Storage is an effective second use for van trailers, which act as long sheds on wheels that can be taken wherever they're needed. One place is Joplin, where a huge tornado recently devastated a large part of the city in southwestern Missouri.

Trucking companies have taken trailers there, where they're used to house food, clothing, medical supplies and other goods valuable to victims. As in past disasters, refrigerated trailers store perishable commodities, and become morgues to house victims' remains.

Joplin-based Con-way Truckload is supplying empty trailers for storage, but is calling for more. Randy Cornell, vice president of maintenance, said that as of Friday morning, Con-way was short 15-20 trailers. Companies interested in loaning a trailer for use in relief efforts should contact Cornell at 417-623-5229, extension 5737.

Last week, Prime Inc. sent two 53-foot refrigerated trailers to Joplin filled with food, water, clothing and supplies for victims of the devastating tornado. All of the supplies were donated by Prime and the community of Springfield, Mo., where the carrier is headquartered.

Dozens of Prime associates have stepped up to help the victims. A chef within the organization is on site with the American Red Cross Joplin preparing food for disaster victims and volunteers. Prime says its employees and president, Robert Low, have also contributed over $10,000 for food and supplies to the local Red Cross.

In addition, Prime is supplying water to Freeman Hospital in Joplin, the only standing hospital in the area. Because there is no running water in the area, Prime is using its tanker trailers to pressurize the water to get it pumped to the hospital while also transporting water from a nearby city.

"We are only doing our part," Low said. "We have business interest on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I vividly recall the devastation left there in the wake of [Hurricane] Katrina and how important and appreciated the relief efforts were to our 1,100 Biloxi associates whose homes and personal belongings were destroyed.

"Joplin is reminiscent of that same devastation; our hearts go out to all the people affected. It's our chance to do for others what others did for us."