How severe weather events impact the trucking industry

The blizzard that rattled a significant portion of South Dakota in October has highlighted the unique role transportation software can play in mitigating damage to business operations. Freight managers must deal with a variety of external factors on a daily basis. For instance, traffic can have a significant impact on the time it takes for trucks to make deliveries to customers. Similarly, global economic events influence the price of fuel, which ultimately affects the overhead cost of transporting goods across regions.

However, the role of severe weather may have an increasing impact on fleet management operations - especially in the face of global climate change. On Oct. 4, a heavy storm dumped 3 to 4 feet of snow across South Dakota, according to a report from the National Restaurant Association (NRA), which highlighted the impacts of the blizzard on food service operations. As a result, ranchers and farmers throughout the state lost a large number of cattle - 15,000 by the NRA's estimates.

The big problem for the transportation industry is that climate change may make events like this much more common on a yearly basis. According to The Associated Press, a new study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will be released in March 2014, found the increasing prevalence of severe weather will have negative effects on infrastructure, agriculture and the overall well-being of humans.

"We've seen a lot of impacts and they've had consequences," Chris Field, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution and head of the report, told the AP. "And we will see more in the future."

Despite the threats to business operations, fleet managers can invest in advanced logistics software programs as a reliable safeguard against future storms that may affect ground transportation.

Using technology to reroute deliveries during severe weather events
One of the most obvious ways a blizzard or other type of storm can impact truck deliveries is by making previously planned routes inoperable. Excessive snowfall can lead to dangerous highway conditions. As a result, businesses can benefit from routing software programs that make it easier to identify the fastest alternative delivery routes. Dispatching vehicles in the middle of a severe storm carries significant risks. Not only would a fleet manager be putting his or her drivers in danger, but problems associated with stranded trucks often lead to heavy financial costs as well. Instead, companies may want to leverage available technology to keep track of current weather patterns and plan routes accordingly.

Rearranging dispatch plans
Winter Storm Atlas also highlighted the fact that a single snowstorm can have a significant impact on business activity across an entire region. The NRA said many companies in South Dakota that rely on regular shipments, such as restaurants, had to shut their doors anywhere from three days to two weeks because of power outages related to the blizzard.

With access to trucking dispatch software tools, transportation organizations can increase their flexibility and respond to a change of plans without compromising profitability or efficiency. For example, restaurants that close for weeks at a time may need to cancel shipments of ingredients. Without the right communication tools, fleet managers responsible for transporting these goods may end up making unnecessary deliveries that ultimately result in wasted time and money. Technology can make it much easier for businesses to use available resources in the most cost-effective ways possible.

Speeding up charitable activity
The blizzard in South Dakota wasn't all bad news for farmers and businesses. In fact, Farm and Ranch Guide, an agricultural publication, said cattle ranchers from all over the U.S. worked together to set up a Heifers for South Dakota program, in which people have donated cattle to ranchers who experienced significant losses during the storm.

"More than 500 heifers have been donated, and our goal is 1,000," Ty Linger, a Montana rancher who started the fundraising effort, told Farm and Ranch Guide.

Successful cattle donations depend heavily on reliable transportation and fleet management. Trucking software programs can help businesses make charitable donations in a timely manner. As a result, these companies will leave a positive impression on members of the community and ultimately limit the negative impact of severe weather events.