Hurricane Harvey: Transportation Impacts 08/29/2017

Hurricane Harvey continues to have a big effect on people and businesses near the South Texas coast. This impact includes the freight transportation industry which is currently experiencing major disruptions to include the following:

  • Halted traffic due to flooded roadways and damaged infrastructure
  • Suspended rail service
  • Closures of regional shipping terminals and ports
  • Chaotic supply chains due to extra shipments and lower productivity

Nearly 10 percent of US trucking will be affected by the storm during this first week, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence. Those estimates will decline over the second week but may remain significant for at least one month. The largest effects will primarily be regionalized but the transportation impacts will be felt across the entire US.

Transportation Mode Updates from Carrier Assessments

Carriers are reporting service outages or limitations in the hardest hit areas due to flooding, blocked roads, terminal closures and lack of personnel.

Bulk: Facilities in affected areas may be shut down, while other operations have restricted the inbound flow of trucks into the greater Houston area.  In an effort to accommodate requests, providers may be re-sourcing national customers to other locations to provide continuity of service. Tank cleaning facilities in the Houston area currently are not operating.

Truckload: Operations may be impacted as cities respond to local and federal evacuations. Due to the severity of this storm, and more rainfall predicted, many locations have cancelled pickups and deliveries in certain areas: Houston, Corpus Christi, and Beaumont. Other locations continue to experience limited service: Austin and San Antonio. Logistics service providers continue to work with authorities, suppliers, and customers to limit extensive service disruptions. Unforeseen operational expenses may be incurred during these efforts.

Less-than-Truckload: The impact of Hurricane Harvey will continue to cause system-wide disruption in Southeast Texas that may ultimately extend to the State of Texas and beyond as carriers begin to deal with the impact of cargo overload caused by the storm. All customers should anticipate an extended period of service interruption in this region, with pick-ups discontinued until existing deliveries and distribution warehouse capacity issues are addressed.

Intermodal: Efforts are underway by some intermodal providers to verify customer operational status before attempting to make deliveries where practical. These operations have halted additional pickup services for freight destined to the Houston area for at least 72 hours. A return to service for local pickups or deliveries is not projected for at least the next 48 hours.

Rail: All rail traffic into and out of the Houston area has been suspended at this time.  It’s still too early to provide an accurate report on the condition of track, but maintenance of way crews and equipment are on standby to assess damage as soon as they’re able to access the impacted areas.

BNSF – With multiple washouts and high water reported on BNSF main lines in the area, all traffic destined to/originating from Houston has been suspended. All operations at BNSF Houston-area railyards and facilities, including our Pearland Intermodal and Automotive facilities, are currently suspended. Crews are planning to conduct an aerial assessment to determine the current extent of damage and flooding impacts to the main lines. With additional flooding likely during the next few days, normal train flows in the area may not resume for an extended period. Customers should expect continued delays on shipments scheduled to move through the area. BNSF Service Update – Hurricane Harvey

Kansas City Southern – Lane closures between Kendleton, TX (Houston) and Laredo, TX, resulted in a Force Majeure being declared for KCSR and KCSM and an embargo for impacted areas on the KCSR network. These remain in effect. KCSR Service Update – Hurricane Harvey

Norfolk Southern – Effective Monday, August 28th at 23:00 est., the Norfolk Southern Railroad will place an embargo on any freight destined to the following rail ramps:

  • BNSF and KCS rail ramps in Houston, TX (H- and H? ramps)
  • KCS rail ramp in Laredo, TX (XL ramp)
  • KCSM rail ramp in Mexico – Salinas Victoria (M?), San Luis Potosi (P?), and Toluca (T?)

UP – Rail operations along the Gulf Coast from Brownsville, Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana are currently suspended due to high water and storm damage. Routes through San Antonio are opening up which will allow trains to run both north and south between San Antonio and Hearne, Texas. The Laredo gateway remains open to interchange traffic with the Mexican railroads. Livonia and Avondale shipments destined to points west of Tucson into California normally traveling through Houston will be re-routed through Longview and Ft. Worth, Texas around the flooded areas. Where accessible, Union Pacific continues to inspect tracks in anticipation of resuming operations. UP Service Update – Hurricane Harvey

Transportation Updates from Port, Depots, and Support Assessments

Vessel Traffic at the ports will reopen when channels have been deemed safe by the US Coast Guard.

Market Impacts & Highway Updates

Market Impact

  • Spot rates are expected to spike
  • Capacity tightens as trucking companies allocate resources to assist in relief efforts
  • Long-term disruptions could drive fuel prices higher in the weeks ahead
  • Productivity could decrease due to out-of-cycle supply chain demands

Highway Updates

Approximately 500 roadways in southeast Texas are currently experiencing flood conditions. Travel is not advised in the affected areas due to rapidly changing water levels and unsafe conditions. Please see link below for specific details.

  • Houston-area interstates (I-45, I-10 and I-69, I-610), as well as US 59 all have closures. TX Roadways Impacted By Harvey
  • Louisiana roadways reporting flooding/closures: LA1077, LA661, LA 316, LA 3147, I-10 westbound, LA397, LA3020