2018: The Year of the Truck Driver

December 6, 2017 at 1:30 PMJen Deming
Truck Driver

Ringing in the New Year means starting fresh and anticipating big changes for future, and truck drivers may be looking forward to 2018 more than anyone. The ELD mandate, driver shortages, fuel costs, and e-commerce boom are all components that leverage trucking companies' ability to determine cost and coverage.

As we covered in our previous blog post, truckload rates are going up due to a number of different factors. That means that drivers and trucking companies are going to be behind the wheel when it comes to determining how much shipping lanes will be going for. Having this leverage pushes the shipper to the passenger seat, with the potential for less bargaining power and high shipping costs heading into the new year.

A significant factor contributing to the higher truckload rates is due to an overall shortage of willing and capable truck drivers. Trucking analyst John Larkin suggests that the slow but steady economic increase will result in stronger demand with tighter supply. "The primary driver of the supply/demand tightness is the economy-wide shortage of skilled, blue collar labor," he says. "While driver pay scales began to rise in the 2nd half of 2017, the starting point for wages was so low, that it may take multiple wage hikes before we see any alleviation of this chronic challenge." The ELD mandate, which will be fully implemented on Dec 18, 2017, may add increased tension to an already volatile scenario. Many drivers view the mandate as an invasion of privacy, and may push an already limited number of qualified and experienced drivers from the pool of available carriers.

The amount of freight being hauled by trucks is expected to increase more than 3% annually over the next five years, as reported by the American Trucking Association. The industry has already seen a 2.8% increase over the past year, and the ATA estimates it could accelerate as much as 3.4% before slowing down again slightly. A notable increase in shipping economy means that though the available trucker pool has dwindled, those who are qualified are more in demand than ever. In addition, because those drivers may have to travel outside their normal area of operations, they can charge a premium. The ATA also reports that trucking will continue to be the dominant freight mode, and in 2017 "approximately 15.18 billion tons of freight will be moved by all transportation modes." The growing economy will further push demand and stretch the pool of available carriers. The ATA estimates that the current 50,000 driver-deficit could expand to 174,000 by 2026.

With that economic push, and labor shortage, truck drivers will demand higher wages and shippers will have to pay. The third-quarter hurricanes are also said to have played a factor, with drivers understandably asking more for lanes they had run at lower rates previously. Additionally, Florida and Texas, the two states hit the hardest by the storms, are typically some of the most reliable recruiting markets for new drivers. Until the economy recovers in these states, the pool of new drivers will be limited, with many potential recruits choosing the recent wave of construction positions over trucking. A jump in driver pay may keep them interested. According to Bob Costello, the American Trucking Association's economist, observes, "We've already seen fleets raising pay and offering other incentives to attract drivers." The driver pay structure is also evolving. Where once most carriers were being paid by load, many are now moving to an hourly pay model, specifically as the ELD mandate takes effect. Either way, with the anticipated changes for the new year, it's safe to say truck drivers and carriers are going to have a huge influence on shipping rates for the near future.

So, now that truck drivers have extra leverage, what can shippers do to help keep down their shipping costs in 2018? Working with a freight broker like PartnerShip can help add value and flexibility to your current shipping options. We shop rates and put in the legwork for you, negotiating on your behalf with carriers for both your LTL and your Truckload moves. If you have questions on how PartnerShip can help manage your shipping costs, call us at 800-599-2902 or get a free quote today!

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Need It Yesterday? A Guide to Time-Critical Shipping

November 27, 2017 at 9:53 AMJen Deming
Holiday Time Critical Shipping

Holiday fulfillment and expedited freight deadlines are as much a part of the holiday season as cookies, cocoa, and hasty gift wrapping. Shipping managers are very much like the St. Nick of logistics, making sure every order is out—and delivered—on time and accurately to every customer. Between weather delays, unexpected inventory depletion, and rush order fulfillment, planning your winter shipping strategy is a crucial part of your holiday preparation. By being mindful of carrier schedules and deadlines, subsequent holiday surcharges, and familiarizing yourself with time-critical options, you will know which services best fit you and your customers’ needs.

