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How Severe Weather Impacts Auto Shipments

How Severe Weather Impacts Auto Shipments

As you no doubt know, auto shipments have a lot of moving parts. And because they have a lot of moving parts, different things will affect different shipments in different ways. Automobile shipping is less of a science and more of an art when it comes down to it. From the prices that are set to the time tables given, shipping cars is about experience more than anything else.

On the whole, there are only so many things that will affect the prices that you see or the availability of carriers. Fuel prices, for instance, can make prices go up if they go up. Same goes for overall inflation, or if new regulations are passed making it harder for carriers to do their job.

These variables can’t be accounted for, much like severe weather events. Hurricanes, wildfires, flash floods, ice storms – the list goes on. Here in the U.S. we experience a lot of crazy weather, and that weather can impact auto shipments in a variety of ways.

In this post we’re going to go over some of the most common inclement weather events and how they can disrupt the car shipping industry, and what that might mean for you.

Severe weather impacting auto shipments is common

Simply put, severe weather can wreak havoc on unsuspecting shippers and carriers alike. The worse the weather gets, the harder it is to move anything through it, to the detriment of many a business even outside of the auto transport world.

Hurricanes close entire cities. Flooding makes certain areas impossible to even get into. Wildfires close interstates and state highways and make traversing even close to them dangerous. Ice does the same thing but in opposite ways, freezing routes and endangering drivers and loads alike.

These are not freak events. The United States is home to numerous biomes from frozen tundras to scorched and barren deserts, temperate areas and even tropical ones. All of those biomes have different weather patterns and different kinds of severe weather that can impact auto shipments through them.

Look at the northern Great Lakes. Each winter, cold fronts come down across the lakes, bringing with them massive amounts of snow and ice. Cities like Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo all have their fair share of inclement weather issues. Remember when Buffalo got something like 10 feet of snow one year? Well, that’s not uncommon.

Have you ever tried to drive through ten feet of snow? Of course not, it’s impossible unless the roads are absolutely clear, and they never are when there’s that much snow.

All of these events can freeze carriers in their place.

Lake effect snows and other winter weather

Let’s start off with what we were just talking about – snow, ice, and other wintry weather. We mentioned lake effect snow, which is really only a major problem in the Great Lakes. But winter weather can hit just about anywhere, from the Pacific Northwest to the steppes of Utah to the balmy subtropics of the southeast.

Remember snow in Atlanta? That was kind of a unique situation in that most people in that area have never even driven in snow. When people aren’t prepared for the weather, or don’t know how to handle it, bad things happen on the road.

Snow and ice are really detrimental to drivers, especially car transporters. While weight is often a good thing when it comes to keeping traction on icy roads, they’re still dangerous. Lake effect snows and other major snowstorms can cause reroutes, especially when they come on suddenly.

Luckily for weather like lake effect snow, it’s easy to forecast and prepare for. Many carriers that service the northern U.S. and the Great Lakes understand how to drive in the snow as well, and are good at preparing accordingly. This has a positive effect on auto shipments to and from the region during snowstorms, as carriers that frequent the area are better equipped and trained to handle the snow and ice.

However, this doesn’t mean that everything will just go smoothly. Pickup and drop off locations may become inaccessible, requiring you to meet them somewhere else. It can also result in delays, especially if bigger areas become too dangerous for carriers to reach.

Hurricanes and tropical storms

Like lake effect snows, hurricanes and tropical storms are, at least, somewhat easy to prepare for. They’re caught early, and most people in the path of these devastating storms will have time to prepare or even evacuate if necessary.

Being able to predict when a hurricane or tropical storm makes landfall is a crucial skill that has allowed us to develop coastal communities without the fear of widespread death. Property loss, of course, is still severe, but forecasting hurricanes well in advance means people can live in Florida and still get out before the next major hurricane hits.

That’s fantastic, and that same technology can inform carriers on whether they want to go into an area that’s about to get shellacked by a hurricane, too.

But if a hurricane is barreling toward Florida, or Texas, or any of the other Gulf states (or eastern seaboard states at this point), carriers need to know. And once they do know, they need to incorporate that information into the routes that they choose to traverse. If they know a hurricane is going to wallop Miami the following week, they’re going to avoid that area. They’ll go there once the danger has passed.

Hurricanes and tropical storms can cause devastating damage to a transport truck and its cargo. There’s been many a story of a carrier getting caught in a hurricane and experiencing a total loss of cargo, which is a pain for their insurance. Avoiding these dangers usually means higher prices (risk vs reward), longer wait times for pickup and transit, and shifting delivery dates and locations.

Flash floods

The next two on this list aren’t necessarily “weather” in the sense of rain or snow. However, they are consequences of severe weather nonetheless. With flash floods, they often follow periods of heavy rainfall, which makes sense. Unlike storms and hurricanes, though, they’re not very predictable, which means that carriers have a harder time preparing for them.

When carriers travel routes into areas that are prone to flash floods, or if they know floods are likely, they keep an eye on the weather reports. While flash floods are unpredictable, areas that are prone to them are prone to them.

Flash floods are especially dangerous because they can come out of nowhere. And when they do hit, if a car transport truck gets swept up in one, that’s an entire load lost to flood damage. So they’re going to avoid those areas like the plague if they can. Washed out highways and sketchy surface streets are a nightmare in flood conditions, so don’t be surprised if delays come.

You’ll notice that’s a trend – severe weather equals delays. Carriers don’t want to travel to where there’s a lot of weather-related issues that can cause serious devastation to their vehicles. It’s the same for hail storms in the southeast and the Midwest – they’ll avoid them if at all possible.

Wildfires

The last weather-related cataclysm on our list is wildfires. If you live in the western U.S., you know are incredibly devastating.

Of course, no one wants to drive right next to an active wildfire, so of course carriers won’t be driving into those infernos. But they’ll stay even further away, especially if the fires are completely out of control. California’s wildfire season (which is quickly becoming the West Coast wildfire season) can see hundreds of shipments delayed or even turned down because of the fires.

That kind of smoke can damage vehicles even if they’re away from fires. And the closer a carrier gets to a fire, the more likely that ash and even burning embers can be picked up by winds and dropped on a customer’s vehicle.

With floods and fires both, carriers will work to stay well aware of them and away from them. So if that’s an issue for you, make sure to speak to your driver or your rep if your vehicle has not been dispatched.

This will help you weather these events better and be better prepared for potential route changes and delays. And that’s the most that anyone can do in these kinds of situations.

Weather the storm with American Auto Shipping

Here at American Auto Shipping we understand how difficult inclement weather can make things. That’s why we try to be as upfront as possible and to let you know ahead of time if certain weather conditions and factors might affect your shipment.

If you’re interested in shipping your vehicle with one of the best names in the industry, just give us a call! We can get you a free quote to ship just about anything with wheels right over the phone. You can also use our free online auto transport quote request form to get a free quote to ship as well.

No matter what you’re shipping, where you’re shipping, or when, let us help you. We have over 20 years’ experience shipping cars and we know what it takes to get it moved.

Dave Armstrong
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