Did you know the Big Bang happened in April?
April fools. . . 😏
As the fourth month of the year, April has an important role to play. Lots of pretty birds return to northern States, Shakespeare celebrates his birthday (going on 459 now, old man) and runners flock to eastern Massachusetts to participate in the highly-anticipated Boston Marathon.
Like other 30-day months, April makes an impact on all supply chains, challenging businesses in unique ways every year. This pattern holds true in the transportation industry where April is seen as a time of transition; frost laws take effect, construction projects commence and produce seasons kickstart.
Treating your transportation processes like you did in months prior, and failing to account for April’s intricacies will be to the detriment of your company. Instead, it’s important that you understand the changes that, year after year, happen in the trucking industry during April so that you can plan accordingly.
Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we’ve been helping companies move their cargo since 1955. If you do the math, you'll find that this makes April 2023, our 68th on record (not as many as Shakespeare, but close).
Over time, we’ve witnessed firsthand how taxing the first month of Q2 can be on under-prepared shippers. You deserve to get the best from your transportation decisions every month, April included.
In this article, you’ll get an overview of what to expect during the four weeks of April in the transportation world — broken down by service type.
Additionally, we’ve provided some planning tips to help you get the best from your transportation decisions in the days ahead.
Below, you’ll find this information bucketed as follows:
- How dry van transportation changes in April
- How reefer transportation changes in April
- How the open-deck market adjusts in April
- What April means for oversized freight movement
- 3 tips for managing your shipments throughout April
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What to Know About Dry Van Transportation in April
Dry van trailers are the most frequently-utilized trailer types on America’s roadways. This pattern holds true regardless of the time of year. However, some months are more challenging for dry van trucking companies and their drivers. Household goods season in June and July and the retail rush that precedes December’s holiday season are worn-out examples of this point.
April, for what it’s worth, is a relatively “quiet” month for the dry van market with the onset of Q1 and portions of Q2 reliably “softening” things nationwide.
Outbound port freight on the west coast, in particular, is relatively slow in January-April. These loads, which keep dry van carriers occupied in western states throughout most of the year, only begin ramping up as April progresses.
Produce harvests in southern states — from the Carolinas to California — and up the east/west coasts, on the other hand, begin their surge in April. This leads many area dry van truckers to swap to reefer trailers in order to capitalize on shifts in market demand.
For the most part, dry van capacity shouldn’t be difficult to come by during the 30 days of April. Provided you communicate effectively with your consignees and carriers — prioritizing lead time and appointment-time flexibility along the way — April shouldn’t make it difficult to execute your dry van loads.
Related: What Does Dry Van Shipping Cost?
What to Know About Refrigerated Freight Movement in April
Temperature-controlled freight, be it cargo requiring protect-from-freeze services or fresh, perishable produce, is always moving. Springtime, and the summer months that follow, is when reefer-trailer demand and usage rates tend to expand.
In April, harvest seasons begin in various southern states soaking up a portion of reefer capacity in these regions. And, recognizing the uptick in demand that will soon accompany widespread harvests in the southern U.S., reefer truckers begin to shift their gaze southward during the second month of spring.
Although some of the drivers that were hauling dry vans in months prior swap their trailers for reefers in harvest-riddled regions, expect to pay a bit more for reefer space — especially on short notice — during April as the demand for these trailers rises across the board.
Related: How Location and Time of Year Impact Reefer Freight Shipping
What to Know About Open-Deck Shipping in April
As the second month of spring, the effects of winter weather — particularly those enveloping northern states — start to subside in April.
Slowly but surely, gradual snow and ice melt across the U.S. spurs an uptick in open-deck freight movement in the portions of our country that had little of it in months prior.
Rising temperatures open doors of opportunity for all open-deck shippers looking to move their cargo in April.
You see, in recognition of the yearly transition away from the brutal cold and unpredictable weather, truck drivers become more dispersed across our nation.
Open-deck truckers no longer need to worry about the intricacies that accompany moving these loads in a winter climate. Instead, flatbed, step-deck, double-drop and other open-deck trailers will be easier to come by for the northern businesses that use them.
In turn, shippers in southern areas of our nation will find it difficult to secure capacity at price points that got the job done previously. As trucking companies realign their assets to service a wider pool of demand, southern companies are left with fewer solutions to choose from in April — increasing spot rates to boot.
April is also the month when project shipments typically begin ramping up in all portions of the U.S.
Attributed to forgiving weather and the wider distribution of available capacity, businesses with open-deck projects to organize, begin executing them. That said, as multi-truckload projects touch many of the regions they left alone in months prior, planning around them will be crucial in April.
As such, if you have open-deck freight to move, it’s important you give your transportation providers plenty of lead time for securing a solution. With so many other businesses pressing to get cargo loaded and moving, the more notice — and information — you can give your open-deck provider the better off you’ll be.
What to Know About Oversize Freight Movement in April
No matter the time of year, over-dimensional (OD) shipments are riddled with complexity. Keeping OD cargo, and the motoring public, safe while transporting these loads takes a practiced hand and plenty of oversight.
