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Aftermath of Terror: Carriers Cope with Disaster, Some Help in Rescue Effort

The CS Integrated refrigerated warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey, faces the Manhattan skyline across the Hudson River. Until recently, that view afforded some pleasure.

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the New York City skyline changed forever. CSI staff, including General Manager Paul Polomski, witnessed the change.

“We can see the skyline clearly from where we are,” Polomski says. “From our facility, it is only three miles to the Lincoln Tunnel and four or five miles to Midtown Manhattan. After the first plane struck, we saw smoke coming from one of the towers. Then we saw the second plane hit and go through the other building. We were all pressed against the office window, watching in horror. We wondered if the Empire State Building would be hit next.”

The final death toll from the terrorist attack was still being tallied two weeks after the incident. More than 6,000 people were missing and feared dead. Meanwhile, New Yorkers and others living in the area tried to return to normal routines. For those in refrigerated transportation, that meant dealing with closed bridges, tunnels, and highways, and beefed up security all around the city. Of course, the airports closed for several days. All of this resulted in delays. Traffic around the city was frozen for about 36 hours, industry sources say.

“The retailers were affected seriously,” Polomski says. “We deliver to stores in Long Island and bring back product from food manufacturers. But we were unable to get there for a day and a half because the New Jersey Turnpike and Route 3 into the city were closed.”

By Thursday, some major arteries into the city opened, including the George Washington Bridge, and CSI resumed service to Long Island, Polomski said. CSI runs 10 tractors and trailers locally from Secaucus and depends on six core carriers for other deliveries.

After the attack, several refrigerated carriers teamed up with the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other emergency organizations to provide help for rescue efforts in New York. Acting for the Red Cross, one carrier picked up 18 refrigerated trailers from Xtra Lease. They were used to pick up blood plasma around the country.

Suiza Foods Corporation, a national dairy processor and distributor headquartered in Dallas, Texas, provided both trucks and money. The company released a statement on September 17 announcing a $100,000 contribution to the September 11th Fund established to help the victims of the terrorist attack. The United Way and The New York Community Trust created the September 11th Fund for donations to emergency assistance agencies including the Red Cross.

“We want to convey our deepest sympathies for the victims, their families, and loved ones,” says Suiza Chairman and CEO, Gregg L Engles.

Within two days after the attack, Tuscan Dairy, a Suiza subsidiary in Union City, New Jersey, donated refrigerated trucks and trailers, food, and a driver. The company also made available a mechanic who was on call for any equipment problems.

One Suiza reefer truck was dispatched to the World Trade Center to supply water, dairy products, and juice to rescue workers.

The dairy also provided a refrigerated trailer for a Salvation Army staging site in New Jersey. It was used to store food donated by local restaurants and delis for distribution to emergency workers.

Later, on the week following the attack, Tuscan supplied a second refrigerated straight truck to another commissary operation in New Jersey. “We donated a driver to run the truck back and forth from New Jersey to the Trade Center,” says Sam Wolman, Tuscan Dairy's general manager. “The truck was loaded with prepared meals for rescue workers. We also donated additional food for a large memorial service held September 23 in New Jersey.”

A gift of 200,000 apples and pears and hundreds of cases of apple juice donated by growers and shippers in Washington State were transported in an ExpressTrak refrigerated rail car behind an Amtrak passenger train. The rail car departed from Wenatchee, Washington, bound for Jersey City, New Jersey. Sent along with the produce were notes of thanks to rescue workers from Karla Robison's first-grade class at Morgen Owings Elementary School in Chelan, Washington. The fruit and juice filled 2,200 cartons. They were scheduled to arrive September 27 at a food bank in New Jersey. The food bank and Salvation Army were ready to distribute the fruit and juice to rescue workers and others impacted by the terrorist attack.

Tunnel Traffic Slowed

Within a week after the attack, the Lincoln Tunnel into Midtown Manhattan reopened, but traffic slowed for two reasons, says Matthew D'Arrigo, vice-president of D'Arrigo Brothers Company of New York. Immediately after the attack, the Holland Tunnel linking New Jersey to Lower Manhattan closed. It remained closed through the week following the incident, greatly increasing traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel. Secondly, security was tightened.

“The closing of the Holland Tunnel put a lot of pressure on Lincoln Tunnel traffic,” he says. “Security officers are checking all trucks, tractors and trailers, and vehicles with heavily tinted windows. I'm glad I don't live in New Jersey and commute to Manhattan. Commuters face a two-hour wait.”

