Supply Chains in Peril: What We Learned from Hurricane Dorian
There’s no perfect playbook for weathering a disaster like Hurricane Dorian. But a resilient and flexible supply chain that can handle pivots is what makes the difference between operations that can pick back up and those that are left in disarray.
As Hurricane Dorian hovered over the Bahamas, wreaking havoc on the islands, parts of the coastal U.S. watched and waited. We’ve been here before, after all. Remember Hurricanes Andrew and Isaac, Katrina and Maria? Dorian wasn’t the first, and it certainly won’t be the last.
As Dorian’s path took a turn to ultimately leave Florida largely unscathed — a welcome change from the early forecasts for a battering of the Sunshine State — ports shut down along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas as hurricane-force winds and rain ushered in county-wide curfews and the closure of roads and bridges. The impact on production and the disruption of truckload markets was profound well before Dorian even made landfall along the U.S. coast, leaving supply chains in peril.
Dorian Rocks the Freight Market
As the storm tracked across the Southeastern U.S., heavy rains led to major flooding and blocked roadways. This caused capacity constraints and increased truckload rates in the region due to a rush in freight demand. All modes of truckload (dry van, flatbed, reefers) and LTL were impacted. Many truckload providers repositioned their equipment in preparation for the hurricane’s landfall, both to avoid the destruction of their assets and to prepare for emergency FEMA efforts.
The name of the game as we watched the storm progress, and in any escalating weather event, was flexibility. Being able to develop and implement creative solutions for customers was the difference between businesses that were able to mitigate much of the storm’s impact and those whose operations were snarled.
While Mother Nature trumps human control over the weather, shippers can take steps to be prepared when the threat of a storm like Dorian looms. What we’ve seen time and again from these storms is that supply chain resiliency is not merely a nice-to-have; it’s a must. You can establish a resilient supply chain by:
- Having your disaster plan ready and sharing it with your providers.
- Maintaining proactive communication to prioritize shipments and rearrange pick-up and delivery dates based on the shipment’s origin and destination.
- Sourcing recovery capacity where some larger providers are shut down. For example, Hurricane Dorian actually added a small boost of volume in the southern markets (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, specifically).
When The Storm Hits
“Storm-proofing” your supply chain is just the first step. Once a storm hits, you’ll want to be mindful that both inbound and outbound rates within impacted areas are likely to be higher than normal. Be aware, too, of the potential aftermath of inflated rates in hard-hit zones due to uneven truckload demand and supply. Things won’t immediately go back to normal once a storm dies down.
There’s no perfect playbook for weathering a disaster like Hurricane Dorian. And as we saw with this hurricane in particular, her path was especially unpredictable and threatening given how long she hovered before making landfall in the U.S. Having a disaster preparedness and recovery plan in place that is shared with all appropriate stakeholders is step one. A resilient and flexible supply chain that can handle pivots is what makes the difference between operations that can pick back up and those that are left in disarray.
Rachal (Snider) Jordan is Vice President of Customer Supply Chain at third party logistics and technology company, GlobalTranz. Learn more at www.globaltranz.com.