April, however, makes things even more difficult for businesses moving overweight goods. You see, every year around this time, frost laws — also commonly referred to as “seasonal load restrictions” — take effect.
These regulations, which dictate the per-axle weight limits for northern roadways, are designed to prevent the road damage oversized/overweight loads can cause.
Since the daily thawing and nightly freezing (which together weaken roads) happens so sporadically throughout the U.S., seasonal load restrictions are levied at the state, county and municipality levels — making them difficult to generalize here.
That said, should the weight of your load exceed the spring-thaw maximum thresholds of its route, you’ll have to pick a different one. Local and area frost laws — especially when they aren’t planned for in advance — can become a serious issue for the supply chains that face them as they present an immovable, unwavering barrier.
These rules are non-negotiable — with heavy fines levied on the carriers that break them — and without planning for their presence, many shippers face prolonged delays moving freight in April.
For this reason, it’s important that you consult a trusted transportation provider well before executing your shipment this month. The most seasoned carriers will have methods for avoiding the impact of frost laws and can help you plan out your shipments appropriately — even if it means selecting an alternative route or “go” date.
3 Tips For Successfully Shipping Freight in April
With the information outlined above, you’re closer to getting the most from your transportation supply chain this month. To take this one step further, though, here are three additional things to keep in mind as April progresses:
- Plan around the easter holiday
- Give your transportation providers plenty of lead time
- Be as specific as possible with every transportation request.
#1: Plan Around The Easter Holiday
Holidays, and the breaks that accompany them, always throw a wrench into the transportation industry. Whether it’s truck drivers headed home for some well-deserved rest or job sites and facilities closing for a time, moving freight before, on and around holidays is challenging.
Easter, though less disruptive than holidays like The Fourth of July and Christmas, is worth noting in April. To ensure that you’re given the best freight rates possible and aren’t impacted by the capacity crunch that accompanies Easter, make sure to inform your providers of your capacity needs well in advance.
With an adequate amount of notice, your transportation provider will be able to make sure that your load is executed without a hitch — preventing Easter from making any impact on your bottom line.
Related: Moving Freight Around a Holiday: 3 Critical Planning Tips
#2: Give Your Providers Plenty of Lead Time
As April’s days fly by and shippers across the nation emerge from winter’s grasp once more, the importance of lead time will quickly become known.
In a competitive transportation marketplace — where the demand for capacity outpaces the supply of solutions — the fewer days/hours a carrier has to work with (to line up a solution) the more a shipper typically has to pay.
April is the month, every year, when trucking markets get more competitive.
So, if you’re hoping to avoid paying more money than necessary to get your shipments covered, be sure to provide ample lead time to each provider. Although the warning you provide should vary based on the complexity of your load, expect your price to rise if you give carriers less than 24 hours of notice in April.
#3: Be as Specific as Possible With Your Transportation Requests
Another thing you’ll want to prioritize as the transportation industry begins to heat up in April is specificity in every capacity request. Without the right information, it’s nearly impossible for a transportation provider to cover your load effectively.
Ambiguity will be your enemy this month. Confusion as to what your exact needs are (how many trucks you’ll need, where your cargo dimensions lie, the specific nature of the cargo, the names and contact information of all stakeholders, etc.) will only increase your chances of one thing this month: failure.
Failing to communicate key details on a shipment is harmful to all parties involved. For this reason, as you’re sourcing for a truck in April, be as specific as possible by outlining all aspects of your load and its journey.
Some of the most crucial information to include is:
- Exact cargo dimensions (height, weight, length, width)
- Pallet count (where applicable)
- Exact commodity type and value
- Special equipment needed
- Pad-wraps, tarps, strap-savers, etc.
- Requested pick-up/drop-off dates
- Address of pick-up location
- Where to park
- Which side of the building to enter on
- Address of drop-off location
- Where to park
- Which side of the building to enter on
These insights are what transportation companies need to safely and successfully facilitate a load, make sure they get them during April.
Get Your Freight Moved Efficiently This April!
Now that you have an understanding of what to expect when moving your freight during April, and some tips for navigating the transportation world in the days ahead, you probably recognize two things:
- As the first month of Q2, it’s important for your company to hit the ground running in April.
- Without proper planning and partnerships, April can be an unforgiving month.
But what makes a transportation-industry partnership a good one? And, most importantly, are the providers you’re currently using the absolute best fit for your company this quarter?
Here at ATS, we understand the predicament you’re in; choosing great transportation partnerships isn’t easy with so many options at your fingertips and few guidelines for how to choose.
To help you ensure your transportation partnerships are the right ones as we look toward summer 2023, download one of these free selection checklists today.
|The Freight Carrier Selection Checklist||The Freight Brokerage Selection Checklist|
|The Flatbed Carrier Selection Checklist||The Heavy Haul Carrier Selection Checklist|
Finally, if you have any questions about how Anderson Trucking Service can help you meet your goals this year, reach out to us here. We’re more than happy to help you in any way you need.