How Does Hurricane Season Impact Freight?
Hurricane season technically runs from June 1 to November 30, and freight keeps moving throughout. But as the peak of hurricane season approaches - coincidentally enough during peak freight season - it's important to remember how these major storms can throw a wrench into supply chains. Whether shipping through areas susceptible to hurricanes or not, logistics professionals always need to keep an eye on storm development during these months, as storms can have both direct and indirect impacts. On the direct side, a hurricane affects freight primarily by delaying or rerouting movement of ships, trucks and trains in areas that are in a storm's path, or directly damaging freight either while in transit or in storage. This can occur through damage to roads, rails, ports, warehouses, etc., power outages, high winds making travel unsafe, flooding and more. Indirectly, hurricanes can damage raw materials or warehouses taking out a link in supply chains, lead to backups in other areas as freight is rerouted, cause shifts in the supply and demand equation, and lead to redirected capacity and transportation resources - partly due to FEMA contracts and partly voluntarily - to hurricane recovery efforts. As you can see, the impacts of hurricane season on freight can be far reaching, causing anything from delivery delays to higher prices to product - and fuel - scarcity.
How do hurricanes affect transportation?
It's safe to say every mode of freight transportation - aside maybe from oil and gas pipelines if one wants to get technical - is affected by hurricanes, due to some combination of what these storms bring to the table, including
- Heavy rain
- Strong winds
- Storm surge
- General flooding
- Power outages
- Road, rail and port damage/closures
Many of these factors impact multiple transportation modes at once, but taking it one-by-one, trucks at best must slow down if not pause altogether during heavy rains and high winds, and road closures either cause rerouting or stopping to wait for clearance to resume. Trains can be similarly impacted by tracks washing out or flooding and high winds making transit unsafe. Additionally, terminals dealing with power outages or other issues may bring trains to a standstill as well. Like terminals for trains, ports for ships suffering damage may cause cargo to backup at sea or reroute, leading to delays either way. Additionally, freight traveling across the ocean in hurricane-affected areas can face dangerous conditions, leading carriers again to reroute or delay when possible or face potentially catastrophic damages. And across the board, fuel supplies are often affected by hurricanes, which tends to raise prices and potentially cause delays due to scarce supply.
For more on how hurricanes affect transportation, check out our video on the subject:
At InTek Freight & Logistics, we've dealt with a few storms over the years moving freight, and we can help you navigate your supply chain through hurricane season. Just drop us a line and we'll go over your business's specific needs and find the right freight solutions for you during hurricane season and beyond. Rather do a bit more research first? Visit our Learning Center for videos, articles and eBooks on all things freight and logistics.