Transportation: On the Board
November 12, 2020
Transportation Tipping Points
November 25, 2020

It’s a (Verifiable) Obstacle Course Out There

Well I left my job about 5 o’clock, it took fifteen minutes go three blocks,
Just in time to stand in line with a freeway looking like a parking lot.
⏤ James Taylor, “Traffic Jam”


Well, so long as we remain in the vehicle, maybe we’ll be safer from this pandemic.

Maybe we have a something-more-than-casual need to just get out of the house and go for a drive. Or maybe we’re delivering essentials to keep the supply chain moving. The common denominator is our use of the nation’s roads and highways and bridges.

Which means that, even on the best of days, our streets can ⏤ and do ⏤ get clogged. And that’s not even factoring in the all-too-familiar roadwork.

That roadwork is a perpetual thing in every State in the Union. City streets, interstates, overpasses: seemingly no town is immune from roadwork.

Why? Time is a major factor: things crumble. Weather is another: the cycles ⏤ heat and cold, snow and salt ⏤ contribute to those potholes that give us the bumpy rides and throw our alignments out of whack and damage tires. And then there’s the extreme incident that causes a dangerous weakening of an artery or bridge.

The Brent Spence Bridge is one of the busiest in the country. it connects Cincinnati and Northern Kenticky and provides a major North-South interstate conduit. On November 11th, a truck jackknifed on the bridge. Another truck carrying potassium hydroxide crashed into it. The resulting fire lasted some two hours, reached 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and melted asphalt and some steel. The bridge might be closed for weeks.

This has far-reaching implications. Local residents are inconvenienced by the influx of vehicles seeing alternate routes, and that backlog can and does reach into previously quiet residential streets. In a broader scope, freight with regular routes up and down I-75 ⏤ let’s say Detroit to Knoxville, or Louisville to Columbus ⏤ now needs new coordinates to steer around the congestions.

This adds time. Time adds fuel cost. Rates see temporary inflation. Time-sensitive deliveries need to be recalibrated.

Seasoned transportation and 3PL enterprises will tell you that experience and communication are two of the essential elements that keep the material flowing. Knowing who to contact. Communicating the workaround. Making sure that everyone involved, from carrier to dispatch, origin to destination stays informed.

Again, traffic jams are inconvenient on a “good” day. When major incidents flare up (and let’s fold in extreme weather here), the need for a reactive/proactive strategy is the surest way to save the day.