- Spot truckload volume jumped for the week ended Sunday, as freight companies repositioned goods before Post-Tropical Cyclone Marco and Hurricane Laura arrived, according to a Wednesday report by DAT. Posted loads increased 9% while truck posts were up 2%, on a week-over-week basis, and that pushed national average prices to their highest level since July 2018.
- Hurricane Laura was upgraded to an "extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane," according to a 2 p.m. Wednesday post by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A Thursday morning advisory warned of damaging winds, flooding and a life-threatening storm surge along the Louisiana coast. NOAA predicted the storm surge would stretch from Freeport, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Riskpulse said in its Wednesday online briefing that it was concerned about 344 miles on I-49 and 250 miles on I-10.
- As of Thursday morning, wind speeds were around 100 mph, according to NOAA. Forecasters expect Laura to continue its northward movement and weaken to a tropical storm Thursday.
Authorities and trucking officials have been preparing for almost a week, as Marco and Laura formed in the Caribbean Sea. John Esparza, Texas Trucking Association CEO, said the preparation that trucking and logistics firms have done puts them in a "really good position to respond."
Esparza and others were taking part in hurricane briefings, as it became clear the Southeast's good fortune on Marco, which fizzled, was not likely to be repeated with Hurricane Laura. But media reports last week about the two storms forming in the Caribbean Sea gave the Southeast time to prepare.
Logistics and trucking companies have been coordinating with each other, pre-positioning assets and freight in advance of Laura's arrival, Esparza said. That included moving water and medical supplies to the safest warehouses for later use, he said. The FMCSA Southern and Western Service Centers issued a regional emergency declaration, which includes HOS exemptions to transport, supplies and equipment for disaster relief response. The declaration affects Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
FMCSA has issued an Emergency Declaration for ALABAMA, LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI and TEXAS in advance of Hurricanes / Tropical Storms Laura and Marco See: https://t.co/SZYkyZwSdx pic.twitter.com/Ak13QssBBS— FMCSA (@FMCSA) August 26, 2020
After weeks of disruption related to COVID-19, the storm will only complicate matters, Esparza said.
"It really throws a wrench into logistics," said Esparza. "It adds an additional obstacle."
Marco and Laura have already caused logistics problems around Houston and New Orleans. The Port of Houston, which handles about 70% of the container cargo coming in through the Gulf of Mexico, remains closed.
Randy Guillot, chairman of the American Trucking Associations and owner of New-Orleans-based Triple G Express, is optimistic that preparation will pay off.
"Louisiana folks are resilient. Sadly, we have been through this before," Guillot said in an email. New Orleans was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when post-storm flooding caused long-term damage to the city. More recently, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August 2017, and then drifted toward Louisiana. Up to 52 inches fell, and as much as 10% of all U.S. trucking was impacted by Harvey, according to an FTR report.
"I will say, preparations are different with COVID-19 in mind," Guillot said.
Normal evacuation centers are not as readily available because of COVID-19 restrictions, he said, and that's put the governor and local officials in a "tough position." For now, people leaving the coastal areas are getting vouchers for hotel rooms, he said.