How to Overcome the Challenges of Shipping LTL During the Holidays
The holidays are some of the busiest times of the year in the LTL shipping industry. There is a considerable increase in shipping volume during the holiday season, and carriers are already struggling to keep up. Peak season traditionally runs from October to December and encompasses agricultural industry surges in demand, the back-to-school rush, and holiday shopping. This year, the already busy holiday season is poised to be even more active, as e-commerce numbers have increased throughout the past year despite shipping businesses struggling to find available drivers and equipment. Despite steady economic and production recovery in the last few months, supply chains are still stretched razor thin.
Over the past year, the strength of e-commerce retail sales, coupled with customers’ increased expectations for fast and cheap shipping, has the LTL freight and logistics industry fighting to meet demand. Retailers are competing for warehouse and distribution center space closer to customer bases to be able to accommodate the surge in volume. Big box stores are competing for container capacity on international container ships in order to shore up inventories. As the holidays loom, capacities decrease, and rates rise, it is more important than ever for shippers to formulate a plan to work around some of the shipping challenges brought about by the holiday season. These are five tips to help ensure that your shipments get where they need to go on time this year.
Holiday shipping is prone to delays for a number of reasons. The increased demand for freight can overwhelm the limited capacity of carriers. Worker vacation time and holidays mean more work must be completed in fewer days. Winter storms and bad weather can shut down shipping infrastructure, cause detours and reroutes, and increase transit times. The best way to combat inevitable delays during the holidays is to account for them ahead of time. If possible, plan for at least 2-3 extra days per shipment, and build these accommodations into your LTL freight plan. If you design your shipping strategy with built-in delays, you will be better prepared for unexpected disruptions and delays, which will keep your supply line intact.
Track and Communicate
Communication is critical in shipping and logistics. Keeping an open line between shipper and carrier is even more important during the holidays when delays are frequent, and adjustments must be made in real-time to accommodate them. Before your shipment is even picked up, make sure to supply your carrier with accurate information regarding the size and weight of your cargo, its freight class, any special handling, loading, or unloading instructions, and all relevant pickup and delivery procedures. Providing your carrier with precise information about your shipment will ensure there are no avoidable delays due to incorrect paperwork, labeling, or a lack of necessary equipment.
Tracking your LTL shipment throughout its transit is another way to stay on top of your freight. Utilize visibility tools to track the status and location of your shipment in real-time and be made aware of any potential delays immediately. Staying up to date on tracking will allow you to communicate with your carrier regarding any adjustments that need to be made for delivery and to communicate with your customers regarding the status of their items.
Budget for Increased Rates
With the reduction of capacity and the increase in demand for shipping during the holidays, rates inevitably go up. This has been exacerbated further due to lingering pandemic production issues and supply chain disruptions. And while rate increases are unavoidable, there are some ways to try and keep unexpected shipping costs down during peak season. Planning ahead and avoiding last-minute shipments can help net a better price from carriers and avoid additional charges. When possible, grouping as many items together in one shipment can also reduce the overall cost per item.
Package and Ship Correctly
Proper packaging and labeling for your LTL shipment are another way to reduce the possibility of delays during the holidays. Using the correct pallets, boxes, packing materials, shrink wrap, and labels can help keep the items in your shipment from being lost or damaged.
Purchase Freight Insurance
Freight insurance can protect your cargo from any incidental damage or loss. While it is not required, it is recommended that shippers purchase a freight insurance policy to protect themselves from any liability when shipping. Freight insurance is a separate policy from carrier insurance. Carriers have their own insurance policies, but they are unlikely to cover the total costs of any damage to your shipment, so it is important to purchase a separate policy from a third-party freight insurance company. The cost of freight insurance is based on a variety of factors, including shipping history, freight class, distance, and destination, so it is essential to research different companies’ rates to find the best fit for your LTL shipment. Freight insurance is recommended for most shipments but is especially important during the holidays when high volumes and chaotic scheduling can result in a higher possibility of damage or loss.
Working with a freight broker or third-party logistics company can help make sure your holiday freight shipping experience is as smooth as possible. 3PLs can help by selecting carriers, planning routes, and tracking shipments to ensure your business gets the best deal to move your cargo. Talk to the freight experts at Koho and let them help you get the best deals with the right carriers for all your holiday shipping needs.