Weekend winter weather to hit high-volume freight markets (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer heading down snow road with snowy hillside in background.

Old Man Winter keeps trucking through some of the largest freight markets in the country heading into the weekend. Fortunately, impacts on drivers and freight flows should be minor, or moderate at worst.

A clipper system – a fast moving low pressure cell and associate fronts that move southeast from the Canadian Province of Alberta into the U.S. – is producing light snow and mixed precipitation in portions of the Ohio River Valley and the eastern Great Lakes. This will continue through this afternoon.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Friday, Mar. 6, 2020, 10 a.m. EST (left); SONAR ticker: OTVI map (right)

Look for mostly minor delays in the high-volume markets of Columbus, Indianapolis and Detroit. The latest SONAR data from FreightWaves show that these markets rank 10th, 11th and 14th, respectively, in outbound tender volumes (OTVI.CMH, OTVI.IND, OTVI.DTW).

This evening, the storm will move eastward, dumping snow in northeastern Pennsylvania. This will drift southward overnight, sending snow or a rain-snow mix through the Harrisburg, Elizabeth and Allentown markets – the fourth-, seventh- and eighth-largest in the nation in terms of outbound volume (OTVI.MDT, OTVI.EWR, OTVI.ABE) – in addition to places from Baltimore to New York City and Boston. This will affect some sections of the I-95 corridor.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued winter storm warnings for states farther to the south. The heaviest snowfall, 6 to 12 inches, will pile up in smaller markets in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, including the the Snowshoe area. There’s also a risk of occasional blowing snow and reduced visibility there. Look for several inches of snowfall in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

SONAR tickers: OTVI (colors), OTRI (height)

Snowfall and mixed precipitation have also returned to the Northwest, where 12 inches or more could hit parts of the Cascades, northern Rockies and Sierra Nevada through the weekend. Outbound volumes are not impressive in this region, and outbound tender rejections (OTRI) – the percentage of loads offered by shippers that carriers are turning down – are also low, below 5%. This is mainly because carriers have fewer options for available freight, usually pushing spot rates below contract rates.

So the weekend snowstorm will mainly affect long-haul drivers trying to reach the Seattle and Portland markets from the Midwest, as opposed to drivers stopping in the Northwest to pick up loads. Lookout, Snoqualmie and Stevens are just a few of the mountain passes that could become trouble spots.

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend. Please be careful out there!