Polar Vortex: How to Get Ahead of Logistics Disruptions


The Weather Company’s key meteorologist, Michael Ventrice, “This means [the Polar Vortex] an increased frequency of bitter cold days in the U.S. looking ahead into February. And with cold air comes winter storms… so expect snow cover to increase across the U.S. with a window for coastal Nor’easter snow storms between February 14 through March 6”.


Meanwhile, Buffalo News is concerned about the ‘Super Bowl Weekend’ to be affected by the Polar Vortex’s extreme cold and snow cover. With temperatures to go down as low as 20 degrees below normal, T.J. Pignataro, environment reporter for ‘The Buffalo News’ asked New Yorkers to, “Enjoy this weekend. The next one could be extra frigid”.


How Would the Polar Vortex Affect Logistics Movement?


As it happened around the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, the Polar Vortex disrupted logistics movement pushing up freight rates due to a shortage of trucks and drivers. Most of the shipments were delayed either due to rerouting away from snow-blocked highways or, being detained due to traffic bottlenecks. Multi-modal transport was also affected as even the cranes, used for loading and unloading, malfunctioned due to the weather. The cold affected the chassis of these vehicles and machinery which required immediate maintenance. Even the ports were backed-up due to lack of drayage truckers. Rail transports were the worst affected due to derailment and damage.


This even prompted Brian Mason, who was the National Manager of Strategic Planning at Toyota in the midst of Polar Vortex, noted that, “There needs to be a long-term action plan, involving working closely with rail partners, continuing to work with industry groups, implementing a higher percentage of long-term highway transport where necessary, and making the shift to longer-term highway transport contracts so as to negotiate competitive rates and provide incentives for trucking companies”.


Now at the beginning of 2018, we are at crossroads of the same climate flux which threatens to either delay shipments or bring them to a halt, while increasing freight rates to more than $4 a mile.


How to Get Ahead of Logistics Disruptions Due to Weather Fluctuations?


Here’s how you get ahead of the weather-related contingencies.


Step 1: Plan and Optimize Routes


LogiNext’s planning and optimizing engine helps companies identify the best route to be taken while considering local weather and traffic patterns in real-time. This means that all weather-bound disruptions would be factored directly at the planning stage rather than when the vehicle gets detained due to harsh weather. This means that the company can plan for the detention and identify an alternate route for the deliveries.


Step 2: Track All vehicles in Real-Time


With live tracking of all vehicles, companies can be aware of all weather-related disruptions and react accordingly in quick time. If a malfunctioned or snowed-in vehicle requires assistance, the company can send for the same. If the promised ETAs are exceeding, the company can communicate duly with the respective stakeholders. Moreover, the company can get ahead of any such disruptions rather than being caught off-guard. Real-time tracking of on-field resources results in increased visibility and transparency across all freight carriers and logistics partners.


Step 3: Dynamically Reroute Vehicles


Companies can preemptively reroute their vehicles in cases of possible detention or closed-off roads. Companies can do this while the trip is active and running. This means that even with time-bound deliveries with a shelf-life can be better routed to avoid spoilage. This increases the control the companies have over their logistics movements and related service level agreements.


Step 4: Manage Resources and Capacity


Companies can identify the capacity of their active resources to better plan their logistics. This idle or excess capacity can be better directed through carrying partners of through the spot market. However, with varying freight rates, proper capacity utilization is necessary to optimize the costs of logistics movement. With LogiNext, companies can better predict capacity requirements and hence avoid having spot market rate variations affect their bottom line.


Step 5: Analyze Vehicle Maintenance Reports and Driver Behavior


Beyond the mandatory tracking and reporting through the Electronic Logging Devices, LogiNext’s analytics can showcase which vehicles are in a need for maintenance based on various vehicle and driver behavior parameters, including fuel consumption, speeding, harsh breaking, etc. This gives the companies a clear idea whether the vehicle going out a trip can handle the harsh weather (and wouldn’t break down).


Companies can counter the chaos induced due to the Polar Vortex with technology backed end-to-end logistics movement visibility. With the technology that we have right now, companies can plan ahead of such contingencies and be better prepared each time.



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