Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!



A winter like no other

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
February 20, 2014

The impact of this once in a lifetime winter simply cannot be understated when viewing how it has impacted myriad facets of daily life and freight transportation operations, too, of course.

What Old Man Winter has wrought early in the year looking at metrics like sluggish retail sales and declining truck tonnage is obvious to say the least. And while it will not last forever, its impact remains intact for now anyway.

That has been made evident in commentary by all types of supply chain and freight transportation industry stakeholders, whether they are shippers, carriers of third-party logistics (3PL) services providers. In other words, regardless of the job title, weather does not discriminate.

What’s more, they all agree that with a winter like no other, the subsequent disruptions have been exacerbated in the marketplace as the numerous winter storms have canvassed such wide-ranging areas time after time, rather than a typical winter, which has seen a storm impact a certain area or region, rather than ostensibly entire blanket entire regions of the country at a time. 

In a recent conversation I had with Transplace Senior Vice President, Consulting and Engineering Ben Cubitt, I gained some insight into how this unique winter is providing some unique perspective on how to navigate the not-so-smooth times when it comes to getting through difficult climate challenges i.e. winter.

“These storms have been huge,” he said, “ and as soon as you recover from one, another hits, which impacts both primary and secondary markets, so if Chicago and Indiana are shut down due to weather-related issues, that has an impact on St. Louis, Dallas, and Pennsylvania, because all those trucks that are supposed to be shipping out of Chicago into these other markets have not arrived, which results in less capacity and really has been the story of the winter.”

The second part to the story, he explained, is that the truckload market is in “relative equilibrium,” meaning that most days there are about as many trucks as there are loads. And when these weather-related disruptions come along, the ability for the network to recover quickly is really not there and quickly leads to a tipping point resulting in missed deliveries and missed pick-ups.

So, where does this leave shippers in terms of dealing with the elements and managing supply chains during this most challenging of winters?

The first, and maybe most basic step, Cubitt, noted, is just coming to terms with it, as it is one a one-day or one-market issue, and it is also neither a carrier issue or a transportation planning issue.

“More than those things, it is a network issue,” he said. “This leads to looking for a broader solution. This requires better visibility and better planning and communication with all of your partners. Shippers need to be in better communication with their 3PLs and jointly with carriers to better forecast what is or might be coming up, which markets are going to be impacted and for how long, what is open, and what is shut.”

This network planning can go a few ways in that if affects different modes, like trucking, intermodal, rail, and parcel.

And it requires understanding from a carrier’s side of who is operating on a given day, or if not, how long will they be down, and Cubitt added when they are back to operating, some receivers might not be ready like retailers with stores or those with mall-based locations.

While a distribution center may get its trucks rolling again, they still may not be able to make a delivery because roads are not cleared yet or the receiver’s facility is still digging out from the most recent storm.

“Again, what is really needed is good communication, because no carrier wants to go to a facility that is closed,” he said. “It is really close coordination between the shipper, carrier, and the 3PL to really say ‘what is the plan today?’”

The theme of communication is one that cannot be sounded enough in supply chain and freight transportation circles. And the never-ending winter of 2013-2014 continues to serve as proof of that. While adverse weather cannot be predicted, Cubitt effectively highlights that it can at least be planned for and dealt with efficiently to mitigate the circumstances as best as possible. 

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

During this webcast our presenters will apply the findings of the 23rd Annual Trends & Issues in Transportation and Logistics Study to the world of shipper-carrier decision making. They'll examine the primary aspects that will influence the future direction for shipper-carrier decision-making.

For February, the month for which most recent data is available, the SCI dropped to -1.0 from January’s 2.6, with FTR explaining that the short term positive impact from one-time adjustments for rapidly dropping diesel prices and the suspension of the 2013 motor carriers hours-of-service expires later this year.

Seasonally-adjusted (SA) for-hire truck tonnage in March was up 1.1 percent on the heels of a revised 2.8 percent (from 3.1 percent) February decline, with the SA index at 133.5 (2000=100). This is off 0.3 percent from the all-time high for the SA of 135.8 from January 2015 and is up 5 percent annually.

Intermodal volume was up 8.1 percent annually at 280,016 containers and trailers. This outpaced the week ending April 11 at 270,463 and the week ending April 4 at 271,127. AAR said this tally marks the second highest weekly output it has ever recorded as well as the first time container and trailer traffic was higher than carloads for a one-week period.

Ocean cargo carrier service reliability across the three core East-West trades hit a five-month peak in March with an aggregate on-time performance of 64 percent, according to Carrier Performance Insight, the online schedule reliability tool provided by Drewry Supply Chain Advisors.

Article Topics

Blogs · Trucking · Transplace · All topics

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.


© Copyright 2015 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA