The massive and ever-fragmented U.S. truckload market is dictated by three main cycles: the annual procurement cycle, the seasonal cycle, and the market capacity cycle. We’re diving into the seasonal cycle, a year-long series of seasonal shifts that force both carriers and shippers to react accordingly to the changes. Knowing the timing of these cyclical events and how they impact each region will help both shippers and carriers alike plan more effectively for the swings of supply and demand.
There are a plethora of seasonal influences that can distract the attention of supply chain decision-makers to the inflation and compression of freight rates. At Coyote, we tend to focus on five major events as the most important benchmarks for year over year planning:
- Memorial Day
- 4th of July
- Labor Day
- Black Friday
To help navigate and plan for not just these challenging events but for other notable market disruptions and regional demands, we developed a produce guide outlining some of the primary factors to impact various regions of the country between Q1-Q2.
Q1-Q2 Produce Overview & Outlook
Coming off hot shipping months during the holiday season, consumer spend typically subsides in the early months of Q1. In turn, freight availability typically dips across the country with regional shippers and carriers preparing for the produce season spike in the second half of the quarter as produce starts to move up from the south, specifically the Texas and Florida regions. One of the most notable holidays to jumpstart shipping activity in the Texas and Florida areas during Q2 is Memorial Day. Viewed by many as the start to summer, Memorial Day marks the official beginning to food and beverage season in culmination with produce. With produce from Mexico and Latin America hitting cities like McAllen, Laredo, and Miami, coupled with holiday demand for food and beverages, these regions become the focal driving points for much of the rest of the country.
Coyote Produce Season Map
*Looking at volume trends from previous years for Q1-Q2, respective to Coyote, core truckload business surged nearly 10% in 2017 and 7.5% in 2018. As the influx of volume hits specific regions, opportunities and challenges are presented for both shippers and carriers.
For the Texas and southeast regions, outbound rates could be drastically impacted by the surge in demand from produce. With a potential shortage of capacity in these markets, carriers will position fleets appropriately to take compressed inbound rates to reap the benefits of favorable outbound volume. How much demand will there be to get south? Reference Coyote’s top aggregated state surges by volume % from Q1-Q2 2018. With the potential tightened capacity in Texas and Florida, carriers will seek out opportunities to get to these areas to reap the benefits.
*Coyote Aggregated State TL Volume Surge (Q1/Q2 2018)
As temperatures begin to rise, outbound Northeast and Midwest markets should begin to loosen. Less inclement weather and lane closures could free up capacity in these regions heading into the spring and summer months. In contrast, inbound freight to these areas could become very tight with weather still being the deterrent for many fleets.
Lastly, the inbound West Coast market could become more challenging as limited outbound volumes will restrict carriers from getting out. Lanes to the Northeast and Midwest will become desirable as more freight is available in these areas.
*Coyote Proprietary Aggregated State TL Volume Surge (Q1/Q2 2018)
Texas Region: March - April
Ramp up to produce season
- Although generally year-round, the traditional produce season that most think of begins in early March and transactional capacity will be challenged with covering produce shipments, both dry and refrigerated, coming from Mexico.
- Popular border cities, such as McAllen and Laredo, will be hit hardest by the influx of volume, presenting new opportunities for carriers looking to move more freight.
- Trucks in proximity will be sent to produce shippers, explaining the lack of capacity within 200-300 miles of those areas.
- With the season running until June, outbound Texas shipments will be highly sought after by carriers.
Florida Region: April - June
More of the same story
- Like Texas, the Southeast proves to be a produce hotbed beginning in mid-April through the 4th of July.
- Known traditionally as more of a “consumption” region, the radical increase in outbound volume due to produce serves as a coverage pain point for shippers.
- Non-produce freight coming out of FL, GA, MS, AL and the Carolinas should be planned with respect to competing produce coming out of the same areas.
- Notable shipping points will be Miami, with produce expected to move north to Jacksonville by through mid-summer.
What Does This All Mean?
Texas and Florida are notable hotbed states for produce. In turn, coverage in produce cities such as McAllen, Laredo, Miami, and Jacksonville might pose a challenge for shippers as carrier availability could be tight. Prioritization of must-move freight versus shipments with flexibility will be paramount for success during the produce season spike. Attractive pick-up and delivery times will also be a factor as carriers will look for quick turnarounds to capture more volume during the spike.
Refrigerated equipment will be in high demand by shippers to ensure produce is kept cool during transit. Diversifying use of equipment types will be a key to success to take advantage of the uptick in freight. Strategic positioning of fleets will also be pivotal to capitalize on opportunities in Q2. Carriers could expect to see inbound rates to Texas and the Southeast to fall as outbound volume from these regions will be at a premium.
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