As fall transitions to winter, we turn the calendars to November.
Important dates this month include Veterans Day (November 11) and Thanksgiving (November 23). You may also have local elections this month, and be preparing for Black Friday shopping.
Before you start thawing your turkey and wrapping your gifts, make sure your seasonal shipping needs are covered.
This can be a tricky month in the trucking industry (there are a lot of holidays and happenings). But you don’t need to navigate it alone.
Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we’ve been around for 68 years… that’s a lot of Novembers. We’re here to help you get through the season so you can focus on more important things — like what you’ll use to top your leftover turkey sandwich.
So settle into your flannel shirt and seasonal scarf and get ready to find out what’s happening across the trucking industry this month.
Below, we’ll cover what to expect this month so that you can make the best decisions for your freight, including:
- An update on the Panama Canal situation
- What we expect to happen with dry van freight this month
- The impact to reefer freight in November
- What’s happening with open-deck freight
- November’s impact on over-dimensional freight
- Thanksgiving and the holiday season
Listen to November's Market-Update Podcast!
Update: Low Levels in the Panama Canal
Low water levels in the Panama Canal means continued restrictions on the number of vessels crossing each day.
While we aren’t yet seeing a big impact on the U.S. trucking industry, if this situation continues to get worse, we will probably see flatbed trucks shifting to the West Coast, where vessels will be rerouted if the canal restrictions increase.
Open-deck trucks are usually used for shipping to and from ports, as multi-modal containers can be easily loaded onto a flatbed. After the goods leave port, most of them will be stripped from their containers at a facility and transloaded to a dry van or other trailer for the next leg of their journey. This process isn’t expected to experience disruption in November.
How Will Dry Van Trailer Freight Be Impacted in November?
Year-round, dry vans carry most of the goods we use on a daily basis. Everything from canned goods to furniture and electronics to toys travel in a dry van.
In November, dry vans are in high demand. The holiday shopping season that begins in October is in earnest this month, and it stays busy until late December.
Canned cranberries and pumpkin, Black Friday specials and holiday decor are all traveling to store shelves near you via dry van.
This year, we aren’t expecting the massive spikes in freight volume (and, in turn, freight rates) we’ve seen in past holiday shopping seasons. The continued rise in online shopping and a consumer focus on experiences rather than physical gifts means there is less dry van freight than in past years.
However, don’t expect the same rates for dry vans you got in the summer months. While this holiday season may be more muted than it has been in the past, this is still one of the busiest months of the year.
Speaking of online shopping, some of the major online retailers are renting dry vans from commercial carriers this month. This will contribute to the tight capacity for vans this holiday season.
The best bet for securing dry van capacity this November is to prepare to pay higher prices, or be flexible with your dates.
Of course, gift giving isn’t the only thing that happens this holiday season. The big feast that happens in the later part of November (and holiday baking) requires dry goods hauled in vans, plus plentiful reefer freight.
How Will Reefer Freight Be Impacted in November 2023?
Refrigerated trucks are the top choice for temperature-sensitive freight like groceries and pharmaceuticals. November’s festivities — featuring turkeys, butter (so much butter) and chocolate — put these insulated trucks in the spotlight.
Whether you put it up November 1 or wait until closer to Christmas, your tree may be traveling to your local lot right now. Depending on the length of haul, Christmas trees (and wreaths and garlands) are hauled in either a dry van or a reefer to stay fresh longer.
While all this festive freight is good news for cookie lovers and wreath makers, it’s also good/profitable news for reefer truck drivers. You may see elevated prices for reefers this month — particularly in areas where fir trees are grown.
Dry vans and reefers are both enclosed trailer types, suitable for transporting freight that fits within their dimensions. The enclosure also keeps them safe from the winter weather that ramps up in November. Unenclosed freight will notice even more change this month.
What Happens with Open-Deck Freight in November?
