Ice Storm, blizzard, winter storm. Call it what you will, it’s universally known as bad weather.
Trucking is the backbone to the American economy. Without it, commerce would quickly come to a halt and shelves would clear off, without any replenishment in sight. Whether you live in the South and have never seen a speck of snow before, or live in the North East and blizzards are the norm for a several months of the year, we’re all affected when bad weather hits—whether you realize it or not. When you’re in the South but your apples come from the Northeast where they’re experiencing a blizzard, costs will spike and you’ll understand how you’re affected even though the weather in your region might be optimal.
Here’s a list of ways that weather affects freight shipping:
Roads: When roads flood or become far too engrossed in snow for cars to drive on, roads either close or suffer delays. It’s frustrating, we get it, but safety is a priority and freight trucks are sensitive to adverse road conditions, which brings up our next point.
Truck drivability: As mentioned above, trucks are extremely sensitive to road conditions when the weather is unfavorable. Imagine how scary it is to drive a 4-door sedan in a blizzard. Now, imagine driving an 18-wheeler weighing 4 tons with hundreds of thousands of dollars of product in the back. Nerve wrecking, right? Add in poor visibility, poor traction, poor stop time, and the unpredictability of other drivers on the road. Makes for one panic-inducing equation. And not the least bit safe.
Terminals: Much like roads, in extreme weather, terminals either close completely or conduct limited operations. Do remember that terminals only run smoothly with the assistance of all the workers, who also would like to be in the safety of their home when a major storm strikes. Are you seeing a pattern here? Safety, safety, safety—first!
Guarantees: Freight shipping is almost never guaranteed. But, you can opt-in for guaranteed shipping at an additional cost which puts your shipment at the top of a carrier’s priority list. However, when there’s a winter storm a-brewin’, there are absolutely no guarantees, no matter if you paid extra or not.
Capacity limitations: Sometimes a freight truck will get stuck on the highway in the middle of a storm and have to spend the night in a motel off the side of i-95 until the snow clears. This means one less truck equipped for shipping, and that there may not be any available trucks to take on your shipment.
Power outages: It happens. You call the electric company and all they can do is confirm what you already knew—no power. There’s not much that can be done in the freight world without the magic of electricity. Curse you mother nature!
Some carriers are better prepared for storms and crisis moments alike. It’s always smart to ask your freight agent which carrier has the best process for attempting to conduct shipments as normal when a storm hits. That’s the competitive advantage some carriers have honed in on. Like mother always said, plan ahead and get your quote now!