Storm disrupts shipping routes

on Aug30

Submerged freeways from the effects of Hurricane Harvey are seen during widespread flooding in Houston. Photo credit: REUTERS

WASHINGTON — After four days, Harvey continues to cause delays in shipments of new and used vehicles, as well as auto parts, through Texas and some areas along the Gulf Coast.

Logistics providers and shippers say they won’t know when freight transportation will resume until the heavy rain ends and they can assess damage to operations and equipment, and determine whether road or rail routes are passable.

Operations for major railroads Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific remain suspended through much of Texas. Kansas City Southern, which operates a north-south network from the heartland of Mexico through the U.S. Midwest, has closed traffic lanes between Houston and Laredo, Texas, and is not accepting orders or making arrangements for deliveries in impacted areas of its network.

Union Pacific, which primarily operates in the western half of the United States with Mexico service, also said it is abiding by an embargo for all traffic destined to rail yards on the Gulf Coast as well as inland points, and recommended that customers consider diverting vehicles where feasible. Operations are still suspended along the Gulf Coast from Brownsville, Texas, to Lake Charles, La., because of high water and damage from Harvey, now a tropical storm. Previously ordered or scheduled trains are being held at their origination points until further notice.

Port Houston, which handled about 86,000 vehicles for Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles last year, remains closed.

United Road, a nationwide auto hauler that moves 3.5 million vehicles per year for manufacturers, rental car companies, fleet leasing companies, dealers and collectors, moved all trucks to higher ground and delivered as many loads as possible before the storm so they were empty and not in a position to sustain cargo damage, said company CEO Kathleen McCann. The top priority was making sure workers were safe before Harvey made landfall.

In the days leading up the storm, the company helped move customers’ vehicles to safe storage lots outside the storm area.

It is too soon to tell if new routes will need to be developed because of damaged roads and bridges, she added.

United Road, headquartered in Romulus, Mich., expects to transport rental cars to Houston.

“It is very common for rental car companies to reposition fleets to areas that need them and there’s no doubt the Houston market will need significant rental car support while individuals have their cars repaired,” she said.

On the return trip, the company will carry vehicles damaged in the storm to auction houses, parts salvage facilities or scrap yards, McCann said.

United Road, which has 1,200 employee drivers as well as about 700 owner-operators that drive under contract, is preparing a shipment of relief supplies for hundreds of workers in the storm area.

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