ATS Transportation Blog

The Trucking Industry In October 2021: What you should know

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Ahhh. We made it to the first double-digit month of the year. To the second phase of fall, 92 days before the end of quarter four, to October. 

Throughout the years, October’s seven-letter presence has become synonymous with things like pumpkin pie, Sunday Night Football and piles upon piles of neatly collected leaves begging for the chance to become a playground of color into which children tumble. 

Don’t worry though, you won’t miss out on all the fun. You see, during its 31 marvelous days, October also brings mounds of excitement to the transportation world — creating new roadblocks and challenges for logistics managers to navigate. 

And, although the leaves outside transition into the beautiful crimson reds and yellows we’ve come to love, your transportation dollars are still just as green as they were in previous months. As such, you’re looking to take them just as far. 

Let’s make sure you do. 

Here at ATS, we’ve been helping shippers, just like you, move their open-deck, heavy haul, dry van and reefer freight during the month of October for nearly seven decades. During this time, we’ve found that, just like your grandmother’s apple pie, October leaves a far better taste in your mouth when you use the right recipe — a recipe for success. 

That’s why this month’s article will focus on providing you with all of the information you’ll need to get the most from your supply chain this October, including:

Let’s jump in. 

How October Impacts The Availability of Dry Van Trailers

Dry van trailers are the most commonly used transportation service offering, no matter the time of year. That said, as the holiday season approaches demand for the versatility and value a 53-foot dry van offers, increases substantially. 

For businesses selling consumer goods, getting everything into position for the frenzied days of November and December means weeks of planning and coordination. 

During October — the final stint of normalcy before the holiday-fueled retail frenzy of months 11 and 12 — dry van trailers play an important role in getting everything ready to go. 

You see, it’s during this month that hundreds of companies compile their holiday inventories and relocate them to various distribution centers and warehouses scattering each region. 

From here, products like televisions, clothing, sports equipment, furniture and an avalanche of other high-demand goods, are sorted and prepared for dispersal among area stores. Although this process of “zone-skipping” freight commonly uses “straight” or “box” trucks for the final leg of inventory distribution, during the holiday stockpile — where so many goods are being moved — dry vans fill this role too. 

As such, expect to feel a bit of a pinch in dry van capacity during the month of October. More specifically, moving dry van freight into densely populated areas may cost a bit more this month than in September as demand for the trailer space you need will rise. 

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How October Impacts the Availability of Reefer Trailers

From the Ides of March until bell tolls signifying year-end, produce never really stops moving around our nation. Beginning with the harvest of lettuce, arugula, leeks and other green-leaf produce in southern states, hundreds of farm-to-table commodities are moving in reefer trailers year-round.

October is no exception. And, while produce production begins to slow down a bit in states like California and Texas during October — freeing up some capacity in these areas — reefer trailers won’t go unused. 

The month of October is the site of increased demand for reefer trailers in the northwestern United States. Produce like apples, onions, squash and beets ripen in this region during the crisp fall days of October, demanding an increased presence of temperature-controlled drivers. 

As such, if you have reefer freight that will help truckers get to this section of our nation, expect to pay a more relaxed rate. Truck drivers only make money when they’re hauling freight and, if your load will help them get to a location where demand for their services is high, expect to save a bit of money. 

That said, if you’re a shipper looking to move reefer products away from the hotbeds of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, finding a willing driver may cost a pretty penny. 

A Note About Christmas Tree Season 

Each year, nearly 30 million Christmas trees are purchased in the United States. That’s a lot of Douglas Firs. Douglas Firs that begin to move during the waning weeks of October.

Transporting millions of Christmas trees around the United States is no small task and, when the time comes to start, dry van and reefer trailers answer the call.

Both of these trailer types are vital to ensuring that all of those presents — originally carried to store shelves in a 53-foot dry van — have a tree ready and waiting to shelter them until December 25. 

As such, if you’re hoping to find a competitively priced dry van or reefer trailer for your load from the end of October through November, make sure to plan ahead. 

There will be a ton of outbound Christmas trees moving from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington and New York in the coming weeks, maximize your budget by planning accordingly. 

How October Impacts Open-Deck Freight 

Although dry van and reefer trailers handle a large portion of the total amount of freight moved in this nation, open-deck trailers are just as impactful. 

On the whole, not much changes with open-deck freight movement in southern states during October. Sure, the days get a bit shorter and the weather a bit cooler, but overall commodities that normally utilize flatbed, step-deck and lowboy trailers carry on as usual.  

This doesn’t hold true in northern portions of the U.S. 

October weather patterns, in the areas north of Kansas, make moving open-deck commodities — particularly for those of the over-dimensional variety — more challenging. 

Together, cold rain, brisk wind, near-freezing temperatures and the potential for snow, create a recipe for supply chain disruption during the days of October. As such, it’s important that you adjust your timeframes and planning to accommodate the challenges that come with late fall’s impact on northern highways and roads.

