While many people along the Eastern seaboard are growing quite tired of snow, there may be plenty more coming in the next few weeks if an Accuweather.com short-range forecast proves correct. And that is not good news for the trucking industry-- or the consumers who rely on trucks to bring virtually everything they need to market.
“It’s a major concern because of the distribution of products, particularly in the Northeast, where these [storms] have been hitting,” James Runk, president & CEO of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Assn. (PMTA) told Fleet Owner. “I would wager that a lot of these guys have contracts and hopefully they are not getting penalized” for late deliveries.
Many states throughout the Northeast have already seen snowfall totals above their yearly averages. Boston, through Monday, had seen 49.6 in. vs. a yearly average of 41.8; Hartford, CT, is at 57.2 vs. 45.3; New York has seen 36.1 in. vs. an average of 22; and Philadelphia is also above average with 22.7 in. vs. an average of 19.3. The coastal region from New York City to the northeast was expecting anywhere from a dusting of snow to 3 in. in many areas today.
And now the East is bracing for another big storm, expected to hit Wednesday night into Thursday with forecasts ranging from 1-3 in. of snow in the Tennessee Valley up to 16 in. or more in parts of New England, according to Accuweather.com.
“Sometimes they may be able to take trucks off the roads for a day or two, but some things” such as food, fuel, medical supplies must get shipped and arrive on time, PMTA’s Runk said. “Imagine the outcry if people went to the gas station after a storm and there was no gas available-- truckers just have to adjust,” he said.
“Most of the companies, I think, take safety into consideration,” Runk added.
Janet Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Trucking Assn., said that motor carriers in the Mountain State have had to seek hours-of-service waivers to be able to deliver fuel and home heating oil to customers due to the weather this winter.
“There have been numerous [delivery] delays as trucks have had to pull off the roads,” Vineyard told Fleet Owner.
If you haven’t grown tired of the snow and general wintry weather yet, you won’t want to hear that Accuweather.com expert senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski predicts there could be plenty more to come.
“We have had two storm tracks thus far,” he writes on Accuweather.com. “One modest track brings storms in from the Pacific and cross country over the Upper Midwest. A second track has had storms forming along the Gulf Coast then tracking up the Atlantic Seaboard.
“Usually you get one or the other to dominate. However, it seems we have been flipping back and forth between the two,” he adds. “The result has been light to moderate snow events over the Midwest and episodes of heavy snow along the Atlantic Seaboard.”
According to Sosnowski, that pattern could continue into February and could bring with it a “couple more blockbuster storms.”
Weather pattern expert Paul Pastelok attributes the pattern to something called the “Greenland Block.” This is a dip in the jet stream that funnels cold air from Canada down into the eastern U.S. Usually, Pastelok said, this pattern pushes storms off the East Coast and out to sea.
“Interestingly, this winter it has shifted its position just enough to allow most storms to run the Atlantic Coast, only to return to position, once each storm departs,” Pastelo explained.
The Midwest has not been spared, either, with a series of heavy storms hitting across that vast region, leaving plenty of weather delays in their paths.
If Accuweather.com is true to its name, then motor carriers may still have plenty of storm delays to deal with in the days-- and weeks-- ahead.