As the temperature drops, challenging daily winter weather driving conditions are on the rise. As we head into mid-November, winter hazards are on the horizon for much of the United States and with that comes an increased chance for the weather to wreak havoc on shipping operations.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, an estimated 23% of all delays on highways are due to snow, ice and fog. In an average year, approximately 22% of property damage-only crashes occur during adverse weather, or about 919,700 incidents, and the majority of weather-related crashes happen on wet roads and during rainfall.
For shippers, delays and damages due to the weather will inevitably take a financial toll and impact the shipper’s reputation with customers. While they can be reimbursed through a freight claims process, the business still suffers from lost inventory, revenue and time.
Shippers expect carriers to protect their cargo from the elements and ensure it arrives intact. After all, responding to daily weather, and the considerations and challenges that come along with it, is part of a trucking company’s job, as is communicating critical shipment updates with shippers.
As the winter approaches, shippers need to know that the carriers they partner with are going to provide dependable service regardless of the weather.
The best way to determine how reliable a carrier will be as the weather becomes more unfavorable is by looking at a carrier’s yearlong, everyday safety practices.
“If a carrier has a strong safety culture and is prepared to act during any time of crisis, then severe weather isn’t a significant factor. Customers should depend on their carrier to deliver their product safely and timely regardless of any weather-related impacts, equipment breakdowns, traffic, etc.,” said Rick Simpson, vice president of operations at PGT Trucking, a carrier providing flatbed trucking excellence.
Strong weather safety starts well before the first raindrop or snowflake falls, so shippers should look for carriers that have strong internal processes in place being proactive to handle unfavorable weather.
The USDOT reports that trucking companies lose an annual 32.6 billion vehicle hours due to weather-related congestion in 281 of the nation’s metropolitan areas. Because drivers have a limited number of hours to drive each day, these slowdowns could force a driver to shut down early, potentially causing a late delivery.
Every day all of PGT Trucking’s shipping routes are uploaded into an innovative weather intelligence platform, which gives the company critical insights into potential weather-related risks and allows them to plan accordingly.
PGT’s use of innovative technology, including its asset-tracking software, allows the company to react to severe weather and respond before it becomes a problem, providing real-time updates to shippers about their trucks’ locations, routes and delivery times.
While weather-tracking software is an effective tool, carriers still need to implement a plan of action for each load, mitigating exposure to the elements.
“Carriers need to understand what commodities they are working with and how sensitive those commodities are to the elements, ensuring they take the necessary steps to protect that cargo so that it is delivered in the condition the customer expects,” said Simpson.
In the flatbed vertical, cargo is more exposed to the weather — especially in winter — so tarping is crucial to preserving the integrity of the shipment. PGT makes sure that at the time of loading all commodities are tarped unless the shipper specifies otherwise. If severe weather is expected en route, the company takes additional precautions, such as adding an extra tarp layer, to further protect cargo from the elements.
Once the cargo is loaded, shippers can rest assured knowing that PGT drivers are well-positioned to deliver the shipment safely and securely due to their ongoing cargo securement and safety training. Drivers are encouraged to routinely inspect their equipment, including tarps, to confirm everything is in working order. They are also equipped with tarp repair kits so that if any damage occurs to the tarp in transit, it can be quickly patched, keeping the cargo protected.
A high level of safety requires the involvement of everyone on a team — from the office staff to the expert drivers handling cargo — and PGT promotes interdepartmental collaboration, encourages timely communication and improves driver and customer support through its open office structure.
“This full-service approach enables our operations and sales departments to be in constant communication with our drivers and our customers, relaying vital information on delivery and pickup times and weather conditions throughout the day,” Simpson said. “Customers are able to better prepare their business by knowing these timely updates, and any specific product requirements can be quickly relayed back to our operations team.”
Shippers who vet carriers to ensure they are working with a company that takes safety seriously year-round will have peace of mind when winter draws near and large-scale weather events happen. Strong, consistent safety practices are a sure sign that a carrier knows what to do when larger challenges arise.
With PGT Trucking, safety is inherent in its culture — and has been for more than 40 years. Its thorough weather monitoring, preparedness, and internal and external communication allow the company to assure all cargo arrives safely and securely while keeping shippers in the know every step of the way.