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Metal shipments delayed by severe weather

Keywords: Tags  Severe weather, snowstorms, transportation, trucks, road closures, Bill Ritter, ADS Logistics, Damon Gunter MoveTrans

CHICAGO — Snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures have delayed metal product shipments by up to five days in some regions, especially around the Great Lakes, and transportation and logistics companies expect they won’t be able to make up for lost business due to customer facility closures.

"Everybody is behind. We are probably five full equivalent days behind since the first of the year," said Bill Ritter, president and chief executive officer of ADS Logistics Co. LLC, a Chesterton, Ind.-based national metals hauler and warehouser. "I don’t think we’ll be able to make up numbers for January."

Trucking capacity utilization during a normal winter is 65 to 75 percent, but Ritter said there were days in January when it was down to 60 percent.

Shippers also have been hampered by interstate highway closures, which have been particularly prevalent in northwest Indiana, where lake-effect snow has caused treacherous conditions. State troopers have closed sections of Interstate 94, I-90 and I-65 more than once, leading to lengthy travel times.

Rail lines and intermodal business also have faced significant delays, Ritter said, and even when trucks are available, "the older equipment is more difficult to keep running."

Damon Gunter, president of Baltimore-based intermodal company MoveTran LLC, agreed. "There has been a lot of delay getting trucks inbound and outbound because of the weather. Because of fuel and brake lines freezing and frozen engine blocks, we have seen a slowdown. If they should have been here Tuesday, they don’t show up until Wednesday," he said.

Freight rates have risen, especially along the East Coast, Gunter said, adding that weather played a role there, too.

Ritter agreed that costs have risen, saying carriers have to run trucks seven straight days "so the fuel and hydraulic fluid lines don’t gel up."

Meanwhile, several major ports affected by the latest storm have resumed normal operations. The Port of Charleston confirmed it had resumed operations at 10 a.m. Jan. 30, while the Port of Mobile, Ala., and the Port of New Orleans reopened at midday Jan. 29.

"While inconvenient, the winter weather only caused a few delays in cargo ship schedules," Port of New Orleans president and chief executive officer Gary LaGrange said in a statement. "There were no ships diverted from New Orleans and our terminal operators, port personnel, customs officials and longshoremen stand ready to catch up on all cargo operations the next few days."

Daniel Fitzgerald, New York, contributed to this article.

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