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What is Peak Shipping Season & Why Is It Important?

What is the peak shipping season?

Starting in mid-August and stretching through October, fall is known as the busiest time of the year for shippers and retailers. During that time, the peak shipping season starts. During the peak season of freight, the demand grows and supply lowers, which causes tight capacity, high freight rates, and a headache for the retail and logistics industry. However, it happens every year, and companies have to breakthrough.

Why is peak season important?

The main reason for the busy period that starts every summer is the demand for products. Respectively, high demand is caused by the dangerously close holiday season. Starting in the early fall with the ‘back-to-school’ season, and lasting through Black Friday, the holiday shopping season is much closer for retailers than for buyers. Before the craziness begins, each company wants its products ready for the shelf as early as possible.

Which factors affect peak shipping season?

There is no strict date when the peak season of freight begins. Each year, it is slightly different, and the beginning of the season depends on many different factors. For example, last year the rush started earlier than normal because of the tensions between China and the U.S. Retailers were afraid of transportation difficulties and delays, and the season started a couple of months earlier than usual.

In recent years, there are several trends that reshape the flow of the season. E-commerce, brick-and-mortar, the growth of retail industry impact and current world trade problems are altogether affecting supply and demand.

Generally, each year, the rise of demand makes carriers have higher rates, companies increase labor costs and shippers secure capacity in advance. But every year, regardless of the trends, advanced planning and consolidation will help you break through the tough season.

Read more about how to overcome the peak season in Surviving the Peak Season of Freight

Surviving the Peak Season of Freight

Fall – a time where the weather gets cooler, leaves begin to fall and the shipping industry enters into its peak season. The peak season of freight ranges from August to October and consists of higher rates and overall freight volume. This year, the peak shipping season could be tougher than ever before.

This year, a strong economy can lead the peak season of shipping to be busier than ever. The unemployment rate is low and consumer confidence is high, making e-commerce and in-store sales frequency higher than normal. With more sales being made, businesses will have to keep products replenished and inventories monitored to make sure that they are entering into the holiday season fully prepared for a busy shopping season. Major companies, like UPS, have decided to hire hundreds of seasonal employees to help facilitate the Christmas and holiday season e-commerce surge. There are many different ways companies can prepare for the peak season to ensure that all shipping runs smoothly.

Ship Early

If your business is preparing for popular shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is important to ship items early to account for possible delays. Due to the high volume of shipments, there is the possibility of shipment delays in congested ports, docks and warehouses. Shipping as early as possible gives businesses enough time to ensure goods will arrive in a timely manner.

Consider All Shipping Options

Certain shipping options best fit different companies shipping needs. Small business, for example, can utilize less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping for their shipments to help ensure on-time delivery while helping lower shipping costs. Bigger companies with larger shipping volumes can consider different shipping modes, like intermodal, to help handle their shipments before the holiday season.

Work with a Third-Party Logistics Provider

Working with a third-party logistics provider can help businesses manage their supply chains more effectively during a time when shipments are up. 3PL’s can offer businesses shipping expertise, negotiated rates and a vast carrier network to make their shipping process organized and efficient.

Don’t let the peak season of freight catch your company off guard. Whether you are a small business, carrier or shipping service, it is important to be prepared for the peak season of freight.


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What are the 4 Seasons of Transportation?

Every year in freight shipping is different. However, a bad year or good year – there is always a certain pattern. According to this pattern, we forecast and plan for the whole year. That’s why each year in freight shipping is divided into the 4 seasons of transportation. 

What are the 4 seasons of freight transportation?

4 seasons of transportation

It’s not a revelation that the transportation industry is heavily dependent on supply and demand. These two factors determine the capacity and the rates, or in brief – market conditions. Companies are now operating in a tight market due to a number of various industry reasons.

Regardless of that, shippers are still likely to see the typical seasonal shifts in supply and demand. This is something you acknowledge and understand after your first year in the transportation industry. The freight volume is not stable during the year, and if a certain rate worked in February for a dry van – it most likely will not in May. Also, the intensity of seasonal shifts depends on the general market situation and the region you are looking at.

Transportation professionals usually define 4 seasons in logistics:

The Quiet Season (January – March)

During this time, freight volume is down. The holiday season is over, and we are rolling into a new year. The weather is not shipping-friendly with low temperatures and snowed-in highways. The transportation industry is recovering from the hectic holiday shipping and slowly getting back on its feet. The freight volume is slowly picking up during the quiet season, usually showing an increase in March as we are getting closer to spring months.

The Produce Shipping Season (April – July)

Spring rolls around and the produce season is upon us. Freight volume is picking up after a few almost dormant months. Carriers have more loads to choose from and can allow themselves to be pickier. Therefore, the market tightens up, and shippers realize that finding a truck has become more challenging and the rates are going up. In certain regions, the capacity and rates change drastically for non-produce shippers, as carriers are massively switching to high-paying produce loads, for example, peaches in Florida, leaving other shippers desperate to move their freight. During this time, it’s crucial to research your regions of interest to understand how much you may be affected by produce.

The Peak Shipping Season (August – October)

Another busy season in the transportation industry. Overwhelming produce season is coming to an end, but the party goes on. Now it’s the time to prepare for the “back to school” and start planning out the upcoming holiday season. Sales are typically up and companies are actively shipping the product in and out of their facilities to ensure they are all set for the holidays. The rates are still on the rise and the freight volume is at its peak.

The Holiday Shipping Season (November – December)

Holidays are upon us – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s. Shippers are rushing to complete their last orders and get everything in or out before holiday closures. The year is coming to an end as well, and no one wants to leave freight behind and drag it into the new year. Of course, it’s the time for vacation and being with family, but a few days before everyone leaves for long weekends are usually busier than ever as shippers try to ship out everything that popped up last minute, got delayed or overlooked.

This is a classic picture of a calendar year in the transportation industry, or the four seasons of freight transportation if you wish. Being aware of this pattern is a must for any transportation professional and helps forecast and stay on top of the market changes.

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