Shipping Freight Around a Holiday: 3 Critical Planning Tips


Predictable as always, another national holiday is rapidly approaching. Last time, you were caught off guard by the impact these nationwide break periods have on the transportation industry. And, without planning for this momentary shift, your shipping budget bore the impact. 

National holidays are meant to be relaxing and stress-free, a time for reconnection with family and friends. Recently though, you’ve found them to be the opposite. They’ve made it difficult for you to do your job. A job you value. A job you’re good at. 

But you’re not alone. 

Many shippers around America, just like you, struggle to keep their supply chains on track when moving freight on and around a national holiday. Without the information they need to properly navigate each of this country’s longstanding holidays, nightmarish scenarios frequently unfold. 

Nothing as scary as the thought of missing your seat-selection window for a Delta Airlines flight because your alarm didn’t go off…. but still.

This time around, though, you’re proactively searching for more knowledge

Knowledge to help you get the best of national holiday variances. Knowledge on exactly how to plan for, and secure truck capacity before, after and during, a national holiday. Luckily, you’re in the right place.

Here at ATS, we’re accustomed to offering transportation services year-round. This includes helping businesses move their cargoes before, on and after national holidays. 

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you’ll need to keep in mind as you continue to ship freight around these periods. Just because something is challenging doesn’t mean you should avoid it altogether. No, let’s keep your supply chain chugging along as it always does, with a couple of minor tweaks, even when a national holiday rears its head.

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How Does The Trucking Industry Change Leading Up To National Holidays?

In the days leading up to a national holiday period, an interesting shift occurs. 

This shift doesn’t happen at an individual business or regional level. No, the transportation industry experiences a very specific change on a national scale; a transition in the activities of truck drivers

You see, truck drivers — like most everyone else — like to enjoy time with their families and friends. Since national holidays see many businesses close up shop for several days, the truckers looking for a bit of well-deserved “home time” start heading in that direction. 

That said, if a driver’s wheels aren’t turning they aren’t making money. And, with mouths to feed and bills to pay, for the majority of truckers, making money is non-negotiable. 

As such, as the week of a national holiday ramps up the trailers, reliably tugged behind a trucker’s tractor, are ready and willing to move some “backhaul” freight

Backhaul trucking, although an intricate part of the transportation world, sees an uptick in the days leading up to national holidays. 

What is Backhaul Trucking?

A backhaul is a freight shipment that pays a driver to make their return trip. In these scenarios, the shipper’s destination mirrors that of the driver which presents the ideal solution for both of them. 

Concerning a driver’s desire to get back home for a national holiday, backhaul freight helps them keep the money flowing on their way back home. Without a load to pull, these drivers would need to deadhead — without compensation — to their resting place. 

As such, many trucking companies will be looking to secure backhaul freight for their drivers. Depending on the destination of these shipments, the price of moving them will fluctuate substantially during the holiday period.

For example, securing a truck for loads going into major metropolitan areas leading up to a national holiday could cost a bit less than at other times of the year. It’s pretty easy to find a trucker looking to get into these areas, increasing the supply of available options and making competitive pricing easier. 

The opposite can be said for freight that needs to get to more remote locations in the days prior to a holiday. Loads to these areas can be very difficult to fulfill over these periods as very few — if any — truckers are looking to get to them.

As is often the case, the more difficult it is to find a carrier willing and able to move your freight, the more you’ll likely pay. 

In the days leading up to national holiday periods, you’ll always experience a pinch as the number of truckers on the roads diminishes. That said, this doesn’t need to kill your budget

Work with your partner to find a trucker in search of backhaul freight to your destination. Allow truckers to sit on your load over the holiday and work with your consignee to schedule an ideal time for drop-off. 


How Does The Trucking Industry Change Following National Holidays?

The lethargic pace of days spent around the kitchen table, enjoying time in the sun or surrounding the fireplace, spills into the days following a national holiday. Just because there are fewer trucks on the roads during a holiday like Labor Day, doesn’t mean the demand for their services is any lower. 

As a result, the trucking market — across equipment types — experiences a pinch in the days after a national holiday. The build-up of supply chain congestion over this break period flows forward, even after a holiday has wrapped up.

As truckers around our nation get back into the swing of things, without planning correctly, the cost of truck space can be just as costly as days leading up to a holiday. 

Depending on what holiday it is, expect this layover of supply chain congestion to last anywhere from two to ten days.

To avoid all unnecessary price hikes over this period, work with your provider to schedule your freight’s transport to meet the market’s rebound over these periods. 

That said, some holidays make this more difficult than others. A good transportation partner will help you navigate the capacity crunch accompanying the most difficult holidays. 

Which Holidays Impact The Trucking Industry The Most?

Anytime a national holiday falls in the middle of a week, moving freight over that week becomes more costly. Overnight, rates can turn on their heads and suddenly the cost-effective spot quotes of days before simply won’t get the job done. 

Holidays that land in the middle of the week some years — like the Fourth of July — are some of the most disruptive; causing businesses to shut down for days at a time. 

That said, Christmas is by far the most challenging time for shippers around our nation. 

Sure Christmas is cherished throughout America. Families gather to celebrate the holiday season and look forward to another year for the books. For businesses looking to move some freight though, Christmas time is expensive. 

