If you work in retail, you know full-well how the seasons affect the buying habits of consumers. Furthermore, you probably know first hand how the seasons affect the flow of the supply chain that gets the products to your shelves. For instance, winter introduces problems with road conditions and weather delays. Meanwhile, fall brings about the holiday season ‘peak’ – with truckloads of holiday goodies moving across the globe daily. However, one season that often goes overlooked is the summer shipping season.
And the one area of the shipping industry that experiences the most hurdles when the heat arrives is FTL shipping.
The full truckload or FTL movement tends to be at mid-range volume in summer and quickly amps up into the fall season. A lot of people are on summer vacation or home from school, so there is simply more foot traffic in stores and more purchases being made. It is the perfect time for stores to capitalize on their stock and ride the wave of increased sales. However, there are some potential issues which might impact availability, freight shipping rates, and other possible changes in FTL summer shipping.
Comprised of daily dedicated routes, FTL shipping is more structured and consistent. While volume during the summer season is not as heavy as the fall or early winter, there are still some ways to take advantage of the lower volume.
Contact multiple FTL carriers for rates and availability
When volume is lower, many carriers will cut back or reallocate their assets to higher-volume shipments or cargo movement. In the summer, FTL shippers have more hurdles to jump but they are also less busy in terms of sheer volume. Because of this, carriers will shift focus on LTL or local routes (which tend to increase up until about fall).
The key here is to contact multiple FTL carriers to inquire about their availability. There is absolutely no better time to do this than in summer. By doing so, you can secure a partnership with your chosen carrier for the increase in volume during the fall season and prepared for the winter rush thereafter.
Best of all, if you do this in the summertime, oftentimes you can lock in discounted rates.
Be aware of driver restrictions
Summer also presents a possible issue with fewer drivers being available for FTL movement. As we covered previously, FTL shipments start to amp up during summer, but since it is not as much sheer volume as fall or early winter, there are fewer drivers behind the wheel. And the ones that are, are usually already booked up until winter.
Many experienced drivers prefer to take vacations during the summer season, which makes an already restricted driver-base even more challenging. This is another reason why maintaining a larger pool of qualified FTL carriers is a good idea for the summer shipping season.
Embrace Volume Shipping
The summer shipping season also introduces a unique opportunity for shippers – the volume movement.
FTL carriers are generally more flexible with shipping rates when they can book multiple FTL movements, especially round-trip movements. For example, if you’re a manufacturer in Texas who sells products to a customer in Phoenix, Arizona and receive supplies from a company in nearby Tucson, scheduling a round trip delivery and pick-up can save you a tremendous amount of money.
Likewise, if you’re able to schedule multiple shipments in a short period of time, you may uncover more savings and better rates.
Embrace Best Practices to Improve FTL Summer Shipping Efficiency
The full truckload shipping industry is easier for shippers to work with than LTL. There are a few reasons for that but it is mainly due to the consistency involved with this freight mode.
However, nothing is everything going to be perfect or without flaw. That said, it's always a wise idea to strive to put a few FTL shipping best practices into play. Doing so will help you to ensure that you are doing everything possible to help the entire FTL movement to flow together seamlessly.
Let's take a look at a few of these best practices...
Stay on top of TMS Software Solutions
A robust TMS or transportation management system is critical for finding the best carriers, shipping rates, and availability.
However, new TMS systems are packed with user-friendly features such as automated push notifications, delivery time modifications, and real-time tracking tools. By having the best and most updated TMS at your disposal, you’re ability to locate, rate, schedule, and track FTL movements will improve significantly.
Schedule Consistent Movements
Work with your carriers and customers on creating a routine schedule for FTL shipments. FTL carriers have a tendency to reward consistent customers with reduced shipping rates or various other discounts. And if you are really lucky, you may be able to lock in this rate on a negotiated contract to run through the end of the year!
The more freight you move with a specific carrier, the better the rapport you build with them. Over time, this may serve to benefit you more than just monetarily. After all, networks form just like that with time.
Be proactive about packaging
While shipping FLT is rather reliable, freight damage can still occur. In most cases, it is just a classic case of improper or poor packaging materials. The best way to reduce damage during the summer season (and all year actually) is to embrace better freight packaging procedures.
Summertime is a great opportunity for shippers to take advantage of slower FTL shipping volume and potentially lower rates. However, in order to truly realize the power of summer shipping, you need to work with an experienced 3PL.
If you’d like to discover creative ways of improving your FTL shipping program, give us a call today.