American Trucker | Hurricane Harvey will Unbalance Freight Flows for a While

09.01.17 | Noël Perry,

More than merely delaying and marooning trucks, severe weather can disrupt supply chains and the truck circuits that serve them.

Harvey is still winding down along the Texas Gulf Coast, leaving a path of flooding, destruction, and death in its wake. While transportation experts historically had to wait weeks or months after a major weather event to measure the effects on trucking, thanks to real-time data we can increasingly follow developments in real time.

Here’s what the data from the full state of Texas tells us. Some of it’s expected, but there are surprises too.

First off, movements into the state decreased in the week prior to the storm, down almost 20%.

This is likely due to the sensible fear of getting stuck in the region, or concern that normal supplies would not move during the storm, leading to excess inventory. But this pattern reversed during the first several days of the storm as emergency supplies began moving.

Still, with the worsening of the storm’s effects, inbound volumes are down again.

Outbound moves were little-affected in the week prior, but plummeted when the storm hit - that is, nobody is building or manufacturing anything along the Gulf region right now.

Early in the storm, there were two days of aggressive outbound moves in dry van, when people seemed to realize it was now or never. But currently loads are very hard to come by. As a result, outbound prices have fallen, down 16% overall for the last week.

This is not the case with inbound freight. Prices are up by 25%, heading into Texas. Freight professionals understand the imbalance issue and are working hard to ensure they aren’t running at a loss. In other words: “If you want me to head into Texas, where I won’t find any backhaul, it’ll cost you.”

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