Driver says trucking job numbers at Port of Gulfport inflated

A full-time truck driver at the port, Mark Whetstine, said the number of trucking jobs being counted at the port is seriously inflated.Port executives claimed 1,363 trucking jobs before Hurricane Katrina, in an action plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for grant money being used to create jobs. Trucking jobs were included under the category “others” in the port’s post-Katrina job numbers. The port listed 812 jobs under “others.”

The most recent job numbers lump in truckers with vendors, with a total of 602 jobs listed in that category Whetstine estimates 10 to 15 trucks work the port daily, with other truck drivers in and out for shorter periods of time. Most of those drivers do not live on the Coast, Whetstine said, or even in Mississippi. If they were not hauling cheese from Gulfport to New Orleans, they would be hauling some other load for one of the big, out-of-state trucking firms that do business at the port.
“What do they consider a trucking job?” he said. “That’s the thing.”

Only a few of the trucking companies that work out of the port are based in Mississippi.Colonial Freight Systems, a Gulfport company, has 25 to 30 drivers who serve the port. “That’s our bread and butter,” said Colonial agent Susan McBride. She said eight of her drivers live in one of the six Coastal counties, and the others are scattered along the route.Fayard Fast Freight, also based in Gulfport, has 10 to 15 drivers who work locally, including at the port, transportation director Jerry Talton said.

He said two to three drivers a day usually work a full day at the port, depending on whether a ship is docked.If the port plans to count hundreds of truck-driving jobs as part of the total jobs its expanded West Pier will create, there could be a problem.According to HUD, out-of-state truckers would not meet the economic-benefit requirements, tied to the federal funding, for job creation on the Coast.

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