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Get Ready - Strong El Nino Sets the Stage for 2015-16 Winter Weather

This year's El Nino, among  the strongest on record, is expected to have a big influence on our climate patterns this winter.  Everyone in the transportation industry needs to adhere to Murphy’s Law:  Expect the Unexpected.  Developing a plan of action for truck readiness, as well as training drivers on issues that may arise from bad weather, can save companies  lots of  time and money. 

 Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center’s seasonal  outlook for December, January and February is wetter-than-average conditions for the Southern Tier of the U.S. from central and Southern California, across Texas, to Florida and up the East Coast to Southern New England.  Drier-than-average conditions are expected for Hawaii, parts of the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies, the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.  Above average temperatures are favored across much of the West and Northern half of the U.S., Hawaii and Alaska.  Below average temperatures are most likely in the Southern Plains and Southeast.  The good news is a predicted end to the drought in Southern California, but less rain likely in Hawaii, parts of the Northern Plains, and in the Great Lakes region.

Transportation companies can minimize weather-related risk by taking advantage of weather predictions.  Especially with El Nino, it seems that we might not be getting the "normal" winter we expect.  Keeping abreast of the weather conditions, and having a plan in place for storms, bad road conditions, freezing rain and snow, or ever hotter than normal temperatures, can save your company a lot of money, as well as increased consumer costs.


An example of  trucking companies not being prepared  showed up when the 2011 and 2014 snow and ice storms hit Atlanta, a major transportation hub in the Southeast. 

The Government of Georgia and officials in Atlanta did not completely acknowledge the weather predictions or Murphy’s Law.  These massive winter storms brought shipping to and from the city to a standstill.  So much of the freight industry is based on just-in-time arrangements, and Atlanta is an important hub when it comes to goods movement.  The president of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the economy would suffer millions of dollars in lost productivity from these two particular winter storms.  

No matter where you are traveling, the transportation industry should always be prepared for the indifferent weather.  Training drivers by having emergency plans in order, and maintaining vehicles will be crucial to a fleet’s success.  Temperatures dropping below a certain amount require an array of different procedures to be added to a fleet’s checklist.  Special additives must be put into diesel tanks to keep the fuel from gelling, parts must be lubricated to prevent freezing, moisture and road chemicals require certain components to be cleaned or replaced.  The list goes on and on.  Check out a few of these sites to come up with a checklist to go along with your preparedness plan.


A truck slides as he tries to avoid another wrecked truck as snow begins to accumulate on I-65

There were several road closures in Alabama on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Clanton, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Also, you need to remember that trailers shipping climate controlled cargo, such as fruit and vegetables, will need chute systems (go to ) installed to blow out hot or cold air into the length of the trailer directly from the reefer unit,  in order to prevent refrigerated products from freezing or becoming too hot.  Pallets and stacked boxes can prevent the air from being properly distributed throughout the trailer. 

 If your fleet is using bulkheads, Insulated Transport Products has a product called the Cold Draw System that is trailer mounted, and will draw cold or warm air more efficiently to the rear of the trailer without interfering with the bulkhead.

 When weather is monitored, companies can act ahead of time to get equipment and goods out of the way to minimize the risks of extreme weather.  Planning and preparation are critical to saving lives and protecting profits.