As the trucking and transportation industry gears up for another round of extreme weather, fleet managers across the nation are prepping equipment, systems, and fleet budgets for the fallout. While twisters and tornados have been threatening the Southern states since March, Northern states are more likely to see them in the upcoming summer months. Even Pacific states and coastal areas are being damaged by heavy rains and flooding. Two inches of rainfall in an hour brought on by a tornado is not unusual.
As tornado warnings issue forth, fleet managers and drivers brace for the worst with planning and preparation. If fleets have a clear understanding of what to do before, during, and after a tornado, they can minimize the risk of injury and increase chances of employee and business survival.
The devastating stories of survivors illuminate the dangers to everyone, particularly truck drivers, who aren’t always able to get to safe shelter immediately. The National Weather Service published the stories below to show how quickly and unexpectedly a tornado can hit.
Shan, McAllen, TX, 2010
We were out of town when a hailstorm hit McAllen, Texas, in 2010 or 2011. The storm ripped through north McAllen and shattered windows on the north sides of homes. Some think it might have been a small tornado. The flooding part, though, was caused by the buildup of hailstones over the street drains, blocking the escape of water from heavy rains. Water rose, and homes that you never would have expected to flood did. Ever since then we have carried flood insurance.
William, Smithville, MS, 2011
On April 27, 2011, a tornado outbreak struck Smithville, Mississippi. After hearing the alert, I had walked outside. It was partly cloudy and warm, but it turned cool so quickly that I thought it was over and I walked back inside my house. WTVA Chief Meteorologist Matt Laubhan said the storm was coming to Smithville and I just stood there watching, waiting, looking at the TV. About 30 seconds later, the power went out and the entire house shook for a minute and then stopped. Then I felt the pressure drop as the shaking got louder and it felt like the house exploded. I woke up one hour and a half later in a field a 1/4 mile away from the house with cuts to my body and a deep cut to my head, and covered in blood, dirt, and grass. I was taken to Tupelo, Mississippi, where I spent two weeks in recovery.
Significant damage to trucking companies in 2011, one of the worst tornado seasons on record, upset not only individual companies but also entire communities as a result of people losing their jobs. Fleet budgets suffered but worst was the personal impact on company families.
Carrier Transicold South, AL
Workers at Carrier Transicold South burrowed through the flattened wreckage of their Birmingham headquarters and dug out the equipment they used to service the refrigerated trailers they rent and maintain. Because their building was wiped out by a tornado, workers at Carrier Transicold have loaded the equipment onto mobile units and are taking it to customers’ locations.
The Petro Truck Stop, VA
The Glade Spring headquarters were demolished in a tornado in 2011, putting about a hundred workers out of their jobs, at least temporarily. The storms also damaged a Utility Trailer Manufacturing Inc. plant in the area that employs more than 300 local workers.
The good news is that communities are resilient, and most trucking companies are able to rebuild. However, insurance is not always there to help, and fleet budgets are often overwhelmed. If fleet managers are prepared, like Carrier Transicold South, above, the fleet can continue operations and billing and keep up with payroll. Unfortunately, payment may not be issued fast enough. Cash flow is always important in the trucking industry but particularly during a disaster, which is why fleet factoring solutions can be vital. An experienced company like Fleet One Factoring can offer peace of mind by taking care of the invoicing and providing the resources needed when fleet budgets are stretched and fleet managers have so many other things to focus on.
Planning and Preparation
Fleet preparation before the storm hits is critical in planning for a tornado. There are several strategies that fleet managers, owners, and operators need to consider, not the least of which concern the vehicle and the route.
- Before heading out, check the weather for your route.
- If severe or inclement weather is in your path, try to re-route, planning the time to avoid weather.
- If you cannot re-route; consider postponing and leaving after the weather. Arriving late is better than not arriving at all.
- Remember other drivers may not be calm; be prepared for the actions/reactions of other drivers.
- Make sure to carry a NOAA weather radio, flashlights, non-perishable food items, water, clean towels, and emergency first-aid kits.
Operational efficiencies and paperwork are also important in weathering the storm. A reliable and experienced fleet factoring company can provide guidance and resources to help before, during, and after a storm, particularly where cost and operations are concerned.
1. Regularly review fleet budgets, policies, and paperwork as part of the plan for achieving cost control and operational efficiency. This strategy will be invaluable in the aftermath of tornado damage. Fleets should also keep any vital paperwork offsite for immediate access in the wake of a storm.
2. Identify cost-saving opportunities and cut wasteful fleet practices before storm season, particularly if your fleet is in the mid-section of the country or the storm zone.
3. Strengthen positive customer relationships. In the event of storm damage, a supportive customer can expedite payment and offer empathy and understanding for any delays in service.
So, as tornado season continues, if planning is in place and fleet factoring companies like Fleet One are engaged, fleet managers can feel confident knowing they have done everything possible to plan for the worst while hoping for the best.