February is brief. Like a bout of hiccups or a seasonal thunderstorm, it arrives in a flurried instant and leaves just as quickly. 28 days. That’s all it gives us. Well, 29 sometimes — but only if we’re lucky.
As the second month of the new year and the third month of winter (in the Northern Hemisphere), February has an important role to play. It’s the gateway to spring, the final mile in our journey toward brighter days, slushy snow, chirping birds. . . rebirth.
But what does February mean for the transportation world?
Will it throw a wrench in your plans or a brick in your spokes?
Ok, I might’ve made that second one up. . .
My point is this: every month brings different things to the transportation industry, June through July is household goods season, November and December belong to retail freight. Will this pattern continue into February? And, most importantly, what can you do to make the most of your time in the transportation world this month?
Great questions, each worthy of their own answer.
Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day as a company in 1955 and what a lovely Wednesday it was. Today, 68 years later, we’ve compiled a good deal of knowledge about what to expect during February in the transportation industry.
Using these understandings, companies with freight to move through the second month of the year have a far easier time doing so — and save a good portion of money to boot.
You too deserve this information. A solid knowledge base will be your best chance at running your transportation supply chain smoothly in the weeks ahead, helping you cut costs and gain efficiencies.
This article will give you these insights. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive overview of the transportation industry during February, including:
- What to know about the dry van and reefer markets.
- How open-deck transportation will be impacted.
- The things that influence over-dimensional freight movement.
- 3 tactics for making the most of your transportation supply chain this month.
By understanding how February impacts each of these markets individually, your holistic transportation experience will improve tenfold this month.
So here’s what you need to know. . .
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Dry Van and Reefer Freight Shipping in February
Compared to the frenzied holiday rush — beginning weeks before Thanksgiving and ending promptly following Christmas — America’s dry van and reefer markets can look kind of underwhelming in February.
Following the overall market stabilization that happens in January, dry van and reefer drivers slip into their well-worn lanes of old, opting to service their areas of familiarity and steering clear of less-known regions.
Where December’s consumer-influenced demand spikes drew van drivers toward dedicating services to large retailers and parcel transportation companies, you won’t see nearly as much of this in the second month of the year.
Instead, expect your local and regional dry van transportation market to loosen a bit — making substantial lead times less crucial and freight rates more affordable.
For the most part, reefer transportation continues as usual in February. Food and beverage companies soak up most of the available capacity while hazardous shipments requiring temperature control make up the difference.
In northern states, where winter weather makes transporting temperature-sensitive cargos difficult, finding a reefer for your goods during February’s 28 sub-freezing days could be more difficult. In cold weather, the protect-from-freeze services offered by refrigerated trailers see their use-cases expand. And, as you may know, February is full of cold weather.
As such, make sure to pre-book all necessary capacity and work with your trusted transportation companies to ensure your truck arrives as scheduled.
When reefer services are in high demand getting reliable service can cost a bit more. Plan for these rate hikes and don’t be afraid to budget a few extra dollars to get your freight moved — particularly in the upper portion of our nation.
Open-Deck Transportation in February
Two important things happen to the movement of open-deck freight in February:
1. Preparation For Construction Season Begins
Although there are fewer flatbed, step-deck, lowboy and RGN transportation options available in winter-weather-rapt states, open-deck freight movement begins to speed up nationwide in February. This uptick can be primarily attributed to the spring construction projects that are soon to begin.
Contracts for infrastructure and construction projects have been signed — typically before February begins — leaving contractors with enough information to get many of the pieces in place to begin their duties. As a result, don’t be surprised if it gets a bit more challenging to find an available open-deck truck in the coming weeks and months.
2. The Ritchie Bros. Premier Global Auction in Orlando, Florida
Each year, thousands of companies around the world participate in the Ritchie Bros. equipment auction in Orlando, Florida. This auction — which draws significant attention from a wide pool of shippers — happens in February.
For six straight days, beginning on Monday, February 21 and ending on Saturday, February 26, Orlando and its surrounding areas will become a hotbed for freight movement.
As construction, agriculture, food and beverage and manufacturing businesses purchase and transport large equipment and machinery, many trucking companies will focus their energies in this region.
For you, you’ll find that securing open-deck transportation capacity into the Southeast in the week leading up to the Ritchie Bros. auction will be easier. And, with enough planning, will cost less than it normally would.
