Hurricane Sandy could disrupt shipping across the nation next week, forcing trucking companies to alter routes on the East Coast and delaying freight delivery.
As the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic ports batten down their hatches, motor carriers and truck drivers are making contigency plans for what could be a fierce storm.
“From a purely freight perspective, Hurricane Sandy threatens supply chains — not just in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast where she is expected to hit, but nationwide,” said Tucker Co. Worldwide, a freight broker in Cherry Hill, N.J.
“Complicating things is that we’re beginning ‘peak’ trucking season and end-of month,” the company said in a statement Friday. Tucker advised customers to advance shipping plans and prebook trucks when possible to ensure capacity.
A spokesperson for the company said carriers are keeping an eye on the storm, "but there is no major shift (of equipment) from the area to other parts of the country."
A. Duie Pyle, a less-than-truckload carrier with headquarters in West Chester, Pa., just west of Philadelphia, is readying for the storm using plans prepared for Hurricane Irene in 2011 and snow storms.
"We will attempt to operate to the best of our ability with the safety of our employees in mind," a spokesperson said. "Because the exact path of the storm is unknown at this time, we will be sending out an alert to our customers on Monday with an update."
There may be an influx of trucks in some areas as federal and state authorities prepare staging areas for relief efforts following the storm.
The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy could be worse than storm itself, based on past experience. Even if Sandy blows through quickly, the hurricane could leave damage that would delay shipping for days, closing roads and knocking out power, preventing all but emergency deliveries. Flooding could follow the storm.
“We are asking all motorists and truckers to use approporiate caution and common sense,” American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves said Friday.
Not one storm but two are headed for the Mid-Atlantic-to-Northeast region, he noted, the hurricane and a possible early winter storm accompanying a cold front.
In addition to drenching rain and high winds, areas inland from the coast could be hit with snow early next week, making travel even more difficult and dangerous.
The National Weather Service gives Hurricane Sandy a 90 percent chance of landing somewhere on the U.S. East Coast, from the Mid-Atlantic to New England.
The storm could be accompanied by winds reaching up to 70 miles per hour at times, with heavy rain — as much as 10 inches — where it makes landfall.
When the hurricane hits the colder weather system moving in from the West, heavy snow could result in the mountains of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.
“There’s no delivery, no errand that is worth putting yourself or others in danger,” Graves said. “If you’re advised to avoid an area or evacuate, do so quickly.”