Jet Express, Others Join Forces to Deliver Water to Flint, Mich.

Jet Express Inc.
This story appears in the Feb. 1 print edition of Transport Topics.

A number of trucking companies have announced plans to deliver tens of thousands of bottles of water to residents in Flint, Michigan, to help assist that community in alleviating the water crisis there.

Jet Express Inc., which is based in Dayton, Ohio, is leading the campaign, raising donations of more than 17,000 bottles of water on just the first day after its plea for help, according to its president, Kevin Burch.

Burch said he hopes to roll into the city Feb. 1 with a trailer carrying up to 40,000 bottles of water.

“In today’s world, how do we let a city that used to be thriving, culture-wise, with theaters and art institutes to deteriorate to the point that there’s no water to drink, bathe or wash their clothes?” asked Burch, who grew up in Flint and got his first trucking job there as a third-shift dispatcher in 1973. “How disgusting is it for Michigan, with the Great Lakes and more fresh water than any other place in the world? The water issues up there are just terrible.”

Owner-operators have agreed to donate their time and trucks to the effort, and several local companies also are participating. They include Dayton Freight Lines, which ranks No. 64 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers, Englewood Truck Towing and Recovery, No. 95 Martin Transportation Systems and Bob Sumerel Tire & Service.

In addition, Pottle’s Transportation will deliver a load of bottled water, said President Barry Pottle.

“What I like about this is that trucking is the common thread,” said Burch, who is also first vice chairman of American Trucking Associations. “We’re all in to get the job done no matter what the need is. It’s really refreshing. This is a good example of trucking moving America forward.”

Other companies that announced their participation include PepsiCo Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Coca-Cola Co., and Nestlé Waters North America Inc., which is a unit of Nestlé USA. They will collectively donate water to meet the daily needs of more than 10,000 schoolchildren for the rest of the year. That translates to 176 truckloads, or up to 6.5 million bottles of water, the companies said in a joint statement.

PepsiCo., Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola Co. and Nestlé USA rank Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 36, respectively, on TT’s Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

Flint was under state management when it disconnected from Detroit’s water supply and began using the Flint River to save money. State regulators failed to ensure the new water was treated properly, which led to lead from pipes leaching into the supply.

The governor’s office said it could cost up to $55 million to repair what officials have estimated are 15,000 damaged lead service lines leading from water mains to homes and other buildings.

“At Wal¬Mart, we take pride in using our strengths to help communities like Flint during times of crisis, as we’ve done around the world in times of need,” said spokesman Dan Bartlett, adding that Wal-Mart’s contributions go back to July, when the retailer shipped 14 trucks of water, or 504,000 bottles, and 1,792 water filters to the Flint.

Coca-Cola has donated nearly 78,720 bottles of Dasani to local food banks and foundations and to about 40 associates who live in the affected area. Nestlé Waters has sent five truckloads, or more than 190,000 bottles, since October.

“We are committed to supporting Wal-Mart and other groups in water relief efforts for the Flint community,” Coca-Cola spokeswoman Lori George Billingsley said. “This critical initiative to provide bottled water to the two Flint school districts builds on our heritage of supporting disaster relief work around the world.”

Meanwhile, PepsiCo has donated almost 95,000 bottles of water to Flint and the families of the company’s employees over the past four months.

“Nestlé Waters is proud to team up with Wal-Mart to expand our ongoing work to provide clean, safe bottled water for Flint residents,” said Cameron Lorrain, plant manager for the Michigan-based Ice Mountain and Nestlé Pure Life brand operations. “We will continue to work in partnership with other companies, local officials and relief organizations to ensure that families in Flint have access to a steady supply of safe drinking water.”

Apart from the water crisis, Flint has had some hard times due to cutbacks in the auto industry, and the city’s population has declined by more than 100,000 over recent decades. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the population of Flint at 99,000 — some 29,000 of whom are school age — compared with 9.91 million for the state.

“Unfortunately, the people left there are mostly retirees and older people,” Burch said.