Late-week snow storm coming to Denver freight market (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer wreck on snowy Colorado highway.

A snow storm will hit portions of the Denver freight market Friday and Friday night, from the high elevations and foothills of the Rockies to the plains of eastern Colorado.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Thursday, Mar. 26, 2020, 10 a.m. EDT; North-central U.S snowstorm

This potent weather system could dump heavy snowfall in the high elevations of the Rockies surrounding the Denver area. There is some potential for heavy wet snow in the foothills, Palmer Divide, and across portions of the adjacent plains. Truckers may run into trouble spots and possible road closures on Interstates 70 and 76 in Colorado, as well as I-80 in western Nebraska.

Downtown Denver will likely just see a mix of rain and snow showers, but heavy snowfall isn’t unusual this time of year in the Denver metropolitan area. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), March is the snowiest month of the year in Denver. On average, the city received 10.7 inches in March, compared to only 5.7 inches in February and 7.0 inches in January.

Impact on freight

Nationally, dramatic increases in outbound render volumes (SONAR: OTVI.USA) since March 1, have produced increases in outbound render rejections (SONAR: OTRI.USA) as stores are in a rush to restock empty shelves due to COVID-19 panic buying. So there’s a capacity crunch in many markets, including Denver.

The latest SONAR data from FreightWaves show Denver’s outbound tender rejection index (OTRI.DEN) has increased from 19% on March 1 to almost 28% yesterday, and outbound volumes are about 27% higher.


Denver has the 22nd-highest level of outbound volumes in the country as of yesterday morning. The national OTVI has a base value of 10,000 based on trucking volumes on March 1, 2018. The index moves in proportion to the total observable outbound tender volume among the 135 freight markets nationwide.

Tender rejections are the percentage of electronic, contracted loads offered by shippers that carriers turn down. In this case, carriers are rejecting a high amount of freight because they literally may be at full utilization and do not have any excess capacity to take on the loads.

But even carriers who have available drivers may balk even more at picking up loads in Denver until the impending winter-like storm passes. This would tighten capacity a bit more in the market.

This weekend

The Denver-area storm system will rapidly move into the northern Great Lakes Saturday through Sunday. The storm will produce a swath of snow from parts of Nebraska and South Dakota to Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and upper Michigan. Total snowfall accumulations will be approximately 2 to 6 inches with localized areas of up to 8 inches. Wind gusts will reach 25 to 35 mph, resulting in areas of blowing snow and reduced visibility.


This won’t likely turn into a major blizzard, but minor to moderate delays in freight flows are possible. But, except for Denver, freight markets in the impact zone (outlined in red on the SONAR map directly above) have low outbound volumes. This is indicated by their light blue and white shadings on the same map.

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