If you’re a shipper that needs to move open-deck freight in these areas of our country, plan for more disruptions and increased prices when your timelines coincide with bad weather

Although weather patterns will shift this month, make the most of your open-deck shipping dollars by prioritizing lead time and adding some flexibility to your requirements. 

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How Will October Impact Oversized Freight Movement

Your ability to move over-dimensional (OD) freight successfully is dependent on daylight. Although this varies by state, many over-dimensional loads — once past a certain size — can only be transported while the sun is up. 

That said, in October sunlight becomes increasingly less available as we travel deeper into Fall. This makes it difficult for OD loads to move at the same pace they held in other months of the year

As such, planning out your OD shipments well in advance will be important this month as your provider will need to be diligent in scheduling your truck. The tight timeframes you were able to hold in months prior simply won’t be sustainable in October’s limited daylight. 

Additionally, October marks the second month of football season in America’s college towns. Although the arrival of collegiate football games brings back a lot of good things like facepaint and the thrill of long-standing rivalries, moving OD freight through many of these towns on gameday is a no-go. 

Due to the huge uptick of in-town traffic as fans flock to fill stadiums, many college football towns prohibit freight of larger dimensions from passing through. To the unknowing shipper, this can cause costly delays and is worth noting. 

No matter what day your OD transportation is scheduled for, there’s less room for error in October than in previous months. This doesn’t mean you’ll have to pay more or that your shipment is at risk of failing. No, a good partner will be able to guide you through this month with ease. 

How to Make The Most Of Your Budget This Month

October is a great month. And, even though it can be a bit more difficult to find a truck at competitive price points, October doesn’t have to break the bank.

Whether you move open-deck, over-dimensional, reefer or dry van freight, get the most from your shipping budget by:

  1. Granting your provider ample lead time
  2. Stressing flexibility in your trailer type requirements
  3. Widening your pick-up and delivery windows

Each of these tactics will save your money and help you meet deadlines this month, let’s talk about why. 

1. Grant Your Provider The Proper Amount of Lead Time

Just like any other time of year, when it comes to moving your commodity successfully this month, lead time is crucial. Many open-deck shippers across northern states, just like you, see October as one of the last months to really hit the road hard. With November and December come shorter days and harsher conditions. And they know it.  

As such, these companies will be competing with you for the trailer space you need; increasing the price you pay — especially on short notice. To avoid price hikes, make sure to give your provider a good amount of lead time to find your truck at competitive price points.

Although the more notice you can give your transportation company the better, with 48-72 hours of warning — prior to the moment your shipment needs to load — the price you pay will be plenty competitive. 

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2. Stress flexibility in your trailer type requirements.

When capacity is tight, like it will be this October, the more you can do to increase the supply of available transportation solutions for you to choose from, the better. 

Often, receiving competitive pricing comes down to the flexibility you display in your trailer type requirements. 

Ask your transportation provider:

  • “Is a flatbed trailer the only option for my freight or would a step-deck also do the job?”
  • “Can I load my freight into a reefer as well as a dry van and expand my options?”
  • “Would utilizing a hot shot trailer instead of a full-truckload save me money?”
  • “Is it possible that a Conestoga would fit my needs just as well as tarping my flatbed freight?”

Expanding your options and widening the supply of trailers that you have to choose from will increase your bargaining power and, in turn, save you money this month. 

3. Widen Your Pick-Up and Delivery Windows

Another great way to keep everything — including your budget — on track this October is to expand your pick-up and delivery timeframes. Meeting tight windows for pick-up and deliveries is difficult for trucking companies during the best of times. 

As the weather — a great disrupter in this industry — changes in October, plan for potential delays by expanding the hours in which you’ll accept truckers. 

For example, instead of holding to a rigid 9 a.m. pick-up appointment, consider opening yourself to a wider window of 9 a.m.-1 p.m. if possible. 

Doing so will help drivers work your freight onto their busy schedules as maximizing their on-duty service hours becomes easier with a bit of leeway. 

Make the Most of Your Supply Chain This Fall

As we head toward the final months of the year, don’t panic. You’ve got this. 

Lean on your past experiences and the expertise of your partners in the coming weeks. Educate yourself in any way you can and ask for help where needed. 

There are plenty of transportation companies boasting rich histories of moving loads during the month of October, put them to work for you. 

Here at ATS, we take pride in helping shippers make the most of their budgets, no matter the month. As such, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to reach out. We have a transportation industry expert standing by to assist you in any way you need. 

Tags: Insider, Freight Brokerage, Heavy Haul Shipping, Flatbed Shipping, Over Dimensional Shipping, Dry Van Shipping, Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Shipping

Scott Cromer

Written by Scott Cromer

Scott is the southeast regional office manager for ATS Logistics, where he oversees the Greenville, South Carolina sales and operations office, and the Charleston, South Carolina and Cincinnati, Ohio warehouses. Scott joined ATS 10 years ago to serve in his current role, but has been a part of the transportation industry for nearly four decades.

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