How to use seasonality to your advantage.

You know it’s coming. And you know it’s going to be chaotic…

The “produce season” arrives every year to upend your conventional shipping processes, relationships and budgets. Your usual supply chain partners may not be able to meet your capacity. You know you’ll eventually get through it — but at what cost?

From mid-March to late June (or beyond), the shipping industry in the Southeast is roiled in a slow-moving wave of increased freight from Florida up the coast into the Carolinas and as far West as Texas. More freight means less capacity and fewer reasonably priced carriers. More importantly, it often results in poor customer service from trucking and logistics companies that you wouldn’t tolerate during other parts of the year. So why settle for it now?

Maybe it’s time to consider seasonality as a huge opportunity to improve your business — by finding new, more reliable and trustworthy trucking and logistics partners. Some of them may surprise you with their capabilities, consistency and customer service. You may even want to partner with them over the long-haul.

Finding a better, more reliable partner

There are things to look for when searching for a logistics partner during peak seasons that can help you optimize capacity without compromising your budget, including:

Beware the overpromise. If you’re already expecting higher shipping volumes (and costs) during peak shipping season, you know every carrier, trucking company and logistics firm is ready for it, too. In fact, every peak season, we see outstate carriers rushing into the market hoping to prey on desperate shippers with big promises masking huge issues.

Many supply chain companies seek to maximize seasonal profits while they can, knowing that they’ll be leaving the market, or that you’ll be returning to the companies you’ve worked with previously. Are you willing to risk a shipment on a vendor you don’t know, or even trust?

Hearing “No” can actually be a good thing. You can search high and low for companies promising the lowest prices. Or, you can choose a partner who delivers an honest, straightforward outlook. After all, it’s in their best interest to meet your expectations, so you retain them again — and again and again — throughout the year.

Do your research. Every trucking and logistics company claims to be the expert. And while it’s true that the industry has many experienced drivers, reliable logisticians and savvy salesman, how do you know your new partner is legit?

With only a few minutes of research online, or via industry contacts, you can find out how long a supply chain partner has been in business, what freight they specialize in, their existing customers and even their retention rates or customer rating.

Chances are that if you find a local company able to help with your shipment, they’re going to do everything they can to keep that business. Ultimately, it can be much more profitable even if you’re paying slightly higher prices during peak season. After all, how much would one late shipment cost you? It’s better not to have to find out. A reputable partner will find a way to make a lasting partnership profitable for both parties.

Realize the benefits of trucking and logistics. Many companies prioritize existing customers during the produce season with contracts that call for guaranteed loads. Your current partners may even guarantee you a certain amount of loads. Obviously, you know the benefits of having a reliable partner you can trust throughout the season. But there’s no reason you can’t add more partners to the mix. Some may even have more assets than you may realize.

Look for companies that have both a logistics arm and its own assets. Those trucking assets may mean better shipping rates for loyal customers throughout the year, even during peak season. At worst, you’ll be partnering with a company with more options to get your freight to your preferred destination.

It’s the perfect time to thrive

Use the predictability of seasonality to your advantage. Research reputable supply chain partners offering fair prices and multiple shipping options. You may find cheaper rates, but often, those rates come with more problems. A fair price from a trustworthy partner can be much more cost-effective over the course of the year. It’s a pragmatic, risk-adverse strategy for securing loads and reliability that will ease the burdens of the most chaotic time of the year.

 

Jared Moore, Vice President, AMX Logistics