NEW YORK – The scene on West Street in Lower Manhattan was all too familiar yesterday. The road, which runs along the Hudson River, is closed to regular traffic, but is heavily used by emergency vehicles and by trucks carrying debris from Ground Zero.

Ground Zero is the site of last Tuesday’s terrorist attacks. In addition to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, several buildings over a 16-acre area were reduced to ash, chunks of concrete and horribly disfigured steel beams. Burried in the remains are an estimated 5,400 men and women who have been reported missing and are presumed dead. And the number of victims is growing daily as missing persons reports are filed with the city.

According to Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York, about 50,000 tons of debris have been removed from the site and transported, ironically, to Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, which the city shut down in the past year. The twisted steel beams are carted out on flatbeds, and ash, rubble and other debris are carted off in dump trucks. It’s a non-stop caravan of filled trucks heading North on West Street, empty ones heading South.

The majority of the dump trucks traveling West Street are white, though tinted gray from the dust and smoke at Ground Zero. They belong to the New York City Department of Sanitation, which has a street-sweeping facility on West Street, about a mile from Ground Zero.

Even though the department has 5,600 pieces of equipment and is able to move 13,000 tons of residential and industrial refuse, plus recyclable trash, each day, it is not able to do this task alone. The city has contracted some trucking companies to help remove debris, and others are lining up to volunteer.

For example, there’s Arthur Nacirema of Nacirema Industries Inc. He drove up from New Jersey to volunteer, but was told by the city he wasn’t needed yet. He had his truck parked just off West Street, on the corner of Spring Street and Washington Street, near the Dept. of Sanitation’s building.

“I’ve been here for a few hours,” Nacirema told Fleet Owner. “I really want to help so I guess I’ll stick it out.”

According to published reports in several Tri-State – New York, New Jersey and Connecticut – area newspapers, many of the volunteers are used for no more than two hauls before being replaced by others.

But for drivers that have been contracted, Ground Zero has become an everyday part of their lives, with constant trips up West Street to Fresh Kills. John MacLane, a driver for Brooklyn, NY-based Tri-State Dismantling Corp., told Fleet Owner the drive is becoming too regular of a routine.

MacLane has been a part of the removal efforts since they began shortly after the September 11 attacks. The scene inside Ground Zero he describes is worse than anything that has been shown on television.

“Theres a lot of mess, like the concrete and metal, with something like this,” MacLane said while waiting to return to Ground Zero.

Though Giuliani and the rest of New York, as well as the world, is hoping more survivors will be found in the rubble, MacLane, since he has been there first-hand, doesn’t think that will be a reality.

“I don’t think there is a lot of hope for anyone being found alive,” MacLane said. “There is just too much stuff there for anyone to be found alive.”