Whew, we made it through another year in the transportation world. And that’s nothing to shrug at. To say the least: the last 12 months have been trying for many supply chains.
A year, filled with learning opportunities, carefree moments, days that lasted forever and weeks that flew by, has now come to a close. Although it had its challenges, honestly, we’re probably better for them.
But there’s no time to linger on the trials and triumphs of the past.
Instead, let’s look onward and set our sights on the road ahead. The transportation industry is still chugging along and, even though the slate has been wiped clean, its intricacies remain.
Here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we’ve been experiencing Januarys in this industry since 1955. Although each of them is unique, we’ve also noticed some patterns that ring true year after year — patterns that you’ll want to be aware of.
This article, like the monthly updates we’ve done previously, will serve as your guiding light as you navigate this month. Setting your business up for success in January isn’t impossible and with the understandings below, you’ll find it plenty manageable.
Below, you’ll find high-level analyses of:
- What happens to the dry van trucking market in January
- What happens to open-deck transportation in January
- How reefer freight movement changes in the first month of the year
- How January impacts over-dimensional freight
- What you can do to get the most from your supply chain this month
⬇️ Listen to the podcast on January ⬇️
What Happens to the Dry Van Trucking Market in January?
The dry van transportation market is the sight of incessant activity year-round. These trailers — which have a well-secured place as trucking’s most crucial piece — provide solutions for companies with freight to move across industries.
In recent history — since the onset of Coronavirus in 2020 — dry van trailers have only seen their use-cases grow as demand, spurred by increased consumerism, surges.
January though, relatively speaking, has historically been a slower month for dry van trucking companies and their drivers.
As retail season ends abruptly following December 25, and parcel deliveries — to which a portion of the overall dry van market was dedicated — slows substantially, the demand for dry van trailer space tends to loosen across the board.
Additionally, January’s weeks are the sight of a considerable resurgence in the activity of dry van truckers as they leave their well-deserved holiday respite behind and break for the open road once more.
For this reason, if your company moves commodities via dry van trailers, securing capacity — especially on short notice — could be easier in January than it was in previous months. You’ll also find that this makes maintaining your dry van shipping budget a bit easier during January’s 31 days.
What Happens to Open-Deck Transportation in January?
Nothing major changes in the open-deck transportation market from December to January. If anything, January can be relied on to bring stabilization to the open-deck landscape — particularly in its waning weeks.
As a result, December sees open-deck truckers nationwide either swap their equipment for a dry van or watch their workload peter off. In January, however, open-deck freight starts to move with more regularity.
That said, open-deck transportation comes with some additional intricacies during the second month of winter.
In northern states — where winter weather makes moving flatbed freight more challenging — it’s not uncommon for these shipments to face delays. And, when timelines demand it, expediting these loads can cost a pretty penny — particularly in mountainous regions.
Additionally, tarping charges for open-deck freight that requires protection from elements like snow and wind typically see a bump in January. As you can imagine, throwing and securing heavy tarps is difficult for drivers, even in the best conditions.
Winter weather across northern portions of the United States makes this more uncomfortable and challenging for truckers — increasing tarping charges in some instances.
To avoid unnecessary price hikes, consider designating a sheltered area for truck drivers to throw their tarps or, better yet, help them do so. In colder climates, the easier you can make it for drivers to service your freight, the better off you’ll be in January.
What Happens With Reefer Transportation in January?
January 1 marks the end of a significant busy-stint in the world of temperature-controlled shipping. Beginning in November and continuing through the holiday season, increased food consumption ties up reefer trailers throughout the nation.
From Thanksgiving turkeys and fresh produce to Northwestern Christmas trees and frozen meats, readying temperature-controlled commodities for purchase takes significant effort from reefer truckers far and wide. This usually slows down in January.
Back to their roots once more, refrigerated trucking companies and their drivers return to lanes they’re used to serving in the new year.
And, as winter continues to creep into northern households, the demand for “protect from freeze” services in these areas will increase. If you’re a shipper with reefer products to move, make sure to prioritize lead time in January and pre-cool your goods.
Doing so will help your transportation provider find you a viable solution and cut down the costs associated with running the cooling unit on your reefer.
How Does Over-Dimensional Shipping Change in January?
