Weathering The Storm: Communicating & Rerouting So Shows Can Go On (Transportation Special)

Weather report: Folks from across the live industry keep a close eye on the weather in case transportation companies need to take different routes to avoid a storm or other weather-related incidents. Photo by Stefania Pelfini / La Waziya Photography / Getty Images

Alongside COVID-related shutdowns and cancellations the last few years, the live industry has also faced an increase in extreme weather events. Depending on the region, everyone in the business from promoters to production teams is dealing with a range of challenges, whether we’re talking tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, flooding or wildfires.

But this has always been a resilient industry. Hell, there’s a reason for the saying “the show must go on.” And while a few big events come to mind that have been canceled in recent years because of weather – 2021’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival because of flooding in Tennessee and the first day of 2022’s When We Were Young festival in Las Vegas was called off – for the most part the business has found ways to make sure production arrives on time and the show happens.

What’s key is planning ahead and being flexible when it comes to routing.

Many festivals and live executives use weather monitoring services such as Weather Ops via DTN, which will alert clients via email or phone if weather conditions are going to be a factor at your event.

“There is someone [at Pioneer Coach] that’s literally working logistics every day,” Doug Rountree, President of Pioneer Coach, says. “We’re constantly routing, and we know where our folks are moving. We can keep up with all of our folks in real-time. We have apps that allow us to pull up at any given point any bus we have in the fleet, exactly where it’s located, how fast it’s going, etc. We’re constantly looking at the weather. In our drivers’ department, we have people who will say, ‘Hey, we know that this is coming through Texas, be aware,’ and then we will create a different route and let them know how much time it will cost.”

Of course, communication is everything. Michael Lassers, owner of Round the Clock Logistics Landstar Agency, concurred that it’s all about watching the weather and working with the lead drivers on tour.

“We can see the cities that are gonna be impacted by major storms. And then making sure that we’re talking to production as well from our standpoint that hey, this is going to be an issue, especially on a tight run where you don’t have a lot of room for error,” Lassers said.

Steve Maples, VP Trucking at Rock-It Cargo, adds, “The great thing about our industry is that we’re all in this together. We talk to each other all the time. Chances are, if the truck’s not getting through, the bus isn’t getting through. And, the artist, if he’s on a bus, the bus is stuck behind the crew bus or just ahead of it and they all pull into a truck stop and have breakfast together and we wait for it to blow over.”

And don’t discount the power of a great insurance policy.

Paul Bassman, Managing Director at Higginbotham Insurance, explains that artist guarantees due to weather cancellations at outdoor events used to always be covered by the promoter but that responsibility has since shifted to the artist in the case of some of the larger promoters. He noted that some tour clients that don’t normally take event cancellation or non-appearance insurance are starting to get coverage for only adverse weather if they’re doing a Live Nation tour.

“This was one of my favorite cancellation moments, because it really showed the flexibility of the non-appearance policy,” Bassman said. “I had a client that had a show in San Francisco and a show the next day in Reno. However, the road between San Francisco and Reno had iced over and they could not take the artist, production buses or the trucks through the mountains to get to Reno. It’s a tremendously long drive to get to Reno going through Vegas, so what the policy did was step in to cover the extra expenses to make sure the show didn’t cancel.

“The policy actually paid for a private jet. The jet flew the artist and immediate crew to Reno so they could do press and radio interviews as well as meet-and-greets and other show prep.

“The crew and production trucks did a double overdrive through Vegas to get to the show so they could set up on time. And the insurance policy paid all those extra expenses.”