Many truckers understand the heightened demand for their service offerings at this time of year — as others take a break from hauling freight — and increase their pricing. 

With no other option, companies with cargo to distribute — a fair amount given that December is also the final month of quarter four — pay the going rate. A rate that far exceeds previous price points. 

Coupled with the fact that New Year’s Eve is a short while (six days) later — prolonging the market’s lull — and moving goods through the last two weeks of December becomes increasingly tricky.

Many times it can feel like paying out large sums of money — which decreases the net profit of the shippers doing so — simply can’t be avoided around the holiday season. 

But, this is far from the truth. In reality, there’s plenty of things you can do to mitigate your costs when moving freight before, after and on a national holiday. Let’s talk about them.


How Should You Plan For Moving Freight Over These Periods?

You want to make the absolute most of your shipping budget at every time of year. National holidays included. So far though, we’ve only told you how difficult this is going to be and why this is the case. We haven’t given you any actionable advice, anything you can take with you following this article. 

Here are three things that, provided you commit to doing them, will help you avoid mishaps going forward. 

  1. Be flexible with your timeframes and requirements
  2. Plan early with your consignee’s needs in mind. 
  3. Give your provider enough warning to find your best-fit solution.

1. Be Flexible With Your Timeframes and Requirements 

If there’s ever a time to stress flexibility in your processes, moving freight around a national holiday is it. Flexibility, though, takes multiple forms in the transportation world. 

Providing leniency on your pick-up and drop-off timeframes will help trucking companies meet your needs while, at the same time, appeasing their own. 

Rigid appointment times — at either end — make it more difficult for drivers to meet their goals during normal circumstances. Rigid timelines coming out of or heading into a national holiday exacerbates this issue tenfold — increasing the price of meeting your needs substantially. 

As such, the more you can do to give your transportation provider the flexibility to operate on their terms during these periods, the better. 

Maybe your carrier wants to drop off your freight directly following The Fourth of July — on their way to pick up another load — instead of directly before the holiday. Work with your receiver to make this possible and gain some cost savings in the process. 

You see,  trucking companies like to plan the route of their trucks out for days in advance. Make it easier for them to do so leading into, and away, from a national holiday, you’ll save some money. 

2. Plan Early With Your Consignee’s Needs In Mind

Too often, signals get crossed between a shipper and their consignee in the days before and after a national holiday. Every business approaches taking a break over these periods differently.

Some let their employees enjoy multiple days off while others give them only one. As you can imagine, without properly communicating these things, supply chain delays can occur. An unexpected truck showing up to a receiver’s vacant facility can be damaging to both relationships and transportation budgets. 

You’ll want to avoid these issues. To do so, make sure to plan ahead. Slip your shipments onto the schedules of trucking companies with plenty of warning. And, most importantly, coordinate with your consignees. 

When you tender freight of any kind to a transportation company, it’s important that you do so with a full understanding of your consignee’s needs.

As simple as it seems, national holidays shift many schedules, including your consignee’s. Save some money on your freight rates by ensuring you’re on the same page.


3. Give Your Provider Enough Time To Find Your Best-Fit Solution

Finding a backhaul trucker will save you money. That said, securing your best-fit trucking solution can only be done if your partner has enough time to put things in place. 

The trucking industry gives shippers two bargaining chips to work with: time and money. When moving cargoes in a tight market, like around a national holiday, the importance of these tools only increases. 

As such, without proper lead time, expect to pay more for an urgent trucking solution during these periods.  

Save money by giving your provider a lead time of 48-72 hours before the moment your freight needs to load to find you a solution. Sure, your partner should be able to find your best-fit truck with less time, but they appreciate a bit more. 

This business is constantly moving and transporting freight is complex at the best of times, maintain your partnerships this holiday by planning ahead. 

How Can a Good Carrier Partner Help You This Year?

You’re ready to get the most from your transportation budget, and now you understand what to think about going forward. 

This nation’s best transportation companies take pride in helping shippers, just like you, succeed when it matters most. When it’s the most challenging. 

A good provider will:

  • Prioritize transparency every step of the way to ensure that you, your consignee and your trucker are all on the same page. 

  • Communicate expectations, timelines and requirements clearly and fully from one stakeholder to the next, saving you the cost of delays and confusion. 

  • Proactively interact with the transportation world to find your absolute best fit solution. Using their expertise, good companies will anticipate issues before they arise. 

Here at ATS, we understand how difficult it can be for shippers to maximize their budget when a national holiday comes around. This is frustrating. That said, with the right transportation network, it doesn’t need to be. 

Make sure you’re operating at full potential going forward by adding the right companies to your network using these tools:

Finally, if you have any questions on how ATS can meet your national holiday transportation requirements, reach out. We’re happy to help you in any way you need.

Tags: Insider, Heavy Haul Shipping, Flatbed Shipping, Route Planning, Peak Season Shipping, Dry Van Shipping

Jordan Sandstrom

Written by Jordan Sandstrom

Jordan has been with ATS for over four years. Following a year of success and growth as a national sales representative with ATS Logistics, Jordan moved into his current as a logistics sales team manager. Jordan is dedicated to helping his budding sales team flourish as they strive to bring value to every customer's supply chain. In a complex industry, Jordan is always willing to lend a helping hand and transportation expertise whenever his customers, or sales reps, need assistance.

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