Communities in the Caribbean and the United States have already gotten their fill of hurricanes for the year. But unfortunately the 2017 hurricane season won’t officially end until November 30. And the storms are disrupting trucking and distribution not just in storm-hit areas, but across the nation and beyond.
There are always fewer trucks on the road after a hurricane.
This is because the trucks that are available to deliver freight after a storm get stuck in a bottleneck. Damage to infrastructure means damage to loading docks. Truck drivers end up waiting in longer-than-usual lines for the remaining docks to open up, and for warehouse workers to unload their freight. These waits can last for hours or even days.
These bottlenecks don’t only affect truck drivers in storm-hit areas. When a hurricane damages a major shipping hub, like Houston, freight can no longer pass through. This causes freight to back up at other warehouses and distribution facilities.
Working through such a backlog can take weeks. In the case of Hurricane Harvey, the storm impacted 10% of all freight transportation nationwide. Unsurprisingly, the situation was even more critical at the local level. The number of total freight loads in Houston fell by 72%.
The other reason there are fewer trucks on the road after a hurricane is because of shifts in how the remaining vehicles are used.
Owners of gravel companies, lumber companies, and other businesses that use large trucks often move their fleets to a storm-hit area after a disaster.
This takes those trucks out of commission for their core businesses. But it’s a great help to communities that need help removing debris, and that are often willing to pay premium prices to attract such businesses to their area.
And during hurricanes and other natural disasters, more trucks are needed to bring emergency relief supplies into affected areas.
On October 12, California governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency in counties affected by wildfires. The declaration triggered hours-of-service waivers for truck drivers freighting supplies into the area to help with recovery efforts.
Hurricanes, Trucking, And Gas prices
Because of Hurricane Harvey, petroleum producers had to shut down 14 refineries on the Gulf Coast. Other facilities had to reduce production. This caused a 15% spike in gas prices nationwide.
Price jumps like this disproportionately affect the trucking industry. Many firms rely on low gas prices to maintain their bottom line.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria also damaged fuel storage terminals in the Caribbean. Petroleum distributors had to reroute fuel away from the region and to the Gulf Coast instead.
Trucking Industry Hit Hard In Puerto Rico
This hurricane season hasn’t only damaged the mainland United States. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. The storm destroyed roads, dams, and bridges, and knocked out almost the entire island’s electrical grid.
According to a representative of Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló, only about 20% of truck drivers have reported back to work since the storm. Even getting in contact with the drivers is a challenge, because the storm knocked out cell service across most of the island.
That’s why the Teamsters union and the AFL-CIO are working together to recruit drivers to travel to Puerto Rico and help distribute supplies. The Teamsters are currently vetting more than 100 drivers who have offered to help.
Are you interested in assisting in-person with recovery efforts for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria? You can learn more at the website for the National Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster.
“Helping our clients get jobs done since 1998.”