Several rounds of wintry weather could slow down truckers this week from the northern Rockies to the Great Lakes. These will mainly be nuisance storms and won’t shut down supply chains. However, the storms shouldn’t be taken lightly. Roads will be very slick and even icy in some areas.
A series of fronts will move across the region, the first one already producing snowfall and freezing rain from northwestern Montana to northwestern Wyoming. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a winter weather advisory for these areas, which could see up to 5 or 6 inches of mountain snowfall Monday, along with ice buildup of up to two-tenths of an inch.
Wintry weather could hit some of the same areas again Tuesday through Thursday while spreading into the Dakotas, Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. While it’s difficult to pinpoint snow and ice totals at this time, suffice it to say that several interstate highways, like I-15, I-25, I-29, I-80, I-90 and I-94, will become hazardous. Some bridges and overpasses may become especially risky for drivers.
Freight markets in the potential impact zone include Missoula, Billings, Bismarck, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, St. Cloud and Duluth. These are mostly “backhaul” markets, meaning they have more inbound volumes than outbound. The exception is the Fargo market.
This is clear to see in the FreightWaves Headhaul Index map below. This index measures the difference between outbound and inbound volumes. Markets in red/pink indicate higher inbound volumes (backhaul), while markets in blue/purple indicate higher outbound volumes.
So drivers heading to these markets where the winter weather will develop this week are mostly dropping off. They will likely be deadheading — driving an empty trailer — to go where the freight is, in Fargo, other Midwest markets or even Southern California.