Sometimes, despite how prepared we think we are, a deadline catches up to us and standard shipping services just are not going to cut it. It’s important to understand the differences between shipping services offered, so that you can make informed decisions that meet your needs while not stretching your budget. Let’s take a look at whether your organization may benefit from time-critical shipping services during a heavy shipping season, and which services may make the most sense for your business.

There are certain industries that may require expedited freight services more often, and on a more regular basis, not only during the holiday heavy season. Common industries using expedited services include medical, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and particularly the automobile industry. It's crucial to understand that during the holiday season, there are going to be additional shippers using both standard and special expedited freight services due to time constraints, further congesting shipping lanes and significantly decreasing carrier capacity.

Most carriers offer tiered services based on window of delivery, transit time, and dedicated truck type. We will look at the 4 most common types of special services for your urgent holiday shipments: guaranteed, accelerated, time-critical (one-day, two-day), and dedicated truckload. Let's use a freight shipment example, a one-pallet 500 lb load moving from popular shipping hub, Chicago, IL (60638) to delivery in San Francisco, CA (94107). For the purpose of this example, we will assume standard 8am-5pm shipping hours, regular, non-oversized shipment dimensions, and non hazardous materials. Typical transit time for this standard LTL service with most carriers is 5 full business days.

Guaranteed Services
Guaranteed LTL shipping services are great for those shippers who may not necessarily need to shave a day or two off of transit time, but definitely need a pre-determined delivery within a certain window during a standard service day. This fee-based service is available on direct-point shipments and can be tailored to either guaranteed morning (before 12pm) or "end of day" (typically 5pm) for delivery. The fee for guaranteed service is minimal and very commonly used, especially during holiday times for retailers

Accelerated Services
Accelerated LTL shipping services are suited for shippers who are looking for a faster standard shipping option. Accelerated shipping options fit between standard and time-critical premium services, typically cutting one or two days off of typical transit. The average price for the faster service is about 15% higher than standard LTL services, but differ based on the distance and type of shipments.   

Time-Critical/Expedited Services
Time-critical and expedited freight options are premium services offered by national carriers, specifically created to meet stringent delivery deadlines as determined by the shipper. An expedited shipment typically travels directly from pick-up to delivery, with no loading or unloading at terminals and often with dedicated equipment. Teams of drivers often haul in shifts in order to decrease transit times. In especially urgent situations, multiple modes of transit may be used, such as a combination of truck and air freight. Common urgent delivery services include same day, next day, and cross-town deliveries and while there is no limit on distance, the more extreme the request, the higher the shipper will pay.

For a clearer picture of delivery timelines through various urgent services, we've created the table below:

 

   Expedited Freight Service

 

    Pick-Up and Delivery Timeline  

 

Guaranteed Services

 

       Pick-up Mon, 12/4 = Delivery Fri, 12/8 by noon

 

Accelerated Services

 

        Pick-up Mon, 12/4 = Delivery Thurs, 12/7

 

Time-Critical/Expedited

 

     Pick-up Mon, 12/4 = Delivery by YOUR specified deadline


Though urgent services are often viewed as "problem-solving" freight solutions in emergency scenarios, more and more shippers are using planned time-critical options as part of their holiday shipping strategy. Just-in-time manufacturers also utilize these services in order to fulfill and meet demand. Though these expedited freight services may come with a higher price tag, oftentimes the cost is offset by reducing inventory costs. An extra benefit to using these services is the added safety and security of the shipment, due to decreased reloading and an escalated level of tracking.

Even despite solid holiday planning and logistic strategies, shippers may encounter scenarios that require guaranteed or urgent shipping services. If you're not sure which time-critical LTL shipping services are right for your shipment, our shipping experts can find solutions that make the most sense for your business and your wallet. Get a free expedited freight quote today!