D'Arrigo, who also is president of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Association, slept in his office in the Bronx the night of the attack. “There was no movement into the city Tuesday night,” he says. “They let people out of Manhattan, but no one could get in. The only exceptions were emergency vehicles.”

Traffic from Long Island into the city also was at a standstill on September 11, says Michael Caridi, president of Freshway Distributors, a division of Kozy Shack Enterprises, a dessert manufacturer, in Hicksville on Long Island. Freshway runs three refrigerated straight trucks into Manhattan and 13 tractors and trailers within a 250-mile radius of the city. Besides distributing pudding desserts for its parent company, Freshway operates a consolidation program for other food manufacturers.

“The city shut down all highways and bridges,” Caridi says. “Our trucks went out as usual on Tuesday morning but were unable to get back until late that night. Some trucks that were only five miles from here waited for three hours to get back in. The city opened and closed Long Island arteries sporadically. On Wednesday, we were able to get 70% of our fleet out, depending on the timing, by using certain highways and bridges.”

One shipment Freshway had scheduled to arrive in eastern Canada on Wednesday was held up a day because Canada shut the border immediately after the incident, Caridi adds.

Inbound Freight Stuck

Inbound freight for the Hunts Point produce market was delayed while the George Washington Bridge, the major artery from New Jersey to the market, was closed, D'Arrigo says. For about 36 hours, there was little, if any, traffic coming into the market where 55 produce companies do business.

Commuters from New Jersey who didn't spend the night in their offices found hotel rooms, if they were lucky. An intermodal equipment shop operator found a hotel room in Long Island. The next day he drove north of the city, crossing the Hudson at the Tappan Zee Bridge and driving south to New Jersey.

Closure of New York's airports added to the eerie quiet of the normally bustling Hunts Point market. “All air shipments to Hunts Point were unavailable until the airports opened a few days later,” D'Arrigo says. “These might include blackberries from Oregon or asparagus from Peru moving through Miami.”

Except for the first few days after the attack, traffic didn't vary much for Gemini Traffic Sales, a refrigerated LTL carrier in Edison, New Jersey, says Michael Ravallo, vice-president. “We haven't experienced a whole lot of change, although we had some delays in certain areas,” he says. “We're about 35 miles from New York, and we regularly pick up and deliver in the city's five boroughs.”

The day after the attack Gemini operated with a skeletal crew, and two days later, the company operated with 20 people, compared to the usual 30. “We lost volume, but now we're back to normal,” Ravallo says. “We don't do a whole lot in Lower Manhattan, but arteries through Manhattan to other boroughs were closed. It was difficult to get to Staten Island and Long Island, and there were delays in the Bronx.”

Mike Richey, executive vice-president of Stevens Transport in Dallas, Texas, says that his company had eight units in the New York area as the attack took place. Six of those were able to get out of the area by going south through Brooklyn and across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to Staten Island and then across another bridge into New Jersey. The other two trucks were not so lucky; one was caught on Long Island for three days, and the other was stuck in the Bronx for two days.

Drivers came out of the experience all right, but nervous, Richey says. Stevens' receivers are meat distributors near the Hunts Point Meat Market. Drivers were uncomfortable getting stuck in that part of town. Luckily, they had plenty of fuel and money for meals. In addition, Stevens assigned its driver counselors to talk with them at least twice a day.

In the days following the attack, Stevens had to use a circuitous route to reach its receivers. With the George Washington Bridge closed to most traffic, freight had to be routed well north into New York to cross the Hudson at the Tappan Zee Bridge and then back south through Yonkers and the Bronx to the Triborough Bridge to reach receivers. This adds roughly 100 miles and five to six hours to a trip, Richey says. Customers have been understanding about the delays and have been willing to pay for the extra mileage and fuel, he says.

New Yorkers seemed nervous, too, but were determined to keep their spirits high despite collective grief after the attack. They certainly are not unfamiliar with traffic delays. “New York was never famous for light traffic,” D'Arrigo says. “This incident has made a very busy city even busier.”

Tightened security, an immediate result of the terrorist attack, likely will be around for a long time, notes Greg Walsh, fleet maintenance manager for Cream-O-Land Dairy in Florence, New Jersey. People should expect extended delays at airports, sporting events, and anywhere else that large crowds gather. Delivery fleets can expect the same.

“We run 15 to 20 refrigerated trucks per day into Manhattan,” Walsh says. “It's almost two weeks since the terrorist attack, and these routes still take three to four additional hours to complete. That's tough on our drivers. We deliver to a lot of schools in Manhattan, and we are slowed down because of extra security. We also service the commissary at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Entering the base practically requires an act of God.”

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