Environmental Impacts on Logistics

May 5, 2022Blog

Ever-changing weather conditions and globally increasing natural disasters have had a tangible impact on the logistics industry. These phenomena alter the way that goods are transported worldwide and force supply chain managers to think on their feet—something we’ve all become very good at over the last few years.

While we’ve discussed at length how to prepare for incidents like hurricanes and rough seas, we decided it would be prudent to take a look at just how much of an impact these conditions have on our industry as a whole.

Hurricanes

Hurricanes create long-lasting damage where they make landfall. These conditions create a myriad of challenges for supply chains, from flooding to the destruction of roadways, the lack of electricity, and even interference with communications.

Large hurricanes often cause a tremendous loss of life, which means priority is placed on emergency services and disaster relief. To make room for these services and to protect their people, supply chains must reroute, which can add hours or even days onto timelines. Ports in the area often close, flights are sent elsewhere, and drivers must seek alternate routes…and we’re just talking about cargo that’s out of the area when the storm hits. Anything in the area of impact is effectively frozen until roads and debris are cleared. Additionally, team members who have not evacuated are put at risk, and facilities may experience extensive damage.

In the past, hurricane Harvey (2017) impacted 10% of U.S. trucking and made gas prices skyrocket. Hurricanes Irma (2017), Katrina (2005), and other large disasters have followed similar trends. As always, we urge organizations operating in areas that are often hit by hurricanes to revisit contingency plans before the start of hurricane season in June.

High Winds and Tornados

For anyone operating in the US Midwest or South, spring marks the start of tornado season. Even when a storm doesn’t cause a funnel, high winds can scatter trees, power lines, and debris across the roads. These conditions can lead to power outages, delayed flights, damage to buildings and vehicles, toppled trucks and cranes, and injury or death. Plus, even after the storm has passed, the damage left behind can slow or completely halt supply chains altogether.

For example, during the 2020 Easter tornado outbreak, 140 tornadoes ravaged the Southeastern United States. The event resulted in $3.5 billion in damages and 35 deaths. Additionally, one of the largest automotive suppliers in the United States couldn’t resume full production for two weeks. These results created a ripple effect throughout the industry, and costs piled up across the country.

Supply chains operating in these areas (which has been affectionately nicknamed, “Tornado Alley”) should ensure all team members know about mitigation plans and safety techniques to keep everyone safe and freight moving.

Wildfires

Wildfires have made headlines more and more often over the past decade or so. These events develop rapidly, can span hundreds of acres, and leave unimaginable destruction in their wakes. In just 2021, California alone recorded 8,835 fires that demolished 2,568,948 acres of land and damaged 3,629 buildings. From January through April of 2022, the United States has seen 21,461 wildfires that have burned 1,089,766 acres.

When fires strike, it’s imperative to reroute supply chains that may pass through high-risk areas. Even if fire isn’t present along the routes, the smoke from these fires can delay flights, cause health risks, and make driving impossible. These delays and adjustments often clog other airports, roads, and ports, which causes backups across the country, even in areas that do not experience elevated wildfire risks.

While many supply chains already have plans for snow, hurricanes, and high winds, it’s essential to ensure that policies include what to do in the face of a wildfire. After all, seconds can make a world of a difference when fire begins to spread.

There’s never a shortage of obstacles when it comes to getting cargo to its designated location on time. Still, TOC Logistics is here to help your organization mitigate disasters and navigate delays. If you have questions, be sure to reach out to our team.

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