Extreme Weather Events and Their Impact on Logistics

Climate change affects everyone. The trucking industry bears the brunt of many extreme weather events in North America. It’s not only the postman who has the motto “rain, sleet or snow…” Shippers expect their transportation providers to deliver no matter the weather conditions. Climate change and extreme weather events are impacting the transportation industry in a drastic and negative way.

The Polar Vortex and Other Winter Events are Costly

We all experienced “The Polar Vortex” of 2013/14 and the 2014/15 season is not shaping up to be any better. Right now, thousands of trucks are either stuck or being re-routed around the Buffalo area, a major border crossing for freight coming into Canada. The consequences of these extreme weather events are costly for transportation providers. Here are some of the costs:


Trucks that can’t pass a particular area have to be re-routed, sometimes hundreds of miles. In the Buffalo example, trucks that would have normally crossed the border in Niagara Falls or Fort Erie have to be re-routed to Detroit! This adds about 10 hours to the driving time and almost 1000 miles! This cost is huge and what is a trucking company to do?

Waiting out the Storm

The other option for avoiding a storm is to wait it out. In the current situation, the highway has already been closed down for a few days and will probably be at least a week before traffic moves normally. If you’re a trucking company and you choose to wait it out the cost implication can be massive. The driver still has to be paid for the days that he’s not driving. Plus, if the shipment requires heat, then the reefer must be kept fueled and running. This option could cost thousands of dollars as well.

Best Practises for Extreme Weather Events

There are actions you can take to help minimize the impact of extreme weather events in trucking. Here are a few examples:

Be ready and pre-plan.

As a shipper you should do an assessment of where your key suppliers/customers are and review impacts of extreme weather events and perhaps consider alternate sources of supply, increased inventory, delaying orders, etc. This will help you minimize supply chain disruptions.

Monitor Weather Conditions

Keep up to date on weather forecasts and work that information into your ordering cycle. If you’re in Canada and have a supplier south of Buffalo, you should be watching the weather to plan your replenishment cycle. Another example would be in California where the transportation route would take the shipment over the Rocky Mountains. Passes are often closed due to extreme winter weather.

Work with Your Transportation Provider

A trucking company can’t be expected to absorb all of these extreme weather events as a “cost of business” on their own. These days with tight capacity and a driver shortage; a strong relationship with your carriers is extremely important. Working with them through assessorial charges to share the cost of unexpected and extreme weather events is just good business and will pay off in the long run in more equipment, fair prices and great working partnership.