Trucking fleets in Florida showed a 360-percent increase in commercial vehicle activity between Aug. 23 and Sept. 6 as Hurricane Irma neared a potential landfall in the continental U.S., according to data released today by telematics technology provider Geotab Inc.
The increase in traffic occurred as fleets responded to demand for disaster-related resources and as businesses evacuated to safer areas, Toronto-based Geotab said. The company analyzed data from more than 33,000 Geotab-connected vehicles in Florida to measure the impact of the looming storm on the transportation industry.
Hurricane Irma has already had the opposite effect in Puerto Rico, where commercial traffic declined yesterday as the storm destroyed buildings and flooded roads. The fleet utilization rate dropped from 91 percent of all Geotab-connected vehicles, which is the typical weekday level, to just 35 percent after the storm hit, the company said.
In addition to increased vehicle activity in the major cities of Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, Florida, which typically have high volumes of commercial activity, Geotab found increases in Jacksonville and Pensacola, Florida, to the north, which tend to have much less traffic, the company said.
"Our data shows a significant influx in sheer vehicle activity and not necessarily an increase of vehicles," Geotab CEO Neil Cawse said in a statement. "Comparing vehicle data from last month to that of today, there is an explosion of activity in Florida's largest cities and a massive increase in traffic up the I-95 and I-75 highways."
The jump in traffic has also triggered a spike in demand for fuel, Geotab data shows. On an average weekday in Florida, 36 percent of Geotab vehicles fill up their tanks at least once, but that number has risen above 45 percent in recent days, the company said.
Geotab will continue to monitor the effects of Hurricane Irma on commercial vehicle activity and will publish additional data to help commercial- and emergency-response vehicles travel safely as they respond to potential storm victims, the company said.
Irma is projected to reach the Florida Keys early Sunday morning and hit virtually all of south, central, and the lower west coast of the state with heavy rains, strong wind gusts, and potentially devastating storm surges.