Key Points:

  • Millions will be watching the eclipse. Severe traffic delays are expected.
  • Affected states will be implementing plans to handle traffic.
  • Preparation is vital. Plan shipments accordingly. 
Solar eclipse representing the 2024 eclipse that will cause delays for freight carriers and shippers

Nathan Gartner 4/1/24

April 8th, 2024 is one of the most anticipated days of this year as a total solar eclipse will be traveling across the United States, giving many Americans a look at a rare and beautiful celestial event.

Although it will only last a few minutes, millions of Americans are expected to witness it. This can spell trouble for freight carriers who should expect delays and other issues.

Over the course of this week, and weekend, potentially millions of tourists will be traveling to eclipse hot spots. These spots include Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and parts of south east Canada.

Map of the 2024 solar eclipse from NASA

Path of the 2024 solar eclipse – NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Traffic leading up to Monday the 8th should not be a concern, but the day of and immediately after the event will be a different story. Tens of thousands of eclipse viewers are expected to occupy everything from highways to rural roads as they try to get the best view. Many motorists will be stopping in parking lots, rest stops, gas stations, and the road itself. Carriers need to be aware of this as they will need to navigate this massive influx of cars. The heaviest delays will be during the eclipse and immediately after as viewers crowd roads to leave. The eclipse will briefly but profoundly affect the logistics world. 

What You Need to be Aware of during the eclipse

The Texas Department of Transportation has already taken measures to minimize these delays by creating designated viewing zones as well as posting signs urging motorists to not stop on the road. They are also asking tourists to be aware of those simply trying to drive by allowing them room to pass. Lastly, they encourage eclipse viewers to arrive at the viewing spots early and to take their time leaving to alleviate traffic.

Along with that, Arkansas has released an official traffic plan. The goal of the plan is to make both tourists and regular motorists aware of any potential traffic situations. Arkansas is expecting 1.5 million visitors from neighboring states as well as 500 thousand residents to be viewing the eclipse. Due to the massive number of people, the Arkansas Department of Transportation has specifically suggested measures for freight carriers. First, they are recommending that carriers are aware of the severe congestion that will occur. So much so that they warn “the day may be mostly unproductive for freight vehicles.

As a result, Arkansas encourages carriers to adjust their schedules to avoid getting stuck on roadways. They even suggest keeping trucks parked for the day if possible. However, the Arkansas DOT stressed that this is optional and carriers who decide to drive during the eclipse will receive no penalty.

Effects of the eclipse on oversize loads

In order to alleviate congestion in hot areas, some states are implementing temporary oversize load restrictions. Starting with Texas, here are the restrictions so far (these are subject to change):

Texas: On April 8th from 12 am to 12 am the following morning, 84 Texas counties will prohibit the travel of oversize or overweight loads. See the full list of counties here.

Oklahoma: On April 8th and 9th, authorities will restrict oversize travel in McCurtain County, Oklahoma. From April 7th to April 9th, traveling through southeast Oklahoma with an oversize load is strongly discouraged, although it is not explicitly restricted.

Arkansas: Arkansas will not permit oversize travel from sundown on April 4th through sunrise on April 10th.

Missouri: No restrictions at this time.

Kentucky: No restrictions t this time. You can see warnings for specific areas expected to have high traffic here.

Illinois: No restrictions at this time. You can find updates here.

Indiana: No restrictions at this time. The Indiana DOR suggests completing all OS/OW loads before (April 7) or after (April 9) the eclipse. Potential for further restrictions.

Ohio: No statewide restrictions at this time. Some individual cities are restricting oversize travel. Check with local government on any cities you plan to move through.

Pennsylvania: Potential for travel restrictions in affected regions.

New York: From 6 am on April 8th through 9 pm on April 9th, authorities will restrict oversize travel in 34 counties of New York. Oversize travel will also face restrictions on I-90 in both directions between exit 24 in Albany and the Pennsylvania Line.
Restrictions also apply to travel on I-190. See the full list of counties here.

Vermont: Vermont will not issue permits on state highways for loads exceeding 108,000lbs or more than 12 feet wide or more than 100 feet long. They are also urging carriers to consider alternative routes and delivery dates, especially in the northern half of the state.

New Hampshire: No restrictions at this time.

Maine: Authorities will prohibit all oversize loads on April 8th.

Trucks aren’t the only ones affected

Lastly, expect delays in air travel. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has released a warning to airlines and travelers of the possibility of delays caused by the eclipse. The FAA cites an expected increase of drones and private aircraft attempting to view the eclipse as causes for congestion. They also mention an expected increase in parking and traffic in and around airports. This has the potential to affect freight moving by air, too.

What can shippers and carriers do to prepare for the eclipse?

1) Be aware of the potential for delays:

Do not underestimate how the eclipse may affect logistics and the delays it will cause. According to a study by the TRB (Transportation Research Board) on the traffic impacts of the 2017 eclipse, some interstates experienced traffic backups for over 13 hours. Extreme delays occurred just as frequently on back roads as on interstates. LTL carriers like ESTES have already released statements stating that pickups and deliveries will not be guaranteed on Monday. They also advised shipping freight early to ensure timely delivery. Ship time sensitive freight early, and expect a delay of at least one day.

2) Make yourself familiar with the path of the eclipse:

Knowing where the eclipse will be passing through is extremely important. For shippers, it is vital to be aware of any pick ups or deliveries that will be taking place in its path. For carriers, it is advisable to plan alternative routes to avoid areas of heavy congestion.

3) Law enforcement will increase their presence in congested areas:

In order to cope with the influx of visitors, cities where the eclipse is visible will have larger numbers of law enforcement officers. This is important for drivers as they will need to make sure that their equipment is in compliance with the law.

4) Be aware of unsafe conditions:

Carriers must be careful when navigating eclipse areas. With congestion comes chaos. We can expect accidents, aggressive drivers, pedestrians, and traffic. Pay extra attention and avoid unsafe situations by driving carefully, obeying traffic officials, and following detours.

5) Plan for delays at truck stops:

Truck stops, rest stops, and gas stations are going to be hot spots for eclipse viewers. Limited parking and delayed fuel will be expected. Also, increased idling in traffic will cause excess fuel consumption. Plan accordingly by having fresh hours, a full tank of diesel, and food and water.

6) Be aware of permit changes:

Be aware of any oversize permit restrictions that will be taking effect on and around April 8th. These restrictions can usually be found on each state’s respective DOT sites.