LTL Operations and Service through the End of 2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the LTL (less than truckload) market looks different than years past. As we head into peak holiday season, we at Echo Global Logistics would like to share insight into factors that may impact the LTL freight market as well as LTL operations and service for the remainder of the year.
Below are some of the top factors that could affect LTL shipping through the end of 2020:
- The evolution toward an e-commerce focused peak season has been greatly accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As an example of this shift, Walmart is launching pop up e-commerce distribution centers inside 42 existing centers. In addition, Lowe’s is one of many retailers expanding their e-commerce offerings. These examples demonstrate this year’s significant shift to a different kind of peak season that is more concentrated on e-commerce.
- In an effort to avoid massive crowds on a few specific days, retailers are treating the six weeks leading up to the holidays as one long Black Friday sale. This is expected to change the traditional pattern that many carriers in years past would typically experience, which included a slowdown in December once the bulk of goods had moved into retailers’ distribution networks.
- Many LTL carriers are experiencing record volume and operating at or in excess of their normal capacity. As such, these carriers are very concerned about this six-week period as they are likely going to be forced to handle unprecedented volumes between now and the end of the year.
- Drivers, dock workers, and other support staff have been affected by COVID-related issues, directly and indirectly. Positive tests and self-quarantining are on the rise. In fact, some carriers are reporting that the number of employees who call off daily due to COVID-19 has doubled since early October. Because the LTL industry is heavily dependent on labor, carriers are being greatly impacted by this.
- LTL carriers are taking steps to manage the amount of freight in their networks. We’ve seen significant use of embargoes, reduction of service points, and geographical surcharges over the last few months. In addition, a few asset-light providers have instituted peak season surcharges through the end of the year, similar to those seen in small parcel applications.
These factors will have a significant impact on the LTL freight market. Freight volumes are already overwhelming LTL networks, and COVID-19 continues to surge across the country. These e-commerce changes were expected to take place over years, and there is very little flexibility in the marketplace when carriers are under this much strain.
So, what can shippers do to avoid possible issues and how can Echo help?
- Pay careful attention to the freight market during this time and be prepared to make agile adjustments to your transportation strategies should the need arise
- Allow for additional lead time and factor in “buffer” days when possible
- For non-critical shipments, determine if you can hold orders to consolidate into a multi-stop truckload (TL) or partial load
- If the load is critical, evaluate expedited options with time-definite services
- Use Echo to help gauge cost/service trade-offs of individual carriers, explore expedited options, quote shipments as partials, and more
At Echo, we’re always here to help you navigate the freight market, especially in this rapidly evolving environment. Our team of logistics experts will evaluate your unique transportation needs and ensure you get the solutions that are best for you during the remainder of 2020 and beyond.
Echo services all modes of transportation, including truckload, partial truckload, LTL, intermodal, and expedited. To book a shipment with Echo, contact a representative today at 800-354-7993 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or request a quote for a shipment.