Blizzard Freezes Trucking in Pennsylvania

Blizzard Freezes Trucking in Pennsylvania

The second major snowstorm to hit the Mid-Atlantic region in a week is paralyzing traffic in Pennsylvania, a hub state for freight moving to and from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell ordered several Interstate highways shut down Wednesday afternoon, as high gusting winds whipped snow into a blizzard.

Interstates 76, 78, 83, 176, 476, 676 and PA 581 are closed, along with part of I-81.

The state imposed a 45 mph speed limit and banned oversize, overweight trucks and tandem trailers and doubles from Interstates and expressways.

The governor warned against unnecessary travel.

“For your safety, do not drive,” said Rendell. “You will risk your life and, potentially, the lives of others if you get stuck on highways or any road.”

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings for several counties in Pennsylvania. “Visibility is at or near zero” on many roads, the governor said.

I-81, a major truck route connecting the mid-South with the Northeast and Canada, is closed from the Pennsylvania border with Maryland to I-80.

Many trucking companies had already restricted operations in Pennsylvania by Wednesday morning as the storm hit the state. UPS Freight shut down its mini-hubs in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and York, Pa.

Those closures in Pennsylvania forced the less-than-truckload carrier to shut its Richmond, Va., hub as well. Freight was shunted south to mini-hubs in Charlotte, N.C., and Gaffney, S.C.

Regional LTL carrier Pitt Ohio stopped sending trucks into Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as New Jersey, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia.

“Shipments picked up today destined for these markets will be delayed,” the Pittsburgh-based company said on its Web site.

Ward Trucking, another Pennsylvania-based LTL carrier, closed terminals in Altoona, Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, Milton, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton.

Ward also closed centers in Chicago and Baltimore, Md., and Syracuse and Newburgh, N.Y. “Cincinnati and Columbus are running at 50 percent and Cleveland is running at 70 percent,” the Altoona company said on its Web site.

Truckload carriers, with fewer facilities and larger trucks, were finding it somewhat easier to weather the storm.

Trucks were still rolling at Milton, Pa.-based Watsontown Trucking this afternoon, but field operations manager Ed Ferguson said the carrier is watching road conditions closely. “We’ve had guys coming in, and they just want to get home.”

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com.