Written by: Mark Guo
As Hurricane Ian’s cleanup efforts go into full swing, ever wonder what happens to all the damaged and inoperable vehicles? How are they processed? Where do they eventually end up? Who are the companies involved? (Hint: it takes a village.)
Let’s peel back the curtain for an insider’s view.
Massive Storm = Massive Mobilization
Hurricane Ian is poised to become the second most expensive storm ever behind Hurricane Katrina, with upwards of $75 billion in projected insured losses1 as it ravaged large swaths of Florida and coastal South Carolina.
The Category 4 hurricane carried winds as strong as 150 mph, pushing up to 12 feet of water from the Gulf of Mexico, flooding hundreds of thousands of cars and toppling boats along its path.
As the long recovery process begins, we’ll focus on how one way the water-damaged vehicles get collected & processed, the enormous manpower & logistics behind the disaster response, and the path for many recouped cars to enjoy a productive second life.
Saving Private Rides
Out of Harm’s Way
As soon as the storm surge recedes and the insurance claims are filed, towing companies dispatch drivers specially trained to handle submerged or water-damaged vehicles safely. They pick up and transport them to a local processing center, where each vehicle is thoroughly inspected to assess levels of damage.
These processing facilities operate at 80-90% capacity under normal conditions. However, major storms such as Hurricane Ian can cause a huge spike in volume, creating an overflow of flooded cars that must be timely transferred by additional resources, including more drivers, equipment, and storage space.
Enter the disaster response team – drivers and logistic pros from local operators, automotive carriers, and auction sites with dedicated reserves who can quickly meet the surging demand. They spring into action and haul the surplus damaged cars to other depots further away, usually within a 150-mile radius to optimize speed and cost.
At its peak, these emergency recovery operations run nonstop, 24/7, to relocate the flood of incoming vehicles. Because of their large scale, involving tens of thousands of cars at each affected location, mobile command centers are often set up to coordinate the complex logistics of moving such high volumes.
The sheer scale of these operations can be staggering. For instance, Hurricane Harvey damaged over 422,000 insured vehicles in Texas in 20172.
When all the nearby processing centers are also full, temporary staging areas are quickly established, utilizing large open spaces such as unused parking lots or empty clearings on higher grounds if necessary. The key is to secure safe and dry locations so the salvage operation can begin immediately.
Finding a New Life
Inside the processing, the center is where each vehicle is carefully checked by qualified mechanics to assess the amount of damage and determine if it’s salvageable. While conventional wisdom says all hurricane-damaged cars are beyond repair and should be scrapped, the reality is far from it.
Fact: flooding a car does not automatically guarantee its destruction.
The rule of thumb is that the shorter the time a vehicle stays submerged, the less the damage and the lower the repair cost. A fast recovery also expedites the claims process – something every affected car owner will appreciate.
Here are some key factors affecting a vehicle’s potential to be restored or repaired:
- Length of time underwater
- Depth of submersion
- Type of flood water (fresh or salt)
- Degree of damage to major components like the engine
- Issues with internal wiring and electronics
It all comes down to how much water damage a vehicle has sustained – a car with only wet floor mats will be much easier to repair and hold more value than one that’s suffered a flooded engine or shorted-out electrical components.
It takes well-trained professionals to properly inspect and carry out the necessary repairs at a cost that makes economic sense.
While severely flooded vehicles are often scrapped, many lightly damaged cars can be rebuilt in the hands of auto enthusiasts at a very advantageous price. Undamaged parts can be cleaned up and reused to keep similar vehicles running. And finally, there is a large overseas market for salvage cars, where the lower repair costs make it feasible to give more of them a second lease on life.
The Need for Speed
One critical aspect of the recovery process is being able to offload and process the flooded cars as quickly as possible. This yields several significant benefits:
- Minimizes Damage
It’s worth reiterating the longer a vehicle remains submerged, the greater the damage. Therefore, a speedy extraction from the flooded zone is essential for maximizing a vehicle’s repairability; before major problems like mold & mechanical breakdowns take hold. That is exactly why it’s in everyone’s best interest to start the recovery process immediately after flood water recedes.
