Thousands of trucks delivering goods rely on the corridor every day
Interstate 70 needs extensive repairs after mud and debris washed over the highway through Glenwood Canyon. (Courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation)
It could take weeks for Colorado Department of Transportation crews to clean up debris and make repairs on Interstate 70 after a mudslide in Glenwood Canyon blocked the road and trapped 100 people in their cars. In the meantime, the wheels of trade have to maneuver around it.
Detours add hours to truck drivers’ routes, which leads to higher shipping costs and delivery delays.
Coloradans aren’t the only ones to suffer during the permanent closure of one of the country’s major east-west arteries, said Greg Fulton, president and CEO of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, a trading group serving the state’s trucking industry.
“It’s having a ripple effect, not just in Colorado … but also in the neighboring states and the country,” said Fulton. “It’s such an important corridor for us in so many ways. For us it goes without saying that it will always be there and always open. “
According to CDOT, on an average day, 4,900 trucks drive I-70 past Exit 205 to Silverthorne, the exit for vehicles taking the alternate north route.
Courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation
Fulton’s organization advises interstate truck drivers to avoid I-70 entirely by taking Interstate 80 through Wyoming or Interstate 40 through New Mexico.
“If you’re just getting through … keep the detour roads open for trucks that must be in the state,” he said.
Transport more expensive
Deliveries coming directly from the Front Range can still reach the Western Slope via State Highways, which add between two and five hours to the journey. This includes everything from fuels and building materials to everyday items to food shelves.
The extra time can make it impossible to make a round-trip delivery in a day, Fulton said. Truckers are limited to 11 hours of driving in a 13-hour period, he said, adding that “this longer distance means you are running out of driving hours.”
The aftermath of a debris flow around Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon on July 23 (Courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation)
The country’s supply chain is already strained to meet consumer demand. Many people spend more than a year at home, while a labor shortage – including truck drivers – makes it difficult to deliver goods and services on time. At the same time, manufacturers are facing hiccups in overseas production that have persisted throughout the pandemic.
Josh Nirenberg owns the Bin 707 and TacoParty restaurants in Grand Junction. He said his supply chain had been out of whack for several months.
“We can still get some trucks, but we don’t know what time of day they will arrive,” said Nirenberg. “In some cases we don’t know what days of the week they will arrive.”
His taco stand ran out of tortillas Thursday, and he hadn’t had tequila deliveries in two weeks. Closing I-70 will make a dire situation worse, he said.
Greg Aishman works for Denver-based Transportation Services Incorporated, a logistics company whose customers include pet food brands. Aishman coordinates the transportation of ingredients from farms to a processing facility in Greeley. While I-70 is closed, truckers hauling chicken parts and frozen salmon from California drive 90 miles across Wyoming. The detour adds $ 300 per load, he said. It is difficult to figure out how to absorb the additional costs.
“Whose fault is it that Glenwood Canyon was closed? It’s not my customers’ fault, ”Aishman said.
Depending on how long the closure lasts, those costs could eventually be passed on to pet owners, he said.
The country’s largest shipping companies are not immune. In an email, a UPS spokesman said the company is closely monitoring the situation on I-70 and is working hard to alleviate delays.
“We all strive to find the best way to address this, but there is no panacea. I wish there were, ”said Fulton of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association. “It will take a lot of coordination and help between different parties.”
To read more stories from Colorado Public Radio, visit www.cpr.org.