Serious Cargo Backlogs in the Midwest

As weather forecasters predict the second Arctic deep freeze this month for the Midwest, the environment for cargo operations worsens.  In Chicago, with temperatures today as low as -15F and wind chills reaching -35F, the rail system is already under tremendous strain from a combination of malfunctioning track-side equipment and trucks, holidays, the severe cold which causes trains to run more slowly for safety, and a surge in import cargo shipped before Chinese New Year.  As the system slows and truckers are forced to wait in line for hours at a time, dray carriers are much more prone to hold on to chassis in order to complete moves and get back in line more quickly.  This practice, in combination with the cargo surge, has already led to an acute shortage of chassis in Chicago and in many other Inland Point Intermodal (IPI) destinations in the Midwest (notably Detroit).  Truckers in the Chicago and Detroit areas are advising of a backlog of work from 7 to 10 days.

Shapiro expects the situation to worsen, and we caution our customers to pre-plan carefully for cargo destined to the Midwest.  It is important to note that most Mini Land Bridge (MLB) cargo headed to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast relays through Chicago, and we also expect significant delays for that cargo.  The absolute key for dealing with the extreme backlog is to communicate early with your Customs broker, forwarder, steamship carrier, dray carrier, and railroad carrier to develop well-coordinated plans and reasonable expectations for the logistics required under these unfavorable conditions.