ATS Transportation Blog

The Trucking Industry in September 2021: What you should know

Over-Dimensional-Freight

September is a pivotal month in many respects. The seasons shift from Summer to Fall and shorts are swapped for long pants as the warmth of longer days slowly dims.

For American families, nights that were spent at the ballpark watching children live out their Little League dreams, come to a close. Baseball cleats are exchanged for shin guards, the diamond for a grassy field. 

That said, domestic life isn’t the only thing that changes in September. No, as fantasy football teams are drafted and homemade chili recipes dusted off, shippers around our country will feel September’s impact too, but in a different way. 

Here at ATS, we like crisp fall air, warm apple pie and a cozy sweater on a cool September eave. What can we say? September is a pivotal month, and we’re all for it. 

If you’re resistant to change though and have a bit more trouble with unexpected shifts in your reality, you’re in the right place. 

You see, as we’ve aged — going on 66 years old now — patterns have emerged in the trucking industry during September. In this article, we’ll outline these patterns, the effect they’ll have on your supply chain and what you can do to plan ahead this year. 

Preparation is key to the success of any worthwhile endeavor. Let’s get down to it.

Below, we'll outline:

Unique Trucking Industry Shifts in September

Dependable as always, the ninth month of the year blasts into our reality like a stiff northern wind — expected, yet surprisingly delightful.

Some disruptors in this industry happen no matter the month — like bad weather or road construction — September, though, has some disruptors of its very own. 

More specifically, look out for truck capacity to shrink a bit as truckers around our nation adjust their schedules for these two, immovable, reasons:

  1. Labor Day
  2. Back-to-school season

Together, these events may impact your ability to find a truck in September, especially on short notice.  

Lowboy-Trailer-Construction-Equipment

How Will Labor Day Impact September Truck Availability?

Year after year after year, Labor Day — the National Holiday celebrating America’s workers — falls on the first Monday in September. This holiday sees national supply chains falter as everyone takes a much-deserved three-day weekend. 

While the average worker spends time at home with family and friends, the truck drivers rumbling along American roadways do the same. Why should they be expected to labor on Labor Day?

These essential workers, just like you and I, like to spend time with their family and friends. Labor Day gives them the perfect opportunity to do just that. 

For you, this means finding a last-minute solution for your shipping needs will be more difficult during the days leading up to, and following Labor Day weekend. Fewer truckers on the roads often equates to increased prices for the shippers searching for trailer space over this period. 

As such, expect to pay a bit more should you need to send freight on or around Labor Day weekend. 

Planning for this capacity pinch by adjusting your needs to match the market during this three to five-day period of time, will do wonders for your budget. Work with your transportation provider to figure out the best way to keep Labor Day’s effects from touching your supply chain. To good carriers, the impacts of Labor Day weekend won’t be a surprise and they’ll know exactly how to save you money. 

How Will Back-to-School Season Impact Your Ability to Find a Truck?

Anytime a sweeping change — however minor it may seem — impacts a large group of people, widespread adjustments follow suit. In September, back to school doesn’t solely impact children aged 5 to 18 and our national supply of #2 pencils. Back to school impacts parents as well. 

Since many of this industry’s truck drivers are parents, they’ll need to adjust to their new reality. 

As kids return to the consistency and structure of educational institutions, long periods spent on the road become less feasible for many truckers. Drivers with children to care for, and daily domestic responsibilities to tend to, will begin running more specific lanes than they did in months prior. 

This shift in behavior could impact your supply chain as finding capacity in certain regions — and for certain lengths of haul — becomes more difficult and more pricey.  

How Is Dry Van and Reefer Shipping Influenced in September?

Dry-van-trailer

For companies with commodities requiring a dry van or reefer trailer, September has some interesting patterns to note. Not only will you need to consider the impact of back to school and Labor Day weekend, but harvest season and the beginning of retail transportation as well. 

Let’s talk about how each of these will impact your ability to secure a dry van and/or a reefer for your freight in September.

Harvest Season’s Impact on Dry Van and Reefer Freight

In many areas of the U.S., from Midwestern states to portions of the Northwest, harvest season kicks off in September. Crops like pumpkins, squash, green beans, tomatoes and cabbage are ripe for the picking during the ninth month of the year. And, Mother Nature willing, harvest season is an all-hands-on-deck scenario. 

As these crops are pulled from the fields and transported to facilities across America, refrigerated and dry van trailers will have plenty of work to do in these areas of our country. 

Since truck drivers offer such a coveted service in September’s harvest regions, the price of their trailer space will surge to match increased demand. Everyone has something to move in these regions which makes a truck driver’s offerings plenty lucrative. 

If you’re hoping to move reefer or dry van commodities out of the Midwest or Northwest during September, expect your freight rate to rise. 

You see, truck drivers — who only get paid for the time they spend hauling freight — like to make the most of their hours of service (HOS). This makes harvest season in these regions incredibly attractive to them as hopping from one load to the next couldn’t be easier. 

