There were 15 natural disasters in 2017 that cost $1 billion or more. All were linked to weather and climate (flooding, freezing, and wildfires) and had a direct impact on shipping and transporting merchandise. For retailers and manufacturers that rely on trucks to deliver their goods, working with vendors (logistics, tech solutions, etc.) that have a natural disaster readiness plan in place, is essential. Read on to learn more about some industry best practices.

Transportation & Shipping Issues

Natural disasters have a direct impact on Tight Truckload Capacity, meaning there’s a limited number of trucks available for transporting goods. When demand for transportation outweighs supply, freight rates can increase, costing retailers additional money. In the case of inclement weather—and in order to keep business moving—shipping companies should plan for higher-than-normal levels of Tight Truckload Capacity. Here’s why:

Available trucks:  Studies show that 99.2% of all trucks are currently in use. When disaster strikes, companies need to account for the fact that there’s an extremely limited number of trucks that can be used for additional work.

Back-to-back disasters: It’s bad enough when one disaster strikes, but when a community is hit with back-to-back storms, the number of available trucks decreases even further. Plus, with limited roadways and loading docks, the importance of finding new routes and locations becomes critical.

Tight labor market: The trucking industry is currently experiencing a driver shortage as other industries such as construction are constantly luring drivers away. What’s more, wages for construction workers are set to outpace those of drivers, so the market has the potential to get even tighter.

Transportation & Shipping Solutions

C.H. Robinson, a leading third party logistics provider (3PL), recommends the following for when a natural disaster strikes: 

Increase lead times: Next day and same day shipping becomes nearly impossible when disaster strikes. When possible, retailers should notify customers of increased shipping times during times of inclement weather.

Flexible delivery and pick up windows: When retailers are flexible with pick up and delivery times, this provides carriers the opportunity to better schedule driver availability and ultimately provides a more effective overall schedule.

Current market conditions fluctuate: It’s important to keep in mind that market conditions are constantly changing. By staying up-to-date on the latest happenings and weather developments, retailers can plan for and anticipate any sudden increase in rates and costs.

Consider all options: When it comes to shipping goods, there are many options. Retailers should be aware of different processes that could help them in the event of a natural disaster or otherwise. Chris Brady, Director of Americas, TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson says, “When possible, be open to revised pricing, spot quoting, live-loading, and other processes to increase your capacity options and lessen the impact of a tighter market.”

B-Stock’s Readiness Plan

B-Stock  has measures in place in the event of a natural disaster to ensure that 1) our retailers’ online marketplaces run as smoothly as possible, with minimal disruption to auction listings and 2) we communicate real-time updates with both our buyers and sellers. In the case of Hurricane Irma, we notified account managers to be on alert, and to notify sellers that they should send any inventory in advance. Buyers were alerted directly about any possible delays in shipment. In addition, we posted banners on marketplaces warning of possible shipping delays due to the weather.

In some cases, we’ve put relocation measures in place to make sure staff members affected by the weather were in a safe environment with a working internet connection. The main goal was to keep employees safe while making sure all listings and auctions continued to run as smoothly as possible.

While we hope for less extreme weather in 2018, we know that sometimes disaster can strike, and that it has a big impact on business. After all, if they buy it, you need to ship it. Taking the time to assess your logistics and other vendor capabilities in the event of a hurricane, flood, earthquake, or otherwise, should be a goal of any retailer.

Contact us today to see how B-Stock and C.H. Robinson can help with your logistics needs. This includes the transportation, warehousing, selling, and shipping of returned, overstock and other excess goods.

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