As the dominant freight transport operator in Alaska, Lynden has decades of experience figuring out how to deliver goods to far-flung towns in villages spread out over vast territory. That’s centered on multi-modal transport — planes, barges, trucks — but also includes the recent development of such novel kinds of carriers as the Pistenbully Snowcat. (More about that in a bit.)

With the COVID-19 vaccine, distributing what’s needed and necessary has taken on critical significance. Lynden gives unquestioned precedence to delivery of the vaccines from Anchorage to remote locations in western Alaska, along with personal protective equipment for those administering the shots.

“Other cargo has been managed around the priority of the vaccines,” said Jon Burdick, Lynden’s CEO and president, in a telephone interview with American Journal of Transportation. “We’re faced daily with priority moves, but in this case, it’s life-critical and community-critical, so supporting community health is an opportunity to give back and we are grateful for that opportunity.”

Despite its geographic challenges, Alaska has tallied one of this nation’s best records for vaccine distribution. It ranked fifth as of April 11, fully vaccinating 26.64% of its 731,000 populace. “We’re proud to play a small role in helping to distribute the vaccines to remote communities,” said Burdick, who has been with Lynden for 40 years, and started with the company right out of college.

Lynden is based in Seattle, WA, and provides services in the northwestern US, as well as such far afield destinations as South Sudan. But at least half its business is centered in Alaska, business the company started more than 60 years ago when it became the first truck operator with service on the Alcan Highway. The privately owned company also operates a regular barge service from Seattle to Hawaii. It ranks among the top 100 truckers in the US, with revenues in 2020 just shy of $1 billion, slightly down from a year earlier. Lynden is unusual as well in its breadth of owned assets for delivery — everything from long-haul and full-truck-load to last mile and LTL. It is one of the few large multi-modal concerns. Its array of equipment includes not just trucks and barges, but C-130 Hercules aircraft and hovercraft.

As it did elsewhere, the pandemic itself introduced many challenges to the supply chain in Alaska, issues that continue to reverberate throughout the operations. The mix of goods changed, sometimes dramatically, as did those receiving them. While much of the trade-oriented economy has recovered, the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on some businesses.

Project cargo is an important component of Lynden’s business and that’s changed as well over the past year.
Project cargo is an important component of Lynden’s business and that’s changed as well over the past year.

Logistical Challenges

Most notably, Alaska’s tourism industry, which is a big economic driver, has been decimated. Cruise ships cancelled their sailings in 2020, and could well do so again this year. (Regulations require that cruise ships sailing…

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