Unfortunately though, paying a dry van or reefer trucker to take a load away from these regions will be costly. They know that finding their next load won’t be as easy, or as lucrative, as doing so in the harvest-frenzied Midwest. This unwillingness to leave will increase the price of moving your freight. 

On the flip side, moving commodities into these regions may come at a relaxed rate. If carriers — who are incredibly tuned into overall market conditions — know the demand for their services is surging in your destination, their willingness to take your load will rise. This can sometimes equate to cost savings on your shipment. 

Retail Season’s Impact on Dry Van Capacities in September 

Toward the end of September, retail shipments begin to pick up in anticipation of the holiday season. You see, to get everything in place for the massive jolt of consumerism that begins well before Black Friday and ends soon after December 25, products need to start moving. This movement starts in September. 

From big-box retailers to mom and pop boutiques, Fall store shelves are lined with everything from ping pong paddles to KitchenAide mixers, from nutcrackers to whisks. 

That said, practically all of these consumer goods are moved in dry van trailers and there simply aren’t enough to go around. 

To stay on top of the influx of demand, carriers will plan their loads out for days in advance. This makes slipping your freight onto their packed schedules with urgency expensive.

As such, make sure to plan for this uptick in demand for dry van capacities beginning in the waning days of September. And, put special emphasis on giving your provider enough lead time to find your freight a solution. 

Oversized-freight-crane-loaded

How Are Open-Deck Shipments Influenced in September?

Dry vans and Reefers aren’t the only trailer types impacted by September’s freight movement patterns. 

No, shippers moving open-deck commodities should expect a bit of a transition as well.

Open-deck trailers are heavily influenced by the changing of the seasons. And as the temperature outside falls and the days shorten, here’s what you should keep in mind during September.  

Temperature’s Impact on Open-Deck Projects During September

In northern states, September marks one of the last opportunities for companies throughout these regions to move open-deck project freight. 

Before the ground freezes — making infrastructure projects difficult — and the roadways slicken — making open-deck transportation unsafe — many businesses will begin their final surge of multi-truckload projects. 

The transportation of raw materials and heavy machinery will be in full swing across the northern half of the United States during September. As such, expect to pay a bit more to secure open-deck trailer space in these areas.

Combating this uptick in open-deck demand can be done by adding a bit of flexibility to your trailer type requirements. 

Many types of open-deck trailers are interchangeable — depending on the commodity in transit. Recognizing that a step-deck trailer will get the job done just well as a flatbed can really save you money. As the number of options you open yourself up to rises — thereby increasing the supply of trailers qualified to move your load — you’ll find more bargaining power at your fingertips which decreases your final price. 

Work with your transportation provider to find an out-of-the-box solution for your open-deck freight in September. The options are out there, a competent partner will help you find them. 

Double-drop-tarped-freight-shipment

Over-Dimensional Restrictions in September 

Moving over-dimensional (OD) freight is intimately tied to daylight hours. Although it varies by state, over-dimensional loads — once past a certain size — can only be transported while the sun is up. 

That said, September marks a significant descent in the availability of sunlight as Fall creeps in. This makes it difficult for OD loads to move at the same pace they held in previous months. 

And because truckers are subject to such a specific set of rules and regulations dictating their on-duty hours, the cost of moving OD freight will increase during the first month of Fall.

Additionally, September marks the beginning 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 longstanding 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 September 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. 

What Else Should You Keep in Mind Heading Into Fall?

As we make our way toward quarter four of this year, be sure to find partnerships you can lean on. Making the most of your transportation dollars often comes down to doing the little things. Things like giving your partner enough flexibility to find you a price-friendly solution.

Trust their expertise when they tell you that a hotshot trailer is your best option or a double-drop Conestoga won’t be necessary. 

Additionally, giving your carrier a lead time of 48 to 72 hours before the moment your shipment needs to load will go a long way toward saving you money. As capacity tightens during September, this amount of warning will ensure you get the absolute best-fit solution for your needs. 

Finally, the better you understand the trucking industry and its intricacies, the better off you’ll be going forward. Here at ATS, we publish great educational content multiple times a week to our Learning Hub

This helps us ensure that shippers, like you, are given every opportunity needed to succeed not only in September but every month of the year. Make sure to subscribe to our blog  so you never miss a valuable piece of content.

Tags: Insider, Freight Brokerage, Flatbed Shipping, Dry Van Shipping, Contract Rate Pricing, Spot Rate Pricing, Asset-Based Carrier

Eric Metso

Written by Eric Metso

Eric has been a sales manager with ATS Logistics since 2018 — when he helped create a new sales team from scratch. In his role, he supports his team as they develop their book of business and create new partnerships. Eric joined ATS in 2013 as a sales representative for ATS Logistics. He was also a sales member with ATS’ Vans division before coming back to ATS Logistics in his current role.

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