Reno-Tahoe flooding, snow, road closures hinder transportation industry
January 16, 2017
RENO, Nev. — Last week, the region's severe weather greatly impacted business in Northern Nevada. One of the industries being hit the hardest is transportation.
Andy Zarcone, owner and president of the local transportation company Sierra Airfreight Express, explained his company typically runs three trucks a day between Reno and the Bay Area. However, closures of Interstate 80 off and on between Sunday and Thursday of last week hindered the company's ability to move freight.
"My warehouse is filling up quickly and I have a lot of anxious customers wondering when they are going to get their freight," Zarcone said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The company also had drivers stuck on the other side of the mountain. At the time of the interview last week, Zarcone had one driver who had been stuck in Colfax, Calif., for two days waiting for the freeway to open up.
Other drivers were waiting on-call until the roads open. Zarcone said the transportation delays have caused him to lose money.
"I still have to continue paying (my drivers) because they have to live and I can't afford to have them going somewhere else," Zarcone said.
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When trucks can't drive, stores, restaurants and other businesses can't get their stock and supplies.
The company's facilities are located in the heart of the Sparks Industrial Center on Spice Islands Drive. They had to evacuate, move their trucks to higher ground and place sandbags to protect their building.
"I had to pay a lot of overtime to guys to come in and help me with sandbags and to move trucks," Zarcone said.
The flooding did not damage their building but he said there was about a foot of standing water in their parking lot on the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 9, when they were allowed back into the area.
The road closures also affect the freight coming into town. He explained that once the roads do open, they are going to have a surplus of trucks bringing in delayed freight.
"There is a huge backlog that is going to come flooding in the next day or two," he said.
Zarcone has worked in the industry for 14 years and he said this is some of the worst conditions he has seen. He explained there are typically only one or two nights a year in the winter that their trucks can't get over the mountain due to road conditions. However, the impact of the road closures has already far exceeded that average and it is only the beginning of the new year.
"We have had five or six nights already and we are only in early January," Zarcone said.
Road closures are also hindering business for the Sparks-based third party logistics company ITS Logistics.
With I-80 being closed regularly over the past week due to the weather, trucks that were heading west were delayed getting to northern and southern California as well as Washington and Oregon.
"It is just completely out of our control, which is frustrating for our clients," Patrick McFarland, marketing director for ITS Logistics, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "Anytime I-80 closes for a long period of time it greatly affects our clients."
Like Sierra Airfreight Express, ITS Logistics had east-bound drivers stuck on the other side of the pass. McFarland said when the interstate is closed, their drivers have to go back down the mountain to the Sacramento area and stay in a hotel or use the sleeper cabs.
The company also rerouted some trucks north to take a longer alternate route to avoid the I-80 mess.
During periods when roads were closed but expected to open soon, ITS Logistics had a few drivers waiting at their Sparks site. However, for the most part, their drivers waited on-call until the interstate opened.
"The second we know (the roads are open) we call everyone in," McFarland said.
The company's headquarters are located in Sparks at 555 Vista Blvd., but their building escaped flood damage.
"Operationally we are great," McFarland said.
McFarland explained that the weather is hurting all the transportation and distribution companies in the area. As long as the weather continues to cause road closures, the transportation industry will continue to be impacted.