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Keep on Trucking (If you can, that is.....)

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The interest in online shopping by US consumers increases yearly, even for the furniture industry. With that comes the challenge of moving these large items around the country successfully. It is one thing to order a book or a pair of shoes online and have them arrive within 2 or 3 days. You can even have it overnight if you are feeling particularly flush while scanning your shipping options. The same cannot be said when ordering a 6 foot solid wood sideboard with glass-paneled doors that weighs a hefty 250 pounds.

It’s a great feeling when you are sitting at your breakfast nook in Butte Montana, browsing online furniture stores, sipping that chai latte that you made using your Krups EA9000 Barista Machine, just purchased from Amazon, when suddenly you come upon that perfect sideboard for the family room. It’s right there on your tablet and with a few light taps on your touch screen, it can be yours. Imagine having that delivered on time for that party you are having five days from now.

But, ouch, the store you are looking at is in Los Angeles and you know that no one in your area carries this style. So, you decide to order the item anyway, and now begins a process involving many steps.

First, the item has to be located in the warehouse, often unpacked, and then inspected (sometimes worked on) before the freight company can get the go ahead for pick up. This step usually takes 3-4 days alone taking into account that the warehouse crew is already processing older orders ahead of yours.

On being given the go ahead to pick up, the freight company now has to consolidate this piece onto a truck that is filled up and headed out to their distribution hub in, for instance, North Carolina. From there it will be redirected onto the next truck headed to Montana and its surrounding areas.

Believe it or not, this might be a good time to talk about climate change. One need only turn on your local weather channel to see the effects of climate conditions on the roads and infrastructure of the U.S. Take a look at this excerpt from industry analysts.

“The impact of routine weather variation on the U.S. economy could total as much as $534 billion a year, Allianz’s reported, entitled The Weather Business.

For example, the cost of weather-related delays in the U.S. for airlines and trucking companies annually amounts to $3 billion and $3.5 billion respectively and related costs are increasing significantly, with estimates indicating 30% of U.S. gross domestic product – some $5.7 trillion – is directly or indirectly affected by weather and climate activity.”

Those numbers, as astounding as they are, serve to drive home the point that as the consumers desire for speedy delivery rises, the reality of Mother Nature cannot be avoided. Take a look at this excerpt from a blog entry by C.H. Robinson.

Road closures due to weather are a common issue during winter months. If a major interstate like Interstate 80, in and out of Pennsylvania, is shut down, it can cause freight delays to the entire northeast part of the U.S. An interstate closure like that can take days for trucking companies to make up for lost time.”

In true entrepreneurial fashion, where there is a problem there are those searching for a solution. We found this quote from leading software company TMW that offers routing programs to aid delivery companies.

Using technology to reroute deliveries during severe weather events
“One of the most obvious ways a blizzard or other type of storm can impact truck deliveries is by making previously planned routes inoperable. Excessive snowfall can lead to dangerous highway conditions. As a result, businesses can benefit from routing software programs that make it easier to identify the fastest alternative delivery routes. Dispatching vehicles in the middle of a severe storm carries significant risks. Not only would a fleet manager be putting his or her drivers in danger, but problems associated with stranded trucks often lead to heavy financial costs as well. Instead, companies may want to leverage available technology to keep track of current weather patterns and plan routes accordingly.”

Advances in navigation software will no doubt be playing more of a role as time goes by, but the recent series of storms experienced in many parts of the US, it’s hard to see what could be major solution. Trucks were running late with problems like freezing brakes, high winds, inability to climb steep roads and much more. There are not always that many road options especially when storm fronts are so widespread.

Anyhow, back to our sideboard trying to find its way to Montana. This state has its own issues in the best of weather. Due its low and scattered population it is one of the least routed to the states. Whereas we can virtually guarantee that a shipment will get from Southern California to lets say, Connecticut in 2-3 weeks (weather permitting), a shipment to Montana may take another 7-10 days.

Wherever you are and whatever you choose to order, whenever a shipment is dispatched from Upstairs Downstairs Furniture, we make every effort we can to expedite the delivery process from our end. Once items have hit the road we are ourselves at the mercy of the drivers and the conditions they meet.


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