Hurricanes: Local Landfall, Nationwide Impact on Freight

Hurricanes Impact Trucking Industry

Hurricane season is forcefully upon us – from Irma to Harvey and many tropical storms in between – the impact of these hazardous storms has left cities decimated, and the business industries impacted by those storms struggling to keep up with the supply and demand of their services.

One industry in particular that has faced many challenges during this hurricane season is the trucking industry. Lindsey Allen, an employee at Acadian Industrial Textiles (AIT), has been working on the shipping logistics for the deliveries of our products for several years. Her role involves customer service, communication and beyond. This hurricane season Allen has been in direct contact with our customers, as well as the carriers and ports, understanding and realizing the effects of how these storms have changed the way AIT receives and sends out its fabrics.

A specific example of the impact on inbound services that Allen describes is the container deliveries into the Savannah port. Because the AIT warehouse is located in Atlanta, the majority of our shipments come in through this port. Before the storm ever hit, we placed an order for four containers of popular materials in preparation for the influx of demand, knowing the weather would potentially slow arrival times. “Normally, we wouldn’t bring four containers at a given time, but because of anticipated repairs and the weather – we needed more materials,” explains Allen. A typical turnaround for a shipment landing in Savannah then onto the AIT warehouse usually takes a week. However, because of the storms – we’ve seen week-long delays.

As for outbound services, the timing of the hurricanes created a perfect storm for the demand of trucks and truck drivers throughout the country. Technically this is harvest season, so many drivers shift gears and move towards those areas of service. Many shipments to the ports on the Gulf were re-routed to Savannah’s port because of Harvey. These re-routes created a larger than expected influx of containers with a limited number of trucks to deliver out those supplies, adding to the already delayed shipments from back orders and flooded roads.

Allen goes on to explain that, “As long as we have electricity, we can continue to ship out to our customers.” However, that promise of delivery comes at the price of increased rates from carriers and endless hours of communication to our valued customers across the country, describing the current situation in the trucking industry. “We’ve done our best at educating customers about stock status, shipments and setting expectations for orders upfront so that our customers can explain it to their customers.”

As for an insider’s tip for our customers producing tarps – despite the high demand for drivers and delivery trucks in general, there are predictions that there may be an increased need for trucks that haul debris in Texas and Florida as the repair and rebuilding process begins. For some of our customers, this may lead to new business opportunities: an increased need for covers for the trucks that might wear through their tarp fabric quicker, trucks that don’t have covers that might need them now, etc.

Moving forward, the impact we’ve seen in the trucking industry leaves us wondering if there is a solution to better prepare your customers, our service industry, for hurricane season?

“It’s hard to predict weather – the routes of the hurricanes can change at any time,” says Allen. “The problem with stocking up is you can sit on a lot of fabric. The real questions to ask are: How do you run your business? Do you have room to stock extra fabric?”

If the answer is yes, then do what we do and order materials in advance of the storm. If the answer is no, then be patient and understand the trials and tribulations of our industry. As your fabric material supplier, we will continue to stay prepared for impending seasonal changes and keep the lines of communication clear. “Do not be afraid to ask questions. Call us. As far as I know, most of the service is back up and running,” explains Allen.