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Freight Disruptions: Impacts on Freight Movement from Natural and Man-Made Events

The U.S. economy depends on reliable freight transportation to link businesses with suppliers and markets throughout the nation and the world. However, natural and man-made events that occur both within the U.S. and globally have the potential to impact the supply chain and overall freight movement, with repercussions on the commerce and the economy. This page contains a selection of articles that discuss the freight impacts of recent events.

Lessons Learned from Recent Events

Hurricane Sandy – 2012

Hurricane Sandy made landfall over the New York and New Jersey region on October 29, 2012 causing billions in dollars of damage and severely flooding streets and tunnels along the East Coast of the United States.

Mississippi River Flooding – 2011

Areas along the Mississippi River, from Illinois to Louisiana, experienced extensive flooding in April-May, 2011. Flooding shut down highways and railways and resulted in traffic restrictions on the river.

Mississippi River Flooding – I-40 in Arkansas

The Mississippi River flooding impacted a major freight route, I-40 in Arkansas. The FHWA used its Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) to project potential freight movement changes. Output from a special tabulation of the FAF model was used to display scenario-specific truck flow maps and illustrate the possible regional and national freight traffic shifts in response to the major road closures. To analyze the disruption, all truck flows had to be re-estimated with the affected highway segments removed and rerouted over other available routes. This level of analysis is conducted in response to major incidents or natural disasters which significantly impact freight traffic over a number of days, weeks, or longer. To discuss this type of analysis please send an email to faf@dot.gov.

Pre and post scenario flow maps assist state DOT's with their response and planning.

Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disasters – 2011

The U.S. faces potential ramifications from the damage to Japan's freight transportation system caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The U.S. may face lower levels of both air and maritime imports in automobiles and parts, as well as fewer imports of high-end electronics and devices such as semiconductors, and specialty chemicals. The disruption of Japan's transportation and distribution networks has already affected U.S. industrial supply chains, particularly automobile manufacturing and assembly plants

Gulf Coast Oil Spill – 2010

Although the impact of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill on overall U.S. commerce was not significant, the spill had a large impact on shipping in and out of the Port of New Orleans.

Iceland Volcano Cloud – 2010

While the Iceland volcano cloud left travelers stranded in Europe, it is also disrupted the movement of freight and affected the supply chain for many companies. Although air freight only makes up a small percentage of U.S. international trade (less than 1% of total volume), the disruption to air travel caused problems for those shipping high value or perishable goods and for supply chains that depend on just in time delivery.

Port Disruptions

Disruptions at a port can have significant consequences, from supply chain interruptions causing production stoppages to lost revenue. There can be significant economic consequences in the short run, while in the long run alternative routes and travel means will be found.

Port Strikes – 2012

An eight day strike by the Office Clerical Unit workers at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles had shut down 10 of the 14 terminals, 7 of 8 terminals at the Port of Los Angeles and 3 of 6 terminals at the Port of Long Beach. While economic impact of this strike are currently unclear, port officials at the Port of Long Beach estimated that for each day of the strike, the movement of $650 million worth of goods was halted.

Plans, Reports/Studies and Webinars

Related Topics

Staff Contacts

Chip Millard
202-366-3224
Chip.Millard@dot.gov

Crystal Jones
202-366-2976
Crystal.Jones@dot.gov

Ed Strocko
202-366-2997
Ed.Strocko@dot.gov

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