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Tumino’s Towing tells terrifying tales of rescue during Hurricane Sandy

Some of Tumino’s customers have experienced problems beyond damage to their equipment. Many live in the area and experienced damage to their homes and personal vehicles too. Others were dispatched to the area and got caught in the storm before they could get out.

By CLIFF ABBOTT
The Trucker Staff

11/13/2012

While many businesses are struggling to reopen in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Tumino’s Towing is working around the clock to retrieve and repair vehicles damaged by the storm.

The Ridgefield Park, N.J., company has a fleet of light, medium- and heavy-duty tow trucks dispatched from six locations in the state. “It’s crazy,” said John Tumino, president. “I’ve heard reports of 250,000 cars damaged or destroyed. Hundreds of trucks were damaged, and that’s just at the Port.”

According to Tumino, the majority of calls are to assist owners whose trucks were submerged in saltwater “to the top of the engine or worse.” Some units were rolled over by waves or water currents, and some damaged by other vehicles or storm debris moving in the water. Quite a few calls were to retrieve trailers, some of them loaded, which had simply floated away.

In the simplest flooding cases, draining and refilling the fuel tanks, engine oil and differential lubricant are enough to get the tractor running again. “The problem,” Tumino says, “is that nobody knows what the long-term effects will be. Some drivers will experience problems later, especially if they don’t check wheel seals and any place fluids or grease are supposed to be.”

Several tractor dealers and repair facilities have been without electricity for more than a week, placing an additional burden on the businesses that are open. “Many of our customers are owner-operators who can’t afford to shut down for long,” Tumino explained. “We’re working around the clock, but we can only get to so many.”

Once their vehicles are repaired, many drivers have additional problems to face, according to Tumino. “Most of these guys operate on a pretty slim margin hauling containers in and out of the port,” he explained. “Repair costs hit them hard, and then the ports are damaged, too. Nobody knows how long it might be before they are moving freight again.”

Do-it-yourself drivers who don’t call for road service to repair their equipment are having difficulty finding needed parts and fluids. Tunino thinks those that need to replace equipment won’t be finding any deals, due to the large demand he expects for available used trucks.

Some of Tumino’s customers have experienced problems beyond damage to their equipment. Many live in the area and experienced damage to their homes and personal vehicles too. Others were dispatched to the area and got caught in the storm before they could get out. Tow truck operators have returned to their offices with some amazing stories.

One unfortunate driver, according to Tumino, experienced an ordeal that most truckers never will. Arriving at the port to pick up a load, the driver approached an area covered in shallow water. The driver didn’t realize he was heading directly into the storm surge of the hurricane and watched in horror as the water began covering the hood of his tractor.

The truck was headed downhill and the rising water had not yet covered the trailer tires. “He decided to swim for the trailer,” Tumino said, “figuring to climb inside where it was dry. He was only wearing jeans, but he jumped out the door, made it to the trailer and climbed up inside; but the water was still rising.”

As water poured in, the driver felt the trailer begin move as it floated in the surf. Fearing an overturn in the waves or possibly being swept out to sea, he decided to swim for the shore. It was a tough swim in the wind and waves, but that wasn’t the worst of it “While he was struggling to reach the shore,” Tumino says, “He noticed there were dozens of rats swimming all around him or floating on pieces of debris. The fire department finally pulled him out and took him to a shelter.” 

Two days later, the hapless driver found a room at a local hotel charging $170 per night for a room with no electricity.

It will take time for a return to normal along the New Jersey coast, but the hard-working Tumino’s team is there to lend a hand. The company has a website at www.tuminostowing.com.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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