For almost 3 days, Hurricane Dorian moved slowly through the Caribbean, across the Atlantic and along the southeastern coast of the United States, but no land was hit harder than that of the Bahamas including a stretch of the Islands named Abaco. Initially the Red Cross estimates as many as 13,000 homes damaged or destroyed on the Grand Bahama Islands and neighboring Abaco Islands but the toll seems to be growing. Approximately 60% of Grand Bahama Island may be submerged in water and 76,000 people are in need of lifesaving assistance. Along with wind damage and flooding, the Red Cross is concerned that salt water may have contaminated the wells, leaving thousands without fresh water and elevating the crisis further. The death toll in the Bahamas stands at 43 with many still missing while damage to the Carolinas is still being assessed. Along with residents and businesses in the southeastern coastal states, the trucking industry is beginning to evaluate costs and implement fleet recovery strategies.
Most of the devastation in the US, took place over North Carolina’s Outer bank’s Ocracoke Islands which is actually only accessible by air or sea. Business owners of the small island are used to rising waters and floating tree branches but with Dorian, came more and it is that scenario that fleets are facing as they embark upon the actual fleet costs of the storm. Just like business owner, Philip Howard who thought he hads prepared for the worst, fleets are finding that good was not good enough. Howard told the LA Times that flooding at his properties on the North Carolina island is 13 inches higher than the levels wrought by a storm in 1944, which he said had long been considered the worst. He raised his home higher than the 1944 flood level and still got water inside.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Howard, who owns the Village Craftsmen, a store that sells handcrafted pottery, glass and kitchen items. He said much of the merchandise on the lower shelves is ruined. Pieces of pottery were floating around inside.
Stories like these are common place in the aftermath of a hurricane and the trucking industry is used to handling itstorm recovery. Most fleets are hopeful that steady and thorough preparation before the storm has positioned them in a better place where fleet costs are concerned but damaged roads and flooded warehouses have taken a toll on the industry in hurricanes past and nothing is taken for granted. Even small regional damages can have larger global effects which is why fleet recovery teams are quick to respond even as the tropical storms continue to affect the areas.
While we may not know what the specific fleet costs of Dorian will total, learning from previous hurricanes has taught the industry lessons and that the biggest impact takes place in the following areas of operations:
How Dorian Could Take a Toll
1. Decrease in Supply: Damages roadways and flooded infrastructure leave trucks waiting for roads and docks to clear
2. Increase in Demand: trucks are needed to transport everything from food to medical supplies and building materials
3. Fewer trucks in circulation: trucks are pulled out of the usual scheduled circulation to meet the relief efforts demand
4. Lack of space in non-damaged facilities: warehouses and fulfillment centers are bombarded with inventory from centers damaged by the hurricanes requiring more man power and resources and capacity.
5. Facility Congestion causing delays: Inventory processing and loading is backed up leading to stoppages and delays.
6. Price Jump: Where there is low supply and high demand, costs are bound to increase.
Striking the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane, Dorian was weakened to a strong post-tropical cyclone as it eased toward the U.S. Coast. On Saturday, it hit Nova Scotia in Canada, leaving more than 370,000 people without power. It is the loss of power that directly impacts the trucking industry as well causing even further delays for processing, networking and communications. The brunt of fleet recovery is often determined to be the consequence of power outages.
Hurricane Dorian was one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history. The destruction it left behind, is like nothing residents and businesses of the Bahamas and other hard-hit areas have experienced before. There is sure to be an enormous disruption of the trucking industry with regards to changes in supply, demand, cost, and overall flow patterns. It’s going to take a period of time and reorganization to recover from the backup associated with Dorian and all that she delivered. Fleet recovery is well underway and as mentioned in previous articles on fleet preparation, part of that recovery is brought about with the help of reliable and experienced partners like payment leader EFS/WEX. While trucking companies are setting out to inventory warehouses, physical merchandise and vehicles, WEX is helping to get payments systems back in place and relationships managed. They are also helping manage expenses with immediate cash-flow and fleet card resources. So, along with fleet preparation and partners like WEX, fleet recovery will be stealth and fleet costs will be minimal.