The Weather Effect

What’s Snow Got to Do With It?

A few years ago,

my husband and I were heading to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a much-needed vacation with our two small children. We had a cooler full of cold beverages, our swimsuits packed, and two sleeping kids in the backseats when we could no longer ignore reports of that hurricane bearing down on the gulf. Yeah, we’d known there was the possibility, but ever the optimists, we had driven in that direction anyway, hoping the hurricane would pass Gulf Shores by. But as we drove south, it became more and more clear–the hurricane wasn’t going to miss Gulf Shores.

So we called the rental agency, used our traveler’s insurance, and headed towards Gatlinburg instead. It turned out to be a nice vacation, but it wasn’t what we’d planned.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever sat in the airport with your carry-on tucked between your feet and the bar when your phone buzzes with the unwelcome news that your flight’s been delayed, or packed your bags and summoned an Uber when your phone flashes with a giant group text that the conference you are attending has been postponed, or planned a long, much-needed vacation with your family to have it cancelled because of bad weather (snow storms, hurricanes, tornados, heatwaves, floods, landslides, fires) in another part of the country?

Of course you have. It happens to everyone.

Bad or unexpected weather events.

These kinds of cancellations due to extreme weather events often happen in logistics too. And they cause a multitude of problems culminating in limited truck capacity, late pickups and deliveries, and skyrocketing rates.

And unfortunately, extreme weather events, due to climate change, are becoming more frequent with each passing year. That’s why it’s important for manufacturers to understand the impact extreme weather can have on your supply chain and plan in advance.

How does weather adversely affect your supply chain?

It’s simple really. Most domestic trucking companies operate in a hub and spoke type of network. So trucks in the hub have outbound freight that drive them away from their home base. In order to get back home (and to make some money doing so), these same trucks need inbound freight. These runs out from the hub and back in can be fairly predictable. And that means freight brokers are able to create freight networks, contract freight, and stabilize rates for manufacturers like you.

It’s a great arrangement and very beneficial for shippers but there’s not a lot of slack for things to go wrong.

So when an ice storm shuts down the northeast or a hurricane slams the gulf coast, things can get chaotic pretty quickly. And unfortunately, there’s a ripple effect because bad weather in one area of the country can prevent a truck from following it’s normal schedule (remember that hub and spoke). This one disruption can upend multiple freight networks.

Here’s how: Let’s say you’re in Texas. You might have a hard time understanding why you can’t get a truck when it’s 80 degrees and sunny outside your manufacturing facility. Well, the problem isn’t the Texas weather. It’s that three-day snow and ice-storm ravaging the midwest where all the trucks with outbound freight to Texas are stuck.

And it doesn’t stop there. Because this weather disruption can continue to affect the supply chain for weeks or even months. After all, that backlog freight stuck in the midwest? It still has to move eventually. And when weather conditions improve, it will be shipped along with all the freight that’s been created in the meantime which means truck capacity is going to remain tight and rates are going to remain elevated.

What can you do?

Well, you can’t control the weather, can you? Neither can we. But if you work with a freight broker like AM Transport, you’ll be working with the best carriers in the logistics business. We’ve been helping manufacturers like you for 33 years, and we have relationships with carriers and facilities all along the supply chain, so when extreme weather occurs, we’ve got the connections, the technology, and the knowledge to help you weather the storms.