Avoiding logistics breakdowns by winter-proofing hauling operations

With winter storms blowing across North America, it is that time of the year when trucking fleets prepare checklists to ensure smoother operations during extreme temperature swings. FreightWaves spoke with John Luciani, the COO of LTL services at A. Duie Pyle, the transport and logistics provider, to understand what companies can do to operate their supply chains without interruptions in winter. 

“In our capacity as a regional LTL provider, we have a preparation checklist that we run through, which includes details on when to fuel and instructions on preparing the power equipment for the season. Good preventative maintenance practices are followed to ensure windshield wipers, air dryers and DEF tanks do not have freeze-ups or breakdowns during the season,” said Luciani. “Fleets should also consider blended fuel, which can help prevent possible breakdowns due to gelling.”

This apart, drivers will have to be trained to handle adverse conditions without calling in backup unless the situation turns severe. For instance, truckers need to know how to install snow chains on their tires, and more importantly, recognize when they would have to be fitted. 

Luciani explained that A. Duie Pyle runs a fleet of more than 600 heater trailers with various configurations, helping protect freight throughout the winter. “In preparation for our freezable season, typically from November 15 until April 15, we run those heater trailers through every one of our shops to give them a preseason inspection review test, to make sure the batteries are up and that the heaters and thermostats are functioning properly,” he said. 

For the safety of drivers, fleet management will have to take proactive steps in reinforcing the importance of wearing proper apparel, educate them on risk management strategies and new technologies that help keep operations safe and moving during these months. 

“Risk management helps protect people, property, products, processes and information throughout the shipping process, which can lead to decreased workplace injuries and higher quality work,” said Luciani. “Ensuring all drivers are Class A CDL, hazmat and forklift certified helps guarantee that products will be safely and properly handled from pickup to delivery.”

Investing in infrastructure is key, which Luciani contended might give companies a competitive advantage by shipping faster than their market rivals. For instance, investing in snowplows for removing snow from warehouses, dedicated sites and LTL service centers will remove the dependency on third-party snow-removal service providers to come and do the job for the logistics stakeholders. 

“As a logistics provider, the best possible scenario would be to get a shipment picked up, protected and delivered without the weather conditions having a huge impact on the operations,” said Luciani.

Shippers looking for a logistics provider to work with during the winter months should not just consider the provider’s rate of on-time service, service area and solutions but also look at a provider’s ability to offer shipment freeze protection without weather embargoes, including heated trailers, network infrastructure and advanced route planning systems. “These assets and capabilities can help fleet owners boost their bottom line by attracting and retaining customers that require a more extensively weatherproofed operation,” said Luciani. 

In essence, winterizing operations is a full-spectrum effort that involves protecting employees with the right equipment and training, ensuring preventative maintenance is current on all power and trailer equipment and offering services that protect temperature-sensitive shipments.