Hurricane Florence to disrupt freight capacity, create trading catalyst

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 401 views 

As Hurricane Florence takes aim at the Carolina coastline, the trucking industry has been preparing for the Category 4 storm expected to make landfall late Thursday and disrupt freight capacity.

In a recent transportation and logistics report, analysts Benjamin Hartford and Andrew Reed of Robert W. Baird & Co. said an increasingly active hurricane and typhoon season in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans has created a trading catalyst – increased business resulting in the ability to charge higher rates – for U.S. carriers.

The spot market has experienced increased demand as a result of shipments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on their way to the Mid-Atlantic coast ahead of Hurricane Florence, according to DAT Solutions. Average rates for dry van and reefer shipments rose 6 cents and 8 cents, respectively, compared to the August average. Meanwhile, the average flatbed rate declined 2 cents per mile.

The expected trading catalyst comes after spot market activity moderated in August following record second-quarter conditions, according to Hartford and Reed. Far East Asia had four typhoons in July and five in August and have disrupted ocean freight, but as Asian port operations return to normal, it’s expected to improve U.S. freight activity. Along the South Carolina and North Carolina coasts, Norfolk Southern is expected to issue embargoes for affected areas and stage resources to help with recovery efforts.

Hurricane Florence is expected to impact diesel supply and price within a limited area as the existing path of the storm doesn’t include significant energy infrastructure, such as oil refineries, oil platforms or energy marine terminals, according to Freightwaves.com.

Following is a statement on the hurricane from Fort Smith-based transportation company ArcBest Corp., the parent company of less-than-truckload carrier ABF Freight: “As with all adverse weather, we are monitoring the hurricane’s conditions and will reposition equipment and people as needed. Customers should check arcb.com/resources/service-advisories for operational updates and impacted service centers in the region.”

The ArcBest website shows a service center closure in North Charleston, S.C., as a result of tropical storms. All but three of the 25 transit lane service interruptions listed on the website were related to the storm.

Memphis-based FedEx Corp., the parent company of FedEx Freight, released the following statement: “Safety of all team members is the top priority as FedEx prepares for and monitors Hurricane Florence. Across our enterprise, contingency plans will be put in place to help protect our people and facilities and to lessen the impact on service once the storm passes. Customers can go to fedex.com or call 1-800-Go-FedEx for the latest service information and to check the status of their shipments.”

Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services did not respond to questions about the impact on their operations, and Van Buren-based USA Truck responded but did not have a comment.

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