Depending on where you are in the country, November may feel like fall, or it can be the beginning of winter. Open-deck freight, hauled on a standard flatbed, step-deck or lowboy trailer, undergoes a seasonal shift.
The northern states, expecting winter storms, are making one last push to finish up any remaining construction projects. Soon, construction equipment and crews will be moving further south for the winter.
And as it gets colder, tasks like tarping become much harder and more uncomfortable. Freight requiring tarping or outdoor work will cost more starting in November. If you can choose a tarping alternative like a Conestoga trailer, that will make your load more likely to get picked up at a reasonable rate.
As open-deck freight becomes less popular in November, many drivers will want to capitalize on the higher need for dry vans and will transition to pulling enclosed trailers.
Colder parts of the country may have a hard time finding available open-deck trucks (and it will cost more), which will continue through the winter months.
November’s Impact on Over-Dimensional Freight
As open-deck freight becomes less common and more complicated in November, oversize freight has some special restrictions to be aware of.
Decreased Daylight in November
Many jurisdictions only allow oversize freight to move during daylight hours. In November, shorter days plus Daylight Saving Time greatly decrease these hours.
In November, we still lose over a minute of daylight every day — that means at the end of the month have a half-hour less daylight to move over-dimensional freight.
Speaking of daylight hours, Daylight Saving Time ends early in the month. As we fall back, your driver will have to stop an hour earlier than in previous months.
While this may not seem like a lot of time, consider that in conjunction with the driver’s Hours of Service restrictions. Work with your carrier to be sure you are allowing enough time for your load to move during daylight hours.
And the lack of sunlight isn’t the only thing slowing over-dimensional freight this month.
Increased Restrictions for November Holidays
November means Thanksgiving (November 23) and Veterans Day (November 11). Some jurisdictions will restrict movement on these holidays, and permit offices may be closed.
The bottom line for oversize freight in November is to plan ahead. Increased restrictions around daylight and holidays are a fact of life this month, and planning ahead will help you make the most of the available freight hauling time.
How Does Thanksgiving Impact Freight Shipping?
Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year. While you may not see as many semi trucks on the road, drivers are just as likely to want to visit grandparents and grandkids in different cities.
All this family time means many drivers will be looking for time off. Combine this with retailers that may be too busy to receive shipments (or closed), and there will be fewer trucks available the week of Thanksgiving.
If possible, plan with your consignees to have freight arrive the week before Thanksgiving, or plan your shipment for the next week. There are always drivers who are willing to work on the holiday, but they expect to be paid a premium for that time.
Don’t forget about the unofficial Black Friday holiday either. If your shipment will arrive on Friday following Thanksgiving, make sure there is someone available to unload — many companies close for this day, and retail workers are likely to be needed on the floor for one of the year’s busiest holiday shopping days.
Related Content: Thanksgiving Oversized Freight Travel Restrictions By State
Holiday Travel: The Impact of Driver Time Off
Many drivers get into the profession because they want to control their schedules and take long breaks with their families.
Some drivers prefer to take off the entire holiday season (November and December), while some take off for the cold winter months to spend time in a warmer location.
There’s still plenty of drivers on the road, but be prepared for slightly higher prices over the next few months as drivers enjoy some well-deserved relaxation.
Whether you consider the last few months of the year relaxing or stressful, you probably know the key to having things go smoothly is to plan ahead. It’s no different in the trucking industry.
Plan Ahead for November Shipping Success
There’s a lot to enjoy about November. Whether you’re a fan of cozy sweaters around a fireplace, or you can’t wait to hit the slopes, the gear and supplies you need to enjoy the season comes to you on a truck.
The most successful shippers plan ahead in November (and year-round). While you can’t control the weather, holiday schedules or truck shortages, you can prepare now to minimize supply chain interruptions.
If you’re still in the planning phase, read more about how to prepare for holiday shipping. If you’re ready to start working with a transportation provider, contact ATS to get your shipment moving.