Flooding could hit major western US freight market (with forecast video)

Covered flatbed tractor-trailer on wet highway.

Periods of relentless downpours will continue to drench Southern California over the next two days, possibly disrupting freight flows along several interstates. Daily rainfall records were set on Monday in the Los Angeles metropolitan area where almost 1.25 inches fell at Los Angeles International Airport (ICAO code: LAX).

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Wednesday, Apr. 8, 2020, 10 a.m. EDT

A low pressure system is drifting slowly toward the Southern California coast and will move across the region through Friday. The system will produce numerous showers with a chance of thunderstorms and additional periods of heavy rainfall. There’s potential for localized flash flooding in many areas, especially where thunderstorms pop up, and where showers track repeatedly across the same area, a process called “training.” Rainfall totals will reach one to two inches, with locally higher amounts possible.

The flash flood threat is mainly from Anaheim to San Diego, eastward to Death Valley and the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. This includes interstates 5, 8, 10, 15 and 40. Besides possible flooding, rockslides and debris flows could also lead to road closures.

Meanwhile, cold air will spread across the mountains around Los Angeles and San Diego. The highest snowfall totals of 12 to 24 inches will hit some elevations above 5,500 feet in San Bernardino, Ventura, Riverside and Los Angeles counties. This includes places such as Big Bear City, Wrightwood, Lockwood Valley, Mount Pinos, Acton, Mount Wilson and Sandberg. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a winter storm warning for these areas. Light snow or a snow-rain mix could cause minor travel impacts on I-5 through the Grapevine area, 80 miles north of Los Angeles.

Impact on freight

FreightWaves SONAR shows that outbound tender volume in the Ontario freight market (OTVI.ONT) has been dropping recently. But it remains the third-largest market in the country and its outbound volume is as high as it’s been all year, so there’s still plenty of freight available there.


Outbound tender rejection rates are also dropping, meaning carriers have been rejecting fewer electronically offered contracted loads from shippers. SONAR can break down rejection rates by length of haul, and it’s interesting to note that outbound tender rejections for Ontario are lowest for long-haul lanes of 800 miles or more (LOTRI.ONT) – only 2.18%. In other words, most of the loads carriers are accepting in the Ontario market are being dropped off 800 miles away or more. The other lengths of haul are short (100-249 miles), mid (250-449 miles) and tweener (450-799 miles).

Ontario’s LOTRI value in the low single digits indicates loose capacity for long-haul loads, likely sending spot rates below contract rates. This could be a good opportunity for shippers to find favorable rates if they have freight that needs to go from the Ontario market to anywhere east of the Rockies. However, carriers need to plan on their drivers running into potential delays due to road closures.

Have a great day! Please stay healthy and be careful out there!