22 Mar Truckload Shipping Seasons – Breaking Down The Year In Truckload Shipping
As a transportation broker, I can easily break down the months of the year into truckload shipping seasons. When I first started in this industry, I had to jump in and learn on the fly, so I quickly identified what months were the busiest times of the year. I remember it well; it was the middle of May and we were competing against produce harvest season in South Texas. Customers (retailers) were contacting us looking for trucks and, to say the least, we were busy! I’ve been in the transportation industry for over nine years and I have seen both good and bad years, but no matter what, you can always separate the year into trucking seasons. At the start of a new year, the transportation world is slow. I call this time, “The Quiet Months,” AKA Season 1. By the end of March, it gets tough to find a truck and quickly turns into “Find Me A Truck Season,” or Season 2. Then comes Season 3, where load volumes increase and remain high for a few months. I call it, “The Peak Season.” Finally, the holidays arrive and shipping volumes taper off. This is Season 4, “The Holiday Season.”
Season 1 (Jan-Mar) The Quiet Months
The holiday shipping season just came to an end and it’s the start of a new year. The transportation industry is quiet. Customers are finalizing sales for the rest of the year and carriers are slowly getting back on the road looking for work. It’s like a hangover, if you will, from the last couple months of the year; being off work, family vacations, etc. In this season, truckload rates are in favor of the customer (retailers). Shipping volumes are at a low point and truckload carriers are looking for work to get them back in the swing of things. By March, volumes start ramping up as the spring and summer months approach.
Season 2 (Apr-July) The Find Me A Truck Season
Spring is here, and shipping/load volumes are increasing around the country as summer approaches. The industry is happy. Customers are moving their products and drivers are finding work easily. Then slowly, customers start feeling the truck markets tighten up and carrier availability keeps decreasing. All of a sudden, produce harvest season hits around the country. Carriers just got past the slow months during Season 1, and they are looking to make up for it. They start chasing the high paying produce loads that can put them back on track for the year. Customers start freaking out, and from one week to the next, it becomes tough to find a truck again. This is the time they start reaching out to transportation brokers, flat out saying: “Find me a truck!”
Season 3 (Aug-Oct) The Peak Season
Now, it’s the latter part of the summer and produce season is slowly coming to an end. That doesn’t mean the fun is over; it’s just getting started. Over the next three months customer sales explode. Orders increase and therefore shipping volumes increase as well. Everyone prepares for the “back to school” season and gets ready for the holidays. Customers rush to get their products to the stores and the demand for trucks is up again. By now, carriers have returned back to working their normal routes. During this time, however, the shipping volumes are so high that customers need more trucks than usual to fulfill the demand. The transportation industry is busy and that’s a good thing. Everybody is making money as the holidays arrive.
Season 4 (Nov-Dec) The Holiday Season
Come November, customers do their last minute push to get their products on the shelves for the holiday shoppers. Carriers are also looking for those final good-paying loads that are going to make their holidays even better. After Thanksgiving, the peak shipping season ends. Just like that, it’s slow again. The holidays arrive, kids are out of school, and many carriers take the last few weeks off to be with their families. The year comes to an end.