Fleet owners that specialize in transporting fuel to homes, businesses and utilities companies have good reason to rely on technology such as route optimization software during harsh winter weather. Trucking is a vital element of a large number of industries, but it is especially important in the energy sector. People depend heavily on the regular availability of supplies such as propane or natural gas to stay warm during extended periods of cold temperatures. Without these products, many businesses may not be able to complete their daily tasks. As a result, energy distributors must invest in tools that allow their shipping schedules to be more efficient, reliable and consistent. These companies simply can't afford to have weather interrupt their deliveries.
Natural gas prices expected to soar amid growing demand
This winter has provided an especially valuable example of the benefits of logistics software for small and midsize fleet owners. Several regions throughout the U.S. have experienced strong winter storms in the past month that have led to major snowfalls and ice covers that affect the safety of highways and streets. Polar vortices in the Midwest and on the East Coast have also presented challenges for transportation organizations. Meanwhile, the weather has had a significant impact on demand for natural gas and other forms of energy. According to The Wall Street Journal, futures for natural gas climbed roughly 10 percent in early February under the expectation that a continuation of current cold weather patterns will lead to more shipments in the coming weeks. The newspaper said residents in cities affected by these storms have used an excessive amount of gas to keep their homes warm. Meteorologists have anticipated abnormally cold temperatures may persist in some areas in March, meaning the demand for fast, reliable energy shipments will continue for quite some time. This has caused futures for natural gas deliveries to reach a four-year high of nearly $5.57 per million British thermal units.
Suppliers struggling to meet propane demand, too
Residents and business owners throughout the Midwest have been especially sensitive to the effects of winter weather on gas supplies. A recent article from the agriculture industry publicationFarm Futures reported that many people are experiencing a propane shortage as a result of an inability of suppliers to meet current demand.
"The recent propane supply shortage and price increases are causing hardship for the many rural Iowa families that use propane to heat their homes," U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.
The website cited data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) that found residential propane prices in the Midwest have reached $4.20 per gallon, which is nearly $2 more than it was in early January. This dramatic change has led organizations such as the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) to investigate the causes. Specifically, the organization will examine existing transportation infrastructure. Various pipelines in the region have been shut down recently, leaving it up to ground transportation firms to shoulder the burden of this rapid increase in demand.
"Measures must be taken to ensure that the proper infrastructure is available to move propane from large national storage facilities to local propane retailers, especially in the winter," representatives from PERC stated.
Logistics software improves consistency of deliveries
Taking advantage of the conveniences offered by direct route software will come as a major advantage to any fuel supply operation. Improving the efficiency of ground shipments requires a great deal of planning, and automated technology can make this process easier for smaller firms struggling to balance their available resources. These tools will also continue to be useful outside of winter, as well as in other parts of the country. The Texas Tribune recently reported that water shortages in the West may soon affect hydraulic fracturing processes that have been responsible for the nation's recent natural gas boom. Such an event would likely lead to an increase in fuel prices, which will make it even more necessary for fleet owners find new ways to save costs.
With route optimization software, businesses not only avoid obstacles from winter weather, but they also uncover opportunities to conserve fuel use by making more efficient use of time spent delivering products.