Last Thursday, trucking and logistic companies that depend on the Thruway to haul freight through the Buffalo area were in a rough situation.
The highway was shut down by a lake-effect snowstorm and left trucks stranded alongside motorists, incapable of completing the deliveries.
According to Robert Rich III, president of ROAR Logistics in Buffalo, such interruptions are unfavorable and frequently inevitable condition.
"There's really not a lot we can do," Rich said. "We're really at the mercy of Mother Nature and the New York State Thruway Authority."
Rich's advise is to keep customers notified about why their shipments are late and supply them with fresh information as soon as possible when storm delays happen.
Another option is to guide the drivers to an alternative route if the trucks are not trapped in the back up, Rich said. Although that depends on having a fairly quick alternative, compare against whether the closed road might reopen before the driver finishes the alternative way.
Dennis Brown, chief executive officer of Logistic Dynamics Inc. in Amherst, declares his company also copes with weather concerns not just in Buffalo but also in other parts of the country where it operates. He said, "Weather is always a never-ending issue."
In some circumstances, a delivery concern can be managed by dispatching a truck to pick up the commodity from a different distribution center, outside of where the interruptions are, he said. That kind of maneuvering occurs unofficially, and can be logistically demanding to accomplish on a short timetable.
Brown said that that's where they earn their money and that's where the customers depend on from them.
The company has facilities on either side of the storm that were still doing business, although the weather was creating some delays, said David Galante, director of sales and marketing at Speed Global Services.
Galante explained that for the most part they don't force their drivers to take Route 5 whenever Thruway gets shot down. He said that if Thruway is closed, then there's a reason behind that.
In situations like this, according Galante, it's just a waiting game and you need to keep the customers posted.
The logistic officials said that customers do understand when their shipment can't move or are slowed down because of a bad weather. Being left in the dark is what they can't tolerate.
Brown said, there are shipments that are more time-sensitive than others, shipments like perishable goods or commodities that a store is counting on stocking for an advertised sale.
Weather concerns or road closings expose the risk that comes with a "just-in-time" supply system, for some customers. Such a system restricts the cost of stockpiling products when things move smoothly, however it leaves them with small margin for shipping delays, said Brown.
UPS deliveries gets bogged down by storm and road problems. While the company does everything in their capacity to deliver the goods on time, the safety of their employees and others on the road is still their top priority, Karen Cole, a UPS spokeswoman revealed,
Jim's Truck Stop on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga, had truck drivers patiently waiting for a chance to finish their routes.
"Everything was fine until [Wednesday] afternoon, right after 5 p.m. [when] the weather came down. Mother Nature decided to drop everything on us," Raul Fontanez said.
Fontanez drove from Columbus, Kan., to West Seneca, and was scheduled to drive to Erie, Pa., before returning to Kansas with a load, when the storm poured.
Reaching the truck stop took him an hour and 40 minutes traveling 22 miles.
"Thank God that I made it to this spot where my truck is sitting, and I'm not going anywhere until this goes away," he said. Veteran drivers like Fontanez always travels prepared: he brought food and DVDs to keep him busy during idle times.
Running out of fuel is a very nasty problem during this kind of situation, That's why Ralph Moyer, who drove from High Point, N.C., always keeps his tanks full as much as he can.