The Impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma on Truck Driving

The devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma was great: communities and properties were destroyed, families were displaced, and lives were lost. The damage from these and other recent natural disasters will take some time to restore.

The impacts of these devastating storms affect the trucking industry in many ways, some obvious and others not so noticeable.

Here are some of the biggest ways Hurricane Harvey and Irma have impacted truck driving:
The trucking rate: There are trucking hubs across the US which serve as major transportation byways of goods and services. During major natural disasters or storms, suppliers of goods as well as buyers either expedite or cancel orders of goods. When Hurricane Harvey hit, the hubs that serve Florida in Atlanta and Charlotte saw an increase in transportation rates as many buyers of goods cancelled their orders, leaving a high volume of empty or unfilled trucks.
Trucking companies tend to charge more for the transportation of goods if their trucks aren’t completely filled. Empty or unfilled trucks waste the trucker’s time and cost the trucking company money. The additional costs are then passed on to the consumer.
A higher concentration of empty trucks increase traffic, which hurts the salary of truck drivers.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma increased the availability of trucks in areas that served the hardest hit areas of Florida and Texas. While an increase in truck availability in certain areas leads to faster delivery times for goods, those goods will cost more. As trucking companies flocked to areas that serve Florida and Texas, other major trucking hubs saw a decrease in truck traffic and availability of trucks. This led to a delay of goods to other parts of the country.
All these conditions led to higher trucking rates in certain areas, with the cost being passed to the trucking company or truck drivers (if they work for a small trucking outfit).
Travel restrictions: The states of Florida and Texas have many key trucking routes and are home to many goods suppliers who rely on trucking to transport their goods to buyers. After hurricanes Harvey and Irma, some of these routes were closed due to flooding or damage to surrounding communities that made road travel difficult or impossible. Some nearby hubs were either closed or had travel restrictions in place as a precaution.
These route and hub closures and restrictions kept truck drivers from either picking goods up to be delivered or from delivering their cargo in a timely manner or at all. This in turn, negatively impacts the mileage and fulfillment of truck drivers which reduce how much they earn, as most truck drivers are paid per mile and how timely they are able to meet their delivery quotas.
Gas prices: When natural disasters like hurricanes Harvey and Irma strike, the prices at the pump skyrocket as refineries and local gas dispensaries are destroyed and shut down. Higher prices for oil and diesel spike nationwide, not just in the areas impacted by the storms.
Trucking companies typically pay for the gas to fill up their trucks. Even when diesel gas prices are low, an 18-wheeler truck can easily cost $1,000 to fill up. For trucking companies that have large truck fleets, the costs of gas are astronomical. Trucking companies have many methods to help offset the high costs of fuel, including partnering with oil refineries by buying gasoline in bulk at a discounted rate.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, more than 10 oil refineries, including Exxon Mobil, were forced to shut down, drastically reducing the amount of oil production and availability. Trucking companies that have agreements with these oil refineries were forced to pay high prices for the scant amount of available oil.
The resulting increase in gas prices then filtered down to truck drivers and the buyers of the goods they were delivering to.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma had devastating effects on people and communities across the US. Their impact was especially felt in the trucking industry with increased transportation costs, lower earnings for drivers, and traffic congestion.
Natural disasters will happen, but companies and consumers of goods rely on trucking and the truck drivers to get their goods transported and delivered. As a truck driver, you can have great benefits and freedom to travel across the US. Drivers who have years of experience can enjoy great pay and flexible scheduling.
If you aren’t getting satisfaction out of your current job and have the urge to explore the open road, a career in trucking may be for you. Contact us at Commercial Vehicle Training Center today to learn about our commercial vehicle licensing course and be on your way to being a truck driver.
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