US port, rail service normalizing post hurricane, but I-95 delays persist

US port, rail service normalizing post hurricane, but I-95 delays persist

Wilmington, North Carolina.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, the biggest disruption is for truckers traveling Interstate 95 through the Carolinas. Flooding has shut down most of I-95 in North Carolina, except for a nine-mile stretch. (Above: Wilmington, North Carolina.) Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Ports in South Carolina and Virginia are getting back to normal, including rail service in and out of those markets, and Charlotte’s intermodal terminal is reopened after Hurricane Florence, but truckers are being detoured off Interstate 95 and key arterials within North Carolina to deliver emergency supplies.

The Port of Wilmington has not reopened and may not reopen until Wednesday or later. Otherwise key ports on the Eastern Seaboard are back operating normally.

All terminals at the Port of Charleston reopened Monday. CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway terminals are open, and service began to Inland Port Greer on Monday and Inland Port Dillon on Tuesday. The South Carolina Port Authority dodged a bullet with no serious damage to the terminal, containers, or equipment.

The Port of Virginia is open and intermodal service is operating normally in Norfolk. The Port of Savannah never shut down and service to Charlotte has been restored.

The biggest disruption is for truckers traveling Interstate 95 through the Carolinas. Flooding has shut down most of I-95 in North Carolina, except for a nine-mile stretch. On Tuesday, the South Carolina Department of Transportation closed a 17-mile northbound stretch near Dillon.

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol is urging people to stay off the interstate. Access from Interstate 40 and State Route 74 to Wilmington is shut down too.

Hours-of-service exemption for hurricane relief

Although these delays will add hours onto a truck trip, drivers providing hurricane relief are exempt from hours-of-service regulations. Shippers sending freight over the road through the Carolinas unrelated to hurricane relief will see deliveries take much longer, but there was enough lead time to move up freight flows.

Drivers can divert to Interstate 85 south of Richmond, Virginia, then either head west from Durham, North Carolina, to Interstate 73 in Greensboro or Route 1 south of Raleigh. Each option will add multiple hours.

Truckload spot markets have risen between 15 percent and 25 percent in from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to Richmond, Virginia, or the Carolinas, but so far there has not been any massive surges in rates like after Hurricane Harvey. When that hurricane damaged parts of Houston and southeastern Texas, some truckload prices grew as high as $6 per mile to $8 per mile, totaling more than $10,000 on some 1,200 mile-plus hauls.

DAT Solutions told JOC.com that some truckload rates have climbed to $4 per mile range but won’t go as high as $6 per mile.

“I don’t see this being anything like Harvey,” said DAT industry analyst Mark Montague. “There was a lot of time for FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] to stage freight in Richmond and Charlotte. At first, there was talk that the hurricane would make landfall on Thursday, but it didn’t until Friday so I think that extra time helped everyone get ready,” he said.

The entire story hasn’t been written, though, until access is restored to Wilmington, North Carolina. DAT market analyst Peggy Dorf expects spot market rates to climb a day or two after those roadways reopen.

Contact Ari Ashe at ari.ashe@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter at: @arijashe.