- Removes Health Hazards
Flooded cars are unsafe to drive and pose serious health & safety risks. From faulty electrical systems marred by moisture, malfunctioning airbags, and anti-lock brakes, to the growth of harmful mold & mildew causing potential respiratory complications – a water-damaged car must be promptly removed and processed to avoid further risk to personal health and public safety.
- Helps Reduce Contamination
All modern vehicles contain an assortment of chemicals and fluids, such as fuel, battery acid, oil, and lubricants, which are toxic when released directly into the environment. The longer they sit in stagnant water, the more likely these dangerous compounds will leak out through damaged or rusted components, contaminating their surroundings. The sooner the flooded cars get moved to dry land, the less pollution risk they pose.
- Recoups Cost & Lowers Premiums
Since a fast recovery increases the chances of preserving a car’s value, it leads to lower insurance claims and an overall reduction in the aggregate cost for the insurer – a win-win for car owners and insurance companies. Another benefit of quick processing is faster payouts, shortening the wait time for claimants, and saving expenses on car rentals.
- Relieves a Tight Car Market
The global supply chain crunch from the COVID pandemic has choked off inventory levels of new cars, driving up the demand and price of used cars. The efficient recovery & repair of storm-damaged vehicles help keep the maximum number of working cars on the road without tapping into additional sources, effectively easing demand and keeping prices more affordable for all buyers.
A Specialist to the Rescue
Cleaning up hundreds of thousands of damaged cars after a major storm, in as little time as possible, requires masterful coordination of an army of personnel and equipment behind the scenes.
At RCG Logistics, we’re proud to play a major part in helping those affected in times of need. We do this by arranging transportation at every point in the lifecycle of a damaged vehicle, including:
- From flooded zones to processing centers
- Moving units between depots
- Delivering repaired/auctioned cars & parts to homes
Our dependable, responsive service is counted on after every major natural disaster in the U.S., including Hurricane Ian.
Here’s what makes RCG uniquely qualified to take on such important responsibilities:
Vast Carrier Network & Capacity
As a well-established, premium logistics provider specializing in auto transportation for over 17 years, we’ve built an extensive network with over 25,000 carriers nationwide, delivering an average of 2,000 vehicles daily.
Our enormous network gives us the capability + flexibility to handle unpredictable volume surges during weather storms.
For example, we’re currently coordinating the safe recovery of 800 vehicles per day, as part of our round-the-clock relief effort for Hurricane Ian.
We Know Car Shipping Inside & Out
Unlike most logistics companies that handle many types of merchandise, we focus all our efforts on only automotive transportation and are top-rated experts in this specific field, especially regarding salvage vehicles.
Our network of experienced carriers ensures efficient car transport, including flood-damaged units that require extra care when removing them from driveways, parking lots, streets, or anywhere else a storm may have displaced.
More Than Just Cars
Besides vehicles, Hurricane Ian has also left many boats tossed and damaged in South Florida – good thing RCG can handle their safe recovery as well, along with many other types of vehicles such as motorcycles, RTVs, trailers, RVs, and heavy equipment.
Our full suite of logistical solutions covers every mode of automotive transport, serviced by a team of 200+ dedicated, seasoned staff – making us an ideal partner in hurricane cleanups.
Dependable in Any Weather
Natural disasters are unfortunately not going away. Recovering inoperable vehicles after storms requires immense resources and expertise. The best solution is to prepare in advance for whatever mother nature may throw at us.
With a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes in the immediate aftermath of these devastating events, it’s comforting to know that qualified professionals, including those at RCG, are standing by when needed. This concerted team effort makes the cleanup process go smoothly without a hitch while giving damaged cars their best shot at a new life.
Whether it’s stormy weather or sunny days, contact the specialists at RCG Logistics for all your automotive transport needs.