In the early hours of Thursday, August 27th, Hurricane Laura hit the eastern Gulf Coast of the United States. It first hit land in Louisiana, eventually touching Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama. A category 4 hurricane, Laura has winds reaching 150 MPH but not quite reaching the 156 MPH needed to be a category 5 like Katrina.
For truckers, this brings two changes to driving in the affected states: closures and regulation suspensions.
Closures Near the Gulf
The strongest impact of closure for truckers is that of major highways and freeways.
As of Thursday afternoon, I-10 is closed on the Louisiana side, stretching from the Texas border to the Atchafalaya Basin, a ways east of Lafayette. The Louisiana portion of I-10 is still open on the eastern portion of the state, approaching Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Likewise, all of I-10 is open on the Texan side, but officials in both states say that to cross from one state to the other, all drivers are told to take I-20 as the main method of traffic flow.
Beyond the roadway connecting Louisiana and Texas, many truck stops are affected. Below is the list of truck stops completely shut down as a result of Hurricane Laura:
- Love’s in Boyce, Louisiana.
- Love’s in Iowa, Louisiana.
- Love’s in Vinton, Louisiana.
- TravelCenters of America in Lafayette, Louisiana.
- Petro in Egan, Louisiana.
- Petro in Beaumont, Texas.
- Both Pilot truck stops in Orange, Texas.
- Pilot in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
- Pilot in Bunkie, Louisiana.
Some truck stops are still operating but in a limited capacity:
- Love’s in Beaumont, Texas: fueling and store remain open.
- Love’s in Duson, Louisiana: store remains open.
- TravelCenters of America in Baytown, Texas: service shop still open but only for essential maintenance.
State of Emergency Declaration
As with the coronavirus, the FMCSA has declared a State of Emergency regarding Hurricane Laura relief efforts.
The declaration is much like the one for the COVID-19 pandemic. Truckers hauling listed supplies (which in this case includes “fuel, equipment, goods, and persons”) to the affected four states obtain an emergency exemption from certain regulations within the transportation industry.
The declaration is intended to increase shipments to the affected areas without increasing safety hazards by too much. As such, many regulations such as driving while drug-free and with insurance are still required.
For more information regarding the State of Emergency, read the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s declaration. This State of Emergency exemption lasts until the end of the emergency or until September 23rd, 2020, but like with the coronavirus pandemic, the FMCSA can extend the suspension of particular regulations if required.
The State of Emergency also allows exemptions regarding Hurricane Marco, but as a category 1 hurricane and half the wind speed of Laura, the need for supplies is not as dire.
While 2020 may seem like an especially chaotic year, it is important to remember that the Gulf of Mexico has hurricanes every year, so this is par for the course even if there were no pandemic.
If you are a trucker that needs to deliver to Louisiana or Florida by way of western states, remember that for the time being I-10 is not a through method of travel. For some, it may be a calculated decision to avoid the southeastern region altogether for the time being, provided delivery scheduling permits.
Whatever your case is in traveling until the states near the Gulf of Mexico make a full recovery, remember to always stay safe.