Three main cycles drive the U.S. truckload market: seasonal demand, annual procurement and market capacity. The first — seasonal demand — is relatively easy to observe and on full display during the summer months.
With Memorial Day (the unofficial start of summer shipping) in the rear view, carriers need to prepare for the unique set of challenges and opportunities that the next few months will bring.
Even though the COVID-19 outbreak is going to dampen some of the shipping surges for the 2020 summer months, as the country starts opening back up and the temperatures rise, so will volume.
Let's take a look at some of the more consistent trends of the summer shipping months that you can apply in any market, no matter the current conditions.
When and Where Summer Freight Is the Hottest
Similar to produce season, food and beverage shipments tend to start in the South and move north as the weather gets warmer.
Beef production in central plain states will also play a role in the coming months. With temperatures already ideal for food and beverage in the southeast, southwest and west coast, look to these regions for activity.
Keep in mind we are currently in a deflationary market environment, so the overall impact of seasonal freight on spot rates will probably not be as significant when compared to the past few summers (even 2019, which was a deflationary market as well).
Summer 2018 Freight Volume Density
May – June
There are a lot of food and beverage production facilities in Mexico, so U.S. cities along the border are focal points earlier in the summer as retailers place order to build up inventory.
Major cities include: Laredo, TX; McAllen, TX; Nogales, AZ; Calexico, CA.
Wine shipments out of California and the pacific northwest are another notable commodity with increased late spring and early summer shipping. Heading into June, as beverage shipments increase, expect to produce demand to subside.
June – July
Texas and California will be major sources of outbound freight. Beer shipping from the border remains strong and demand for beef out of northern Texas and the central plains ramps up as the country hits peak BBQ season.
July – August
After the 4th of July, summertime demand for food and beverage freight slows down, while demand for back-to-school and retail loads picks up. Accordingly, the need for dry van trailers will increase while reefer demand drops.
4 Tips to Get More Volume This Summer
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has created an overall decline in volume, shippers are still shipping, and more than ever, they need reliable carriers to help.
Changing vendors and suppliers, inventory concerns, uneven COVID-19 impact and differing regulations by region will contribute to ongoing volatility. This will likely mean more spot opportunities as shippers try to manage constantly shifting supply chains.
Here are a few ways you can take advantage.
1. Go Digital
Having a relationship with a dedicated rep who knows your business is important. Using them to talk strategy and access unique opportunities is smart.
For the day-to-day interactions, using a digital freight platform like CoyoteGO® can help you get faster access to more opportunities. You can see more freight, make more offers, book loads instantly and manage your active shipments.
2. Consider Refrigerated Freight
If you have available drivers and the ability to invest in refrigerated trailers, summer is a great time to pick up more reefer loads. Investing in different trailer types can be a delicate balance, but it can be a great way to access more (typically higher paying) loads.
3. Honor Your Commitments
This is especially important in the current deflationary market, where there is more carrier capacity than shipper demand, making competition fierce.
It can be tempting to move all your trucks to the most active freight regions to grab the best paying seasonal loads, but remember that food and beverage season is temporary.
Carriers that implement and stick to a "carrier of choice" strategy will be in a better position to reap the benefits when the market eventually rebounds.
4. Provide Load Visibility
Shippers prefer working with carriers who provide visibility into their freight’s location. At Coyote, we provide carriers in our network with four easy and free options to do this.
Every Year Summertime Presents Opportunities
Though the current market may limit seasonal freight availability, carriers that understand the trends and take a few simple steps will be in a better position to out-haul the competition this, and every summer.
To get instant access to over 10,000 daily loads this summer, sign up for your free CoyoteGO account and start making offers, booking and getting paid.