Northeast snowstorm could hit leading freight markets next week (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailers on slushy highway.

Two leading freight markets in the United States could get a quick shot of heavy snowfall early next week.

Set up and snowfall amounts

A fast-moving low-pressure system and associated cold front will shift from the Ohio Valley into the Northeast on Sunday night and next Monday, March 23. With just enough cold air in place, precipitation will change from rain/rain-snow mix to snow and sleet as it moves across the region. The storm will probably last 24 hours or less in most locations, affecting travel on I-95 mostly north of New York City. Initial outlooks point to snowfall totals mostly of 3 to 7 inches. Winds may be gusty in some areas, but this storm will not likely turn into a blizzard.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Friday, Mar. 20, 2020, 10 a.m. EDT; Plains blizzard forecast for Mar. 23, 2020

This storm also will not likely be high-impact, but some disruptions in road and air freight movement are likely. At this time, the core of the impacts will hit interior sections of the Northeast while the heavily populated coastal areas, including New York City and Boston, could end up on the fringe of the snow band, receiving mixed precipitation.

Impact on freight

Two leading freight markets – Harrisburg and Allentown, Pennsylvania – are also on the edge of the storm’s potential impact zone. As of this morning, FreightWaves SONAR data show they are the 2nd- and 5th-largest freight markets in the country, respectively, regarding outbound tender volumes (OTVI.MDT, OTVI.ABE).

SONAR Tickers: OTVI Tree Map

Volumes have been increasing pretty sharply since early this month, especially in Harrisburg. But outbound tender rejections (OTRI.MDT, OTRI.ABE) – the percentage of loads offered by shippers that are being turned down by carriers – have also been increasing, rising above 20% in each market. This may be because carriers can’t keep up with the demand, resulting in tighter truck capacity. This is likely a result of panic buying and shipments of supplies due to the COVID-19 outbreak.


The impending snowstorm may not make a direct hit on Harrisburg and Allentown (it is now forecast to be a mix of rain and snow). But the outlook could change for the worse, further tightening capacity and pushing spot rates well above contract rates. So the situation is worth watching.

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend! Stay healthy and be careful out there!