhandle went through the strongest hurricane in the region’s history. In addition to breaking records, these events had something else in common: They severely affected infrastructure.

In November, the Camp Fire in Butte County, Calif., destroyed nearly 19,000 structures and killed 86 people, making it the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. During that time, several highways were shut down. Shortly after the peak of the fire, rain brought the threat of mudslides covering up highways.

At the same time, the Woolsey Fire in Ventura County, Calif., destroyed 1,643 structures, the seventh most destructive fire in California. That fire shut down sections of the 101 Freeway. Driving through certain parts of California required doing some research to make sure no routes were literally on fire.

Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle in October. Not only did that storm shut down an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, but several ports were also shut down, causing trouble for commerce coming from the Gulf Coast. Just a month prior, Hurricane Florence resulted in a massive evacuation in the Southeast, including lane reversals on Interstate 26.

Relief efforts and the trucking industry

After a major natural disaster has devastated a community or even an entire region, affected areas immediately go into rebuild mode. During a time of need, truckers are known to be willing to show up in a big way.

Unfortunately, truck drivers cannot just show up with a bunch of needed supplies. Disaster zones are already tumultuous, so someone needs to coordinate help coming that way. That job goes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Every time a natural disaster strikes, one thing is almost guaranteed: Truckers start asking how they can help. By that time, it is too late. Hauling FEMA loads requires obtaining credentials, and the process takes more than a few days. Getting those credentials now, ahead of time, allows a trucker to give assistance when needed.

Truckers interested in hauling FEMA loads need to apply for the agency’s Industry Liaison Program. According to FEMA’s website, the program “establishes strategic relationships with suppliers and stakeholders; serves as an information provider for suppliers seeking to do business with FEMA; and connects suppliers with program offices in support of FEMA’s mission.”

Before getting started, FEMA encourages interested parties to check in with their local Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Center. These centers provide assistance for those seeking government contracts. Do a little homework by visiting APTAC-US.org.

According to a FEMA spokesperson, the agency uses a Standard Tender of Service for commodity moves that gives it access to all modes of transportation. As part of the STOS, transportation service providers register with FEMA, which includes a signed transportation service provider agreement, a certification statement, proof of cargo insurance, and registration in the System for Award Management.

Trucking companies are further requested to submit state-to-state rates entered into FEMA’s Logistics Supply Chain Management System. When a truck movement requirement is received, LSCMS will list the carriers in accordance with the rates on file between origination and destination. A FEMA transportation manager will review the rates and past performance and contact the carrier directly to determine if they can complete the mission. The transportation manager will continue this process until a carrier is found to meet the requirement.

If time does not allow FEMA to use the above process, such as during a disaster response, it can solicit a spot-bid directly from a known group of carriers with whom FEMA has established relationships. Spot-bids are solicited and awarded expeditiously, usually during nonbusiness hours.

There are few special requirements for drivers other than normal CDL licensing. There are circumstances when drivers may be asked to pick up or deliver to a military facility, where entrance may be predicated upon a background check. Movement in and around port facilities requires a Transportation Workers Identification Credential. FEMA usually notifies its transportation service providers if a movement has any special requirement.

It’s quite a process, but when your nation calls on its people to help relief efforts and you are on the list, it can be rewarding both personally and professionally. LL

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.