When winter weather makes the roads difficult to navigate — be it due to icy conditions, poor visibility or snowfall concerns — over-dimensional freight is the first to be restricted.
Even in the best circumstances moving heavy haul and oversized goods is a process riddled with intricacies.
For this reason, and due to the fact that many construction projects stall during winter, the transportation of overly large goods happens at a relaxed rate in January.
And, although frost laws don’t take effect until the end of February, this month might slow your supply chain when moving these cargos.
Should you need to move oversized goods this month, be sure to plan ahead. Communicate with consignees and providers to match your timelines to their needs and capabilities.
How to Plan for January in the Transportation Industry
No matter what time of year it is, planning is crucial to the success of any transportation supply chain. As the weather changes and the days begin to lengthen once more, you’ll want to be prepared over the coming weeks.
To the best of your ability, try and plan around Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 17) and New Years Day. Both of these national holidays halt the movement of trucks and the operations of many companies. You won’t want to pay the price-hikes associated with asking a driver to sit on your load for longer than necessary.
Additionally, at the conclusion of every month, companies across our nation take steps to redistribute inventories, positioning them for the next segment of the year.
Doing this effectively in January requires flexible appointment scheduling and thorough communication.
You’ll want to prioritize these things in your own supply chain as well.
As the ball drops and the next year kicks off with a bang, make sure to:
1. Give Your Provider Flexibility On The Pick Up Side
January’s weather and the progressive pace increase as trucking companies get back into the swing of things can make it difficult for carriers to meet rigid requirements.
For this reason, giving some leeway to your providers — whether they’re freight brokers or asset companies — will help you reliably secure truck space.
Although it might not always be possible, this leeway is particularly helpful on the pickup side of your transportation process.
Most specifically, allowing your partner a two-day window within which a trucker can pick your freight will increase their pool of viable options significantly — decreasing your price in the process.
Think about it: with an extra day or two, your transportation company will be able to lean on an expanded truck base. Instead of only utilizing trucks in your immediate area, your provider can select from drivers that are as far as 500 miles away and plan out their loads in a way that leads them to your door.
In the end, authorizing this level of flexibility — and increasing your supply of possible solutions — will save you a significant amount of money as supply and demand are prime price-driving factors.
2. Thoroughly Communicate the Specifics of Your Process and Freight
With so many other things to think about, and little time to waste, transportation providers like to have all of their ducks in a row and enjoy working with shippers that have the same. =
As the first month of the year, January is a great time for you to practice these skills.
Thoroughly communicating the specifics of your freight from the onset will help you substantially in this area.
When sourcing for transportation capacity, plainly display information like:
- Load weight.
- Load dimensions.
- Commodity specifics.
- Pick up location, date and time.
- Names and information on all contacts (shipper and consignee).
- Desired drop-off location, date and time.
- Desired equipment type.
- Any special instructions for your driver:
- Where to park.
- Which side of the building to enter on.
- Multiple stops information.
- Whether tarping is required.
This type of information helps the companies vying for your freight gauge their ability to do so and disqualify themselves if they can’t. In turn, you’ll see a large portion of your time saved as delays due to miscommunication — when a trucker shows up without tarps or to the wrong location — are avoided entirely.
Tackle January Head-On!
As the first month of what promises to be an interesting year, January is your first opportunity to get things right.
Re-valuate your network by testing each provider’s performance for these key performance indicators, ensure you’re not losing out on productivity by watching out for these major time-wasters and, most importantly, be sure that the companies you hand freight off to are of the highest possible quality.
Here at Anderson Trucking Service, we know that choosing great partners in the transportation world is easier said than done.
To help you navigate these waters from the onset this year, we’ve compiled two comprehensive vetting guides:
|The Freight Carrier Vetting Guide||The Freight Brokerage Selection Checklist|
These tools, created to help you make the best selecting decision for your business as possible, will give you a list of questions to ask each asset carrier (freight carrier vetting guide) and freight brokerage (brokerage selection checklist) during your initial conversations.
Wave goodbye to the impact of shoddy transportation service levels this year with these tools in your arsenal.
Finally, should you have any questions about how ATS can help you in 2022 and beyond, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to help you in any way you need.