In Florida, the initial recovery from Hurricane Wilma is getting under way. To help facilitate the efforts, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has extended relief from 49 CFR Parts 390-399, which includes hours-of-service and driver exemptions, to motor carriers providing direct assistance in the emergency. Motor carriers in the states of Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi have received the extension through Nov. 22, and in Texas though Oct. 31.

In Florida’s Monroe County, US-1 was reopened after being closed due to flooding and debris, according to the Florida Emergency Operations Center. And Florida Power & Light today announced that it has restored electrical power to 1.1 million of 3.2 million customers who were without power after Wilma hit. But with traffic lights dark in the affected counties, city driving is still problematic.

Ryder System, which had deployed over 500 trucks and trailers and delivered over 3,000 tons of supplies to the hurricane-afflicted Gulf region, is leveraging its resources for its own recovery after Category 3 Hurricane Wilma swept through its facilities and corporate headquarters in Miami. Ryder was able to reopen its headquarters for business yesterday and hold its scheduled 11 am conference call on third-quarter earnings.

“Almost all facilities [affected by Wilma] are in some form of operation,” said David Bruce, director of corporate communications. “Some are with generator power. There were 10 facilities in South Florida impacted immediately following the hurricane. Two remain with significant operational challenges trying to reopen.”

In a small number of instances, Ryder facilities, although ready to run, are effectively closed because customers are not operational, Bruce noted. “In some locations, we have dedicated facilities supporting [a single] customer—if that customer hasn’t returned to operation, it doesn’t make sense for us to maintain full staff and operations.”

During the conference call, Ryder chairman & CEO Greg Swienton commended employees for their response to the hurricane’s relief efforts to both the public and their fellow employees.

“I think Ryder, appropriately, during times of emergency, has a heart,” Swienton said. “But even more valuable [Ryder] has trucks, and we like to put those into service in supporting relief efforts, charitable organizations, and to get things moving after the impact of the hurricanes.”

No Ryder employee reported being displaced as a result of Wilma. “It’s mostly damage to screen enclosures, fencing, roofing,” said Bruce. “We’ve been blessed with no report of serious injury or loss of life.”

As for local conditions in and around Miami, Bruce reported “there’s still a lot of debris and traffic signals down, signs down, police are manning intersections manually, a lot of intersections are blocked off so you can’t go through them. So we’re using some circuitous routes. It’s difficult to find gas stations that have power and can dispense gas.”

For information posted by the Florida Div. of Emergency Management, go to www.floridadisaster.org.

To view the archive of FleetOwner’s ongoing hurricane news coverage, go to www.fleetowner.com/katrina.