A powerful polar vortex that has developed over parts of the United States is making life miserable for freight transportation and trucking industries.
The polar vortex, a blast of subzero Arctic air, has already caused road closures in the Northeast, Midwest and some Southern states as over 50 major cities broke record lows last week. These highway and road closures have immensely increased transportation difficulties for truck drivers and resulted in lost revenue for carriers throughout the country.
Polar vortexes are a common phenomenon. They occur seasonally in the North Pole, and the formation resembles a hurricane. These speeding winds build up around a calm center. However, these are frigid polar winds which circle the Arctic at over 100 miles per hour.
Typically, these winds are trapped in the Arctic, but in this case, the polar vortex has split apart and sent a massive cold wind pattern into the United States.
While the total effect on the freight transportation and trucking industries will take time to calculate, a study released in 2013 by the Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) insurance company points out that even slight variations in the weather can influence business performance.
In its report, AGCS found that the impact of a weather variation on the economy could total as much as $534 billion a year in the United States alone.
The cost of weather delays for trucking and airline companies annually amounts to $3.5 billion and $3 billion, respectively. And the correlating costs are accumulating at a significant rate, with approximations signifying that 30 percent of United States gross domestic product is affected by variations in weather activity.
In some states, authorities are continuing to close roads in an effort to keep people safe. Indiana has activated 24 Highway Assistance Teams with the Indiana National Guard, consisting of 96 individuals, in an effort to rescue stranded motorists and assist local emergency medical service teams.
Meanwhile, Maryland’s State Highway Administration (SHA) continues to monitor the polar vortex that is affecting the Midwest as it’s expected to freeze rainfall on roadways this week within the Old Line State along with more areas up and down the East Coast. Dense fog is also hindering visibility throughout much of the state with fog warnings in effect for many regions. High winds are also a concern as it may instantly freeze moisture on trees and power wires. Because of this, the SHA is urging all drivers to pay close attention to the road ahead and be prepared to alter routes and plans in the event of downed trees, large tree branches or wires.