Transporting freight to areas affected by natural or manmade disasters is one of the toughest challenges in logistics. The recent floods in Louisiana are an example of the difficulties involved. Two interstates were closed causing 55,000 daily motorists, including truckers, to use Interstate 20.
This added over 200 miles to some of the trips.
There were trucks being dispatched with relief supplies and there were trucks passing through the affected regions with loads destined for Houston and San Antonio, TX. The detours and interstate delays caused many loads to miss their service deadlines.
Now Hurricane Matthew has it’s eye on the southeastern corridor.
Hurricane Matthew will hammer parts of eastern Florida starting Thursday, and then spread up the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas Friday into the weekend. This will inevitably affect deliveries and pick ups, as terminals will possibly be closed due to mandatory evacuations throughout the coastline.
Disaster Recovery Procedures Established
Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the devastating flooding of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, much improvement has been made in the area of disaster recovery logistics.
We now have established frameworks are in place to handle almost any situation.
However, due to the nature of disasters and catastrophes, logistics experts must be adaptive. An example of the Strict Utilization of Established Frameworks is brought to mind with the story of a few “Good Samaritan” truck drivers who wanted to support the Hurricane Floyd relief effort. They arrived at inland shipping locations, volunteering to move the loads of supplies at no cost. After much confusion and hours of waiting, they were turned away as the contracted carriers transported the loads.
Some companies like Anheuser-Busch, take this opportunity for charity as well. They recently sent over 250,000 cans of water to the Louisiana flood victims.
FEMA Diverts Carrier Assets
During times of disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) works with contracted carriers to transport basic needs items like water, food and temporary shelter.
When the event happens, carriers supply resources to FEMA immediately because the response has to be swift in order to be effective. These FEMA contracts are very lucrative and assets must be provided as requested per the demanding federal contracts. Shippers could be left out in the cold when carrier assets are diverted to such an operation.
Specialized 3PLs Dedicated to Recovery
Major segments of the economy have standing agreements with 3PLs that specialize in business continuity and disaster recovery operations. When disaster hits, there is no time to build relationships and negotiate responsibilities. It has to be pre-planned and recorded in a binding contract or a memorandum of understanding.
When asked about his responsibilities, this small fleet owner who contracts with a specialized disaster relief 3PL said –
“I subcontract with a logistics provider who contracts directly with AT&T. The communication sector is vital to our national economy and national security, so when there is a disruption, we are called to transport fuel, generators, sanitation equipment, temporary shelters, food and anything else you can think of that is needed in a disaster response.”
In conclusion, logistics providers must have established procedures in place, prior to a disastrous event. Attempts to circumvent established procedures will not work in times of crisis.
Customer needs must be clearly defined.
Customer needs must be clearly defined for these situations and a framework of service providers identified. When such an event happens, the long hours of planning will pay off and result in the service being provided.