MIAMI SPRINGS, FLORIDA, September 10th 2021
The shipping industry has been experiencing a lot of factors disrupting normal operations. How many times have we used the word “unprecedented” in the last 18 months? We will use it one more time to describe what is happening now. Capacity is tighter, demand is higher than it’s ever been in the past, there’s a talent shortage, there are congested ports and now we’re experiencing a difficult situation due to the remnant of Hurricane IDA.
After so many disruptions we’ve seen, there’s a tighten up in driver’s availability boosted by diverse factors including the many regulations, high turnover rates, and many generations reaching retirement age. We’ve also seen an increment in the demand and volume of requests as a result of the boom in e-commerce after the customer’s behavior shifted because of the pandemic, and how overtaken the industry has been resulting in a tightened truckload capacity due to the demand versus the equipment available to fulfill these needs. This also includes the new government regulations that limit a lot to ensure the health and safety of everyone, severe weather, and seasonality.
All of this is to say that this is causing delays, cancelled shipments, and even price fluctuations. The industry is under incredible stress right now and leaders should acknowledge and understand how these elements are affecting the industry so they can navigate through it successfully.
Here are some factors that can affect regular operations:
Weather: Infrastructure can be significantly vulnerable to changes in weather, temperatures, coastal storms, inland flooding, snowfalls, winter storms, among others. These changes can physically damage roads, ports, airports, and rails with potholes, rutting, and overall unevenness that makes it harder for the vehicles to transit, putting in danger the shipments and the safety of the crew.
Port Delays: Congestion is one of the most common struggles with deliveries and schedules. Sometimes this congestion is the result of diverse strains like high import volumes, equipment and process bottlenecks, high peak season, location of the port, and lack of personnel attending the port.
Driver Detention: When a driver is delayed at either the origin or destination for more than the time agreed the whole schedule is delayed as a snowball effect takes place, making it difficult for them to meet deadlines.
Tightened Truckload Capacity: With strong demand, and not enough trucks to fulfill that capacity or carriers to transport the shipment, we can encounter difficulties along the way getting the freight to the destination and this could cause delays.
Staff Shortage: If we have an increased demand but there’s not enough equipment or staff to transport the freight, delays can happen. Due to the current restrictions to ensure the safety of the drivers, the industry has been experiencing a staff shortage across the country. There are also new regulations limiting the number of working hours, even more, strict drug and alcohol testing that is taking out of service a lot of workers in the country.
High Peak Season: The highest shipping season usually lasts from August through October and this time is often followed by a lot of holidays. During the peak season, there is a demand for shipping services increased, pricing fluctuation, and even longer transit times.
Motor Vehicle Issues: Sometimes there are uncontrollable issues that a machine can encounter in its lifespan, this could be addressed as a carrier’s problem, but there are times when the mechanical parts stop working without any previous signs of imminent failure.
Mistakes in the documentation: Typos around sensitive information such as addresses, order forms, among others, can affect the normal operation and can even result in shipments being unable to reach the destination on time or extra charges added to the final invoice.
Here are some tips to address and manage these issues:
- Choose the appropriate shipping service for your load. There are diverse options out in the market and if you choose expedited services, you will find a faster option. Between LTL (LESS THAN TRUCKLOAD) and Full truckload, you can find that one service can have multiple stops along the way, and the other drives directly to the destination.
- Consolidate your loads to cut down costs and ship the most freight you can in one order. This will help you and others to balance the shipping capacity.
- Consider your options with multiple carriers so you can have alternatives in times of limited capacity.
- Include extra days in your schedule, especially during peak seasons such as Holiday Season where ports and warehouses get congested. Adapt your strategy and add more days to meet deadlines.
- Keep reading about the constant changes and what contingency plans carriers are developing. To give you a quick example, some carriers are being selective in the locations to improve network fluidity and reduce operating costs at their most constrained service centers, some of them are not placing capacity over efficiency so you must be up to date and aware of these changes to fulfill your needs.
- Double-check your documentation and make sure you have everything you need, including the specific documents required to clear certain areas such as CFS and airports. Avoid mistakes or typos.
- Make sure to plan and have everything ready in your warehouse to help drivers expedite the pickup and delivery process.
- Double-check the conditions of your freight carefully and add all novelties to the proof of delivery (POD) so you can have strong evidence to submit a claim if needed.
- Work with a partner to have your back covered and get access to special support when dealing with contingencies. This alliance can help you optimize your shipping experience, receive tailored advice and bring better customer service to keep growing your business.
We know our jobs can be intense and meeting a lot of deadlines in front of many obstacles can cause a lot of stress, but it’s important to be patient and be reasonable in times of recovery. Let’s keep adapting our strategies, be flexible, and don’t stop learning about the industry and its nuances to reach success.
We will keep you posted and will try to stay ahead of the situation.