Winter Storm Hercules and the Effect on the Trucking Supply Chain

Posted : 03/13/14 9:49 AM

The winter of 2013-2014 has resulted in traffic snarls and delays in shipments across the nation. Trucking companies are closing terminals, restricting pickups, and forecasting delivery problems in the areas hardest hit by the freezing storm. Further complicating the issue of the delivery of freight, terminals and highways have closed during the worst of the storms. Tom Connery, executive vice president and chief operating officer of NEMF in Elizabeth, NJ advised, “We decided yesterday to close our Northeastern terminals.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed the New York State Thruway from the Bronx to Albany due to Hercules. The Interstate highway reopened to commercial traffic later, but other roads, including Interstate 84 in New England, were temporarily closed. Networks across the Northeast had shutdowns, restrictions, and delays as the snow, ice, and record cold temperatures and high winds battered the areas. Winter storms in the Northeastern US aren’t unexpected, and areas west of Chicago were not as impacted. While the Northeast is better equipped and prepared to handle major storms (even those as devastating as Super Storm Sandy) than other areas, major storms still cause widespread devastation, loss of revenue, and disruptions to supply chains. Even with the preparations in place to deal with the winter weather, shippers are experiencing delays as their customers dig out, miss work, close their businesses, and wait out the storm before getting back to normal schedules. Even airlines, railways and freight are affected by the storms. Flight cancellations caused delays across the country, from Washington, DC to Denver. Terminal gates at ports in New York and New Jersey closed, but gave truckers additional time to load containers before experiencing demurrage charges when they reopened. Shippers like UPS and Fed Ex saw significant disruptions to their deliveries, resulting in unavoidable delays, especially in New York and New Jersey. Sandy Adkins, a spokesperson for the fourth-largest LTL operator, NEMF, stated “There is a ripple effect that is created when there is a severe weather event, your network has to be agile enough to accommodate that.” Connery said the impact “is not confined to your geographic footprint. We had calls from people in Miami, people on the West Coast, asking ‘is my shipment going out for delivery today?’ After a major winter storm, it usually takes two days before business is back to normal,” he said, “It’s not the next day.” With the delays, headaches, frustrations, and loss of revenue and services, shippers across the country will be glad to see the first signs of spring, and the last of storms like winter storm Hercules.