It's not always possible to be fully prepared for adverse weather conditions as a fleet owner, but advanced transportation management software will go a long way toward mitigating any potentially damaging consequences.
Most organizations in the U.S. have plenty of experience managing fleets of all sizes during cold winter seasons. Highways in the Midwest and Northeast are known for extended periods of icy conditions with poor visibility. As a result, most freight businesses are well aware of the steps they need to take to equip their vehicles to perform safely and efficiently amid these obstacles. However, it's managers in places such as the South who may lack the necessary infrastructure or who may not be as fully prepared for even minor weather-related events during the winter.
Snow wreaks havoc on Atlanta highways
According to The New York Times, a relatively light snowstorm in the Atlanta region recently had a bigger-than-anticipated effect on local roadways. Commuters, freight carriers and other motorists ended up being stuck in traffic jams for nearly 12 hours because of ice accumulation on highway systems such as Atlanta's Downtown Connector, which offers a direct path from the suburbs to the center of the city. The newspaper reported that Mayor Kasim Reed and Gov. Nathan Deal said the storm was originally forecast to only brush the southern region of the city, making it seem unnecessary to close roadways or salt the highways in anticipation.
"We can never promise that we will always be correct when it comes to deciding what Mother Nature will do," Deal said.
Conor Sen, a portfolio manager at the Atlanta-based New River Investments, pointed out in The Atlantic that unpreparedness for the weather isn't the only issue that exacerbated what amounted to a relatively minor snowfall. He said the population in the Atlanta region has doubled in the past 45 years, with a large concentration of those people living in the suburbs. This naturally leads to congestion on major roadways, even when the weather is fine.
In other words, businesses that depend on fleets to transport goods in areas like this may want to consider introducing a variety of advanced technological tools into their operations. For example, route optimization software offers a chance for managers to avoid wasting time in gridlock by planning ahead and making more efficient use of multiple deliveries. These programs also make it possible to coordinate closely with customer needs to meet deadlines and improve overall satisfaction.
Fleet owners must also pay attention to tire pressure
Even equipment maintenance software comes in handy for fleet owners in all regions of the U.S. A recent article in the online publication Truckinginfo said the abnormally cold weather that has consumed much of the Midwest this season has emphasized the need to keep tire pressure on heavy-duty trucks in good shape. Vehicles that travel long distances through different climates are especially prone to pressure problems, as air volume decreases as the temperature gets colder. This means fleet managers must make special efforts to ensure the tires on their vehicles never lose pressure during the middle of a delivery assignment. In fact, overestimating the pounds per square inch pressure unit is generally a safe bet.
"Ask yourself, how good is your tire maintenance? Can I afford to lose a few psi without risking a tire failure? How many pressures do you want me to remember?" Peggy Fisher, president of the pressure monitoring system provider Tire Stamp, told the publication. "For those reasons and others it's simply safer and more convenient to run a higher pressure than what is absolutely required by the heaviest load you're likely to put on the axle and tire."
In general, it's been a challenging season for fleet owners in both the public and private sectors. Chicago Sun-Times recently reported that excessive snowfalls have already left a major dent in the city's plowing budget. Chicago originally had a total of $20.5 million to spend on snow removal for the entire winter. However, that amount has since fallen to $5 million. This could create complications if the weather continues to create adverse conditions on area roads.
Fleet owners in all regions of the U.S. will have an easier time maintaining efficient operations in all conditions with the right transportation management software.