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The 2018 FedEx and UPS Rate Increases: A Closer Look

November 20, 2017 at 10:12 AMLeah Palnik
FedEx and UPS Rate Increases for 2018

With the New Year approaching, it’s time to look at the UPS and FedEx rate increases for 2018 and how they will affect your costs. In September, FedEx announced an average increase of 4.9% on Express and Ground services. UPS joined the party in October, announcing that they will also be increasing their rates by an average of 4.9%. The new 2018 UPS rates will take effect on December 24, 2017, while FedEx will be instating them a week later on January 1, 2018.

The averages might be the same, but the rates vary. With higher increases for some services and lower increases for others, you can’t budget based on your costs increasing 4.9%. It’s important to look at what services you use, your package characteristics, and the locations you’re shipping to, and then evaluate the new rate charts to find your biggest cost offenders from the 2018 FedEx and UPS rate increases.

On top of the FedEx and UPS rate increases for 2018, there are additional updates that are likely to affect your shipping costs. First, UPS is lowering its dimensional (DIM) weight divisor from 166 to 139 for domestic packages less than or equal to one cubic foot (1,728 inches) in size. With this change, UPS and FedEx are back in line with each other on how they calculate dimensional weight. Both carriers will now use 139 for all domestic and international packages.

It’s been a wild ride the past few years with multiple changes to which packages DIM weight pricing applies to and how it’s calculated, so this is a welcome stabilization. However, a lower divisor means a higher chance that your package will get billed at your DIM weight, rather than your actual weight. If you ship packages one cubic foot or under with UPS, it’s important to take note and make changes to eliminate any unused space in your packaging or consolidate orders when possible.

Surcharges are also increasing, with some at alarming rates. Most notably, in 2018 FedEx and UPS are coming after larger, oversized packages. Not only are they increasing at a higher rate than most surcharges, they are by far the most costly. For example, the FedEx Unauthorized Packages fee is increasing from $115 to $300 and the UPS Over Maximum Limits charge is increasing from $150 to $500. The shipping trends that have resulted from the rise of e-commerce has taken its toll on the carriers and they’re having to move more and more oversized packages that can’t go through their automated systems. Time is money, so they’re tacking on hefty fees to make up for it.

Ahead of the new FedEx and UPS rate increases for 2018, new holiday peak season charges will also apply. UPS is adding peak surcharges on domestic residential packages during the busiest shipping days of the year – from November 19 to December 2 and from December 17 to December 23. These fees will add up quick when you have an increased amount of orders over the holidays. 

In a notable departure from UPS, FedEx decided not to add a peak season surcharge this season. Instead they opted to increase surcharges for packages that are big or bulky enough to require special handling. UPS is also increasing the cost of larger packages by adding additional peak season surcharges on top of the already existing surcharges. The 2018 UPS rate announcement included increases for these surcharges for the next holiday season, so you can expect this trend to continue.

The 2018 FedEx and UPS rate increases are proof that the carriers are getting smarter, hitting shippers where it hurts most. Luckily, you don’t have to navigate the changes alone. The shipping experts at PartnerShip have evaluated the new rate charts and we have completed a detailed analysis, so it’s easier for you to assess the impact on your shipping costs. Download our free white paper today!

Download the free white paper: A Closer Look at the 2018 FedEx and UPS Rate Increases

Holiday Shipping Schedule 2017

November 16, 2017 at 3:15 PMLeah Palnik

Thanksgiving is coming up, and Christmas and New Years are just around the corner! It's a busy time of year, so we've put together a shipping schedule that you can use to plan around carrier closures. 

check out the 2017 holiday shipping schedule

Days of operations for PartnerShip are listed as well. As always, we're here to help you ship smarter during the holidays. If you need help, give us a call at 800-599-2902 or email sales@PartnerShip.com. 

Winter Weather Tips for Shipping Managers

November 2, 2017 at 3:45 PMLeah Palnik
winter weather tips for shipping managers

During this time of year, shipping managers need to be on their toes to stay ahead of winter weather delays. If there’s anything we’ve learned in the past several months, it’s that Mother Nature shows no mercy. Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey hit, and delivery networks suffered. As Ned Stark famously stated, winter is coming. And with it comes all the unrelenting ice and snow that can wreak havoc on your transit times. The more prepared you are when these storms hit, the better, so we’ve put together a few tips:

