Snowstorm makes it hard to keep on truckin’ - The Buffalo News

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Snowstorm makes it hard to keep on truckin’

Truck drivers are used to operating in all kinds of weather.

But there’s not much they can do when roads are blocked by snow or driving bans restrict their movements.

UPS said the storm is causing “unavoidable service delays in certain areas” of Western and upstate New York, preventing pickups and deliveries in many parts of the region.

“We are committed to moving shipments to their final destinations as quickly as possible and are making every effort to deliver to all areas as soon as conditions safely permit,” UPS said in a statement. UPS on its website posted a slew of ZIP codes that are impacted.

The Peace Bridge remained open to traffic Wednesday, but trucks destined for the United States were being blocked.

Virtually none of the rigs had anywhere to go with the closure of the Niagara Thruway and mainline Thruway, and the Peace Bridge Authority was turning them away as they approached the international span. As a result, hundreds of trucks were pulling into Ontario truck stops and rest areas to await reopening of the roads.

After checking truckers’ manifests, only “a very, very few” rigs headed for local delivery in Buffalo have been allowed to cross the bridge, said Ron Rienas, the Peace Bridge general manager.

One of the stopped trucks carried 16 thoroughbred race horses en route to race tracks in Florida, Rienas said. They were diverted to the Fort Erie Race Track for temporary housing.

“They were put in the Fort Erie stables, where I’m sure they’re being well taken care of,” he said. “Once we’re back on track, they’ll continue heading south.”

The New York State Motor Truck Association Wednesday morning issued an alert to its motor carrier members urging patience by drivers and warning them to remain away from roads in Western New York.

“If you have drivers stuck in this area, it is imperative that you stress to them the importance of following enforcement personnel direction!” the email alert states. “Last night there was a very unfortunate incident of two truck drivers jumping a line of vehicles that were being evacuated. The two trucks jackknifed and delayed the evacuation process by five hours.” A source said the incident happened on an unknown road in Lackawanna.

A. Duie Pyle, a Pennsylvania-based trucking company with a location on River Road in the City of Tonawanda, had just five of its usual 30 trucks on the roads of Western New York on Wednesday, due to the travel restrictions and closed roadways.

“In a lot of cases, even if a truck can get to a store, there’s no one there to take the delivery,” said Randy Swart, the company’s chief operating officer.

That company’s trucks are climate controlled, but many companies use unheated trucks when doing short-distance or overnight deliveries. In weather like this, with trucks stranded or delayed longer than expected, liquid products can freeze and be destroyed.

“It’s like if you’ve ever left a can of pop in the freezer and you go back and it’s blown up,” Swart said. “That’s what happens.”

Even if freezing conditions don’t damage containers, many products such as paint, medical supplies and chemicals can be ruined if they are frozen and then thawed.

In many cases, that freezing can result in legal battles between suppliers, carriers and customers as each entity tries to avoid absorbing the cost of the ruined product.

Robert Rich III, chief executive officer of Roar Logistics, said customers tend to be understanding about shipping delays resulting from an “act of God” like the snowstorm pounding the region. “The best thing we can do is communicate road and weather conditions” and update them about when a delivery might arrive.

A storm the size and power of this one is tough for trucks to navigate around, particularly if they are attempting to cross New York State, Rich said. “If you’re trying to head west, you’re going to have some challenges.”

News staff reporters Robert J. McCarthy, Samantha Christmann and Tom Precious contributed to this report. email: mglynn@buffnews.com

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