“I do know they were asking for food and showers.e_SFlbWe told the contractor that you need to meet the terms of the contract.” Sherri LeBas, state Department of Transportation secretary
A shortage of showers and food for some bus drivers hired for Hurricane Isaac was clearly the responsibility of a Maryland firm hired by the state, Transportation Secretary Sherri LeBas said.
“There is room for improvement,” LeBas said. “We will be working with the contractor.”
The firm, TMS Logistics, of Sandy Spring, Md., provided 293 commercial coaches and other vehicles to aid the state in evacuating residents before and after the storm rolled into south Louisiana on Aug. 28.
However, some drivers complained about the lack of food and showers at various locations, including staging areas in Baton Rouge.
“I do know they were asking for food and showers,” LeBas said in an interview Tuesday.
“We told the contractor that you need to meet the terms of the contract,” she said.
DOTD provided a shower and bath mobile system at its Baton Rouge location for drivers, said Jodi Conachen, director of communications for the agency.
DOTD officials said they plan to seek reimbursement for the assistance. How much that will be is unclear.
TMS General Manager Steven Carney said he heard there were complaints. “We have been made aware that some locations needed those resources,” Carney said.
He said arrangements were made with hotels for lodging and some drivers were sent to truck stops with showers.
The coaches were part of the state’s response before, during and after the storm.
Carney said 293 coaches, including paratransit vehicles for the handicapped, gathered Aug. 26 at Zephyr Field in Metairie, in keeping with the state’s emergency plan.
The coaches were used initially to transport people to LSU and other locations in Baton Rouge and Hammond and to provide a shuttle service from a parking area at LSU at Alexandria to a shelter in that central Louisiana city.
As the route of the storm became more apparent, buses were placed in staging areas in Baton Rouge, Lakes Charles, Alexandria, Lafayette, Metairie and Carville to return to coastal areas.
LeBas said about 325 residents were evacuated before the storm.
She said about 3,000 were evacuated from the hard-hit LaPlace area and elsewhere using 66 coaches and four paratransit vehicles.
“It was a tremendous, tremendous effort,” LeBas said.
However, some drivers complained of lack of food at staging areas in Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Shreveport; lack of accommodations after a late-night drive from Metairie to Alexandria; and a shortage of information on why drivers were idled for long periods.
TMS calls itself a worldwide leader of transportation solutions, including evacuations for state governments.
According to the state’s contract with TMS, the firm’s responsibility includes food, lodging, showers and incidentals for vehicle drivers. In addition, the company is supposed to advise drivers in writing that the state of Louisiana is not responsible for providing them fuel, lodging, food, showers or incidentals.
The state is supposed to pay about $732,000 per day for the buses.