You see, if trucking companies — that are highly tuned into the ebb and flow of the transportation marketplace — know it will be easy to find their next load in your end-point, enticing them to take your shipments can come at a relaxed rate.
Over-Dimensional Freight Transportation in February
Over-dimensional transportation is an intricate process at the best of times. The slick roads, heavy winds and unpredictable snowfall that riddles the northern United States during February throw a wrench in many over-dimensional shipments.
Beyond this, fewer daylight hours may increase your load’s transit timing without proper planning. You see, many states restrict over-dimensional freight movement to the period of time in which the sun is up.
For this reason, failing to plan for this shift could throw your supply chain off course if a driver is forced to stop, unnecessarily, during transit.
As such, be sure to plan for these additional challenges. Add flexibility to your pick-up and drop schedules, even if it means you need to move your OD cargo a day before or after your target go-date.
Great transportation providers understand how February makes OD transportation more challenging in many areas. These are the companies you’ll want in your corner as this month progresses.
Note: the Ritchie Bros. Premier global auction will also impact the over-dimensional freight marketplace.
Tips For Planning In February
Although February isn’t as exciting as previous months of the year, in the transportation world, shippers are never remiss to do some extra planning.
During the second month of the year, here are three of our best tips for getting the most from your shipping budget and adhering to your timelines:
- Plan around President’s Day.
- Avoid short-mile shipping over the weekend.
- Find ways to expedite your loading times.
#1 Plan Around President’s Day
Since 1885, the third Monday of February has been dedicated to celebrating the individuals who have occupied the office of President of the United States.
Presidents Day, February’s only National Holiday presents an opportunity for companies to take advantage of a (well-deserved) three-day weekend. This break, however, and the fact that Presidents Day schedules vary from one company to the next, may be disruptive to your plans this month.
Be sure to communicate with your consignees to ensure that they’ll be open on Monday, February 21st. The last thing you want to deal with is a delayed shipment — and the charges that accompany it — due to an avoidable lapse in communication.
Additionally, it should be noted that securing oversized permits for your freight can be more difficult over long weekends. As such, should you have over-dimensional goods to move, give your provider plenty of lead time for getting these pieces in place at competitive price points.
#2 Avoid Short-Mile Shipping Over The Weekends
Regardless of the month truck drivers need to make the most of their hours of service (HOS) — which restricts the number of on-duty service hours they’re allowed within a 24 hour period of time.
Under normal circumstances, short-mile shipments (loads that need to travel 300 miles or less) can help drivers achieve this end. Hauling these loads over the weekend, however, does the opposite.
Since most receivers aren’t open on Saturdays and Sundays, the drivers on these loads find themselves having to wait to unload until Monday — all the while watching their HOS clocks drain away.
It’s fair to say, you’ll want to avoid this in February. Make adjustments to your shipping schedules so that you can steer clear of the price hikes that accompany short-mile weekend shipments.
Related: 4 Ways to Avoid The Price Hikes of Short-Mile Weekend Shipping
#3 Work to Expedite Your Loading/Offloading Times
In the interest of taking your shipping dollars further this year and gaining efficiencies in your transportation processes, you’ll want to take a look at your loading/offloading procedures.
How long does it take to completely load a truck from the time it shows up at your door? How much of this time is spent hunting down the necessary products and what can you do to cut down inefficiencies?
Avoid detention charges and layover fees this month by doing any number of the following things:
- Consider adding part-time help to load/offload trucks.
- Consider utilizing both drop trailer programs and live loading procedures.
- Stage products in accordance with their loading order so that when a truck arrives, all commodities are ready to be loaded.
Although making these adjustments will take time and commitment on your part, expediting your procedures will help you cut costs, deliver on customer commitments and find trucks faster in the future.
A Final Note About February In The Transportation World
Now that you have an understanding of how dry van and reefer trucking markets will be operating in February and some insight into what will impact open-deck and over-dimensional freight, there shouldn’t be too many surprises this month.
That said, the more you can do to prepare for the 28 days ahead, the better off you’ll be.
To help you round out your knowledge of transportation’s many intricacies, and particularly those that relate to your pricing, we invite you to check out our Pricing Page.
This webpage and its subsequent pages were developed to give you insights into what you should expect to pay to get your freight transported. Although freight rates fluctuate greatly, making exact pricing difficult to pin down on a macro-scale, the ATS Pricing Page gives concrete ranges and reasoning for price fluctuation.
This information will help you substantially in the month ahead as you look to get your freight moved at the right price — a rate that will execute your shipment.