Shipping and holidays: A nightmare before Christmas…and after
The holidays often result in both tighter capacity and higher rates as shipping volumes increase. It’s important not to underestimate the challenges that this peak season can bring to businesses. The effects of the holidays on freight shipping operations can sometimes start as early as August and may last long into January.
Higher shipping rates are just one of the roadblocks you may run into during this festive– but chaotic– time. The wisest strategy involves preparing holiday shipping operations far in advance before the inflated holiday rates start to hit, and the risk of service failures increases, but there are other elements to consider as well.
Why the Holidays Bring Carrier Chaos
There are competing factors that contribute to extra hurdles around both Thanksgiving and Christmas. On the one hand, many businesses depend on this time of year to make up a large percentage of their yearly quotas, so many companies will be increasing the number of freight orders to correlate with the increased volume and supply needs of the holiday season. On the other hand, the holidays naturally bring the added challenge of drivers needing to alter or limit their working hours to accommodate time with their families, resulting in less availability or even blocked out service dates.
Service delays, and even failures, occur as companies sometimes either underestimate or overcommit to meet the escalation in freight service demand. They are resulting in missed deliveries, which can lead to lost sales, penalties, and fees– particularly for retail clients who rely on delivery deadlines the most during this busiest time of year.
Communication: Better too much than too little
Not only is it essential to take extra care in making sure both you and your carriers fully understand what your freight needs will be during this window of time, but it’s also important to communicate these needs far in advance. Effective communication also means asking about what visibility and tracking options are available. It might be useful to inquire if it’s possible to follow along with any updates or delays with the help of an added pallet tracker, or ask if drivers have access to GPS tracking. It would be wise to take advantage of your logistics partner’s expertise and see what other visibility options they have that will help you know exactly where your orders are during this tumultuous time.
Be Prepared for Changes in Holiday Service Schedules
Holiday schedules will differ from carrier to carrier, so it’s important to confirm when your carrier is available and when they are not. Again, working with the right logistics partner will help gather information, as unavailability is not necessarily limited to specifically Thanksgiving or Christmas, but also the times leading up to and following these holidays.
Allow for Additional Buffer Time Near Key Dates
In the world of logistics, there are rarely any instances where waiting until the last minute is a workable option, and this is especially true during the holidays. It’s not just the increase in demand that can wreck last-minute planning, but also difficulties relating to weather delays or other unforeseen circumstances. To this end, it may be beneficial to research previous forecasts so that you have a good understanding of which destination areas are more likely to experience severe winter weather.
The likelihood of unexpectedly high rates increases when you don’t give your transportation partners ample lead time during this peak season. We recommend that you estimate at least an additional two days of transit time to allow for some buffer time during the key dates surrounding the holidays.
Don’t Let Holiday Surcharges Take you by Surprise
It’s a given that many carriers will automatically increase their rates during the holidays, simply due to a higher need for speed and additional volume of orders. These increased charges may take effect as early as October and can continue through January. If it’s possible, one option is to plan some shipments to take place before this peak season. If not, it will be essential to planning your budgets with some additional wiggle room to cover the steeper shipping costs.
When in Doubt, Work with trusted Logistics Partner
The world of retail shipping is full of complexities and nuances, even during the best of times. There may be no wiser time than the peak season of the holidays to make sure you are working with a logistics partner you know is reliable. This will enable you to navigate the broad network of carrier options to ensure your delivery needs will be met during the most demanding time of the year. You know that you can always count on the Freight Management Logistics team to help you make everything work as smooth as possible even during the hectic holiday season.
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