Why Is Short-Mile Freight Shipping So Expensive Over The Weekend?


So, you’re looking to move some freight over the weekend. Not only that but your products don't need to go that far. Seems like it should be pretty simple and at the very least inexpensive, right?

Actually, this isn't always the case. Moving freight — particularly short-haul freight — can be especially challenging and expensive over a weekend.

Without the knowledge as to why this is the case though, shippers looking to take their budgets further are left at a disadvantage. 

In many instances adjusting your timeframes a bit — away from the weekend on shorter hauls — will cut down costs substantially. But, alas, many shippers simply don’t know this. 

Here at ATS, we’ve been a core member of the trucking industry for over 65 years. If you do the math, you’ll find that there have been approximately 6,760 weekend days since our humble beginning in 1955. So. . . yeah, we know a thing or two about the impact the weekend has on freight prices. 

In today’s article, let’s talk about why moving a short-haul load over a weekend can be so expensive and leave you with some tips for avoiding unnecessary price hikes. 

What Makes Short-Haul Freight Rates Over a Weekend So Expensive?

First and foremost, the price you pay to move freight directly reflects how well your load and needs match the capabilities and desires of the truckers in your area.

Plain and simple. 

Although your rates are calculated based on many factors, how your load stacks up — in the eyes of truckers and trucking companies — compared to others in your area, is prime among them. 

You see, truck drivers are a group of essential workers that only make money while their wheels are turning under a load. Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) holds truckers to a strict set of guidelines — known as their hours of service (HOS) — dictating the amount of on-duty hours they’re allowed. 

As it currently sits, HOS regulations leave truck drivers 14 total hours of working time within a 24 hour period. This clock starts as soon as a trucker turns on their truck to begin a shift and expires exactly 14 hours later. 

In the interest of making the most of their HOS, trucking companies and their drivers are always looking for freight that puts it to the best possible use. This usually takes the form of freight that does one, or more, of the following things:

  • Takes them to areas where additional business is probable.
  • Pays them enough money to justify tying up their time and trailer space for the allotted period. 
  • Keeps them busy, and well paid, until the time of their next shipment. 

Short-haul weekend loads, however, make it more difficult for carriers to accomplish many of these. Truckers like to book their schedules out for days into the future, short-haul loads over a weekend usually put a stop to this. 

What Increases The Price Of a Short Haul Over a Weekend?

For truck drivers to make the most of their time and trailer space, getting paid adequately is a must. 

Their ability to haul freight over a weekend isn’t in question. How much it’ll cost to do so, however, is. 

For longer haul loads, loads of 1,100 miles or more, the cost of these services can be pretty manageable. Typically, asking a trucker to pick up a load on Friday at 3 p.m. and deliver it 1,100 miles away on Monday morning, won’t be as pricey. 

You see, it takes most if not all of a driver’s HOS to make this trip which is a good use of their time and — depending on the supply of freight at your destination — can lead to competitive pricing. 

Note, with everything else the same, a longer-mile weekend load will cost more than the same one during a weekday. 

Freight that needs to go shorter distances though, is a whole different story. 

Think about it. Most businesses don’t have people on sight to unload a truck when it arrives over the weekend. While all of these workers sit at home with their families and friends, the truckers waiting to be unloaded watch their clocks drain away — sometimes for days at a time. 

For example:

Asking a truck driver to pick up your freight at 4 p.m. in Flagstaff, Arizona on a Friday and deliver on Monday morning in Phoenix, won’t be cheap. Since this driver needs to travel less than 150 miles and has nearly 3 full days to do so, these requirements will hurt your budget. 

Contrary to what you might assume, giving your trucker more time on your load than they need isn't accommodating their needs. It’s actually doing the opposite. 

For truckers, the efficiency of their schedules is a priority. “Dollars per day” (or the measure of the total amount of money they make doing their job every day) is a metric that matters for carriers — regardless of how far they travel. 

Just because you’re hoping to pay them less — to match the distance they have to travel — doesn’t mean a trucker’s expenses (insurance costs, truck maintenance, etc.) are changing. Your carrier needs a minimum amount of revenue per day to stay afloat. And, if this revenue isn’t earned based on the amount of miles they travel, this reality stays the same.

As such, given the choice between a longer haul load (a shipment that will keep them moving and money coming in while facilities are closed) and a short mile shipment, most trucking companies will take the former. 

If you need to move your short-haul freight over a weekend, you’ll have to compensate drivers according to their time and not distance. Expect your price to increase especially if there are other — more desirable — loads in your area. 


How To Avoid Unnecessary Price Hikes

Ok. So now you understand why moving short-mile freight over weekend days always seems to cost more. And, although it can feel counterintuitive, it makes sense how these requirements can be challenging for transportation providers. 

This knowledge might not change anything for you though. Your needs are still the same and you still have the same deadlines to meet. 

Isn’t there a way to have the best of both worlds? To keep your timelines on track and take your transportation dollars further, even when shipping over a weekend?

Here at ATS, we’ve made it our goal to help companies like yours make the most of their shipping budgets no matter their requirements. 

We’re happy to announce that there are four key ways to reduce your transportation spending and avoid overpaying for your freight shipments. 

Utilizing these four tactics will help you make the match your needs to the amount you’re hoping to spend. Too often good companies feel out of control in the transportation industry. 

Take ahold of your budget and future by employing these four methods for avoiding short-mile weekend freight shipping price hikes.

Tags: Freight Brokerage, Contract Rate Pricing, Spot Rate Pricing

Josh Rivers

Written by Josh Rivers

Josh has been with ATS for over six years, in a number of positions. Today, as an ATS Logistics sales team manager, Josh enjoys helping his team of sales representatives develop the skills their customers need and creating a culture of excellence within a group of talented transportation experts.

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