Snowstorm heading to Rockies, Midwest freight markets this weekend (with forecast video)

Plow clearing snowy Colorado highway.

Ongoing snow storms may cause freight flow delays in the western and midwestern United States through this weekend.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2020, 10 a.m. EDT; North-central U.S snowstorm

Next two days

Periods of heavy snowfall will keep trucking through the Salt Lake City metropolitan area through Thursday as a low pressure system develops over the western states. Parts of the Wasatch Mountains will see 12 to 24 inches of total accumulation, with 5 to 10 inches in the adjacent valleys and the Park City area.

Snow, high winds and reduced visibility continue in the Sierra Nevada today, which includes the Stockton market in eastern California. A few more inches could pile up in Truckee, California, with several more inches in higher elevations. Donner Pass could become a trouble spot for truckers.

These storms could cause occasional road closures on the Interstate 80 corridor in the Salt Lake City and Stockton markets.

This weekend

By Friday and Friday night, this vigorous weather system could produce mountain snowfall in the Colorado Rockies, including the Denver area. In addition to heavy accumulations in some high elevations, there’s some potential for heavy wet snow in the foothills, the Palmer Divide and across portions of the adjacent plains. However, it’s too early to pinpoint forecast totals at this point. Weather will improve on Saturday as the storm heads to the Upper Midwest.

The latest SONAR data from FreightWaves shows that Denver has a fairly high outbound tender volume index (OTVI.DEN), ranked 21st in the nation. The 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.


However, outbound render rejection rates (OTRI) are also high, indicating tight capacity. Carriers can’t keep up with demand, turning down 30% or more of loads for mid-haul (MOTRI.DEN) lengths of 250 to 450 miles, tweener-hauls (TOTRI.DEN) of 450 to 800 miles, and long-hauls (LOTRI.DEN) of more than 800 miles. Most of the outbound loads are short-haul, being trucked within 100 to 250 miles from the market.

Saturday and Sunday, the snowstorm will move through parts of the Plains and Midwest. Places in Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Upper Michigan could see several inches of snow with wind gusts up to 30 or 35 mph. However, the areas consist of low outbound volume freight markets. This is indicated by their light blue and white shading in the SONAR map directly below, in which the impact zone of the snowstorm is outlined in red. Disruptions in freight movement should be minor to moderate.

SONAR Ticker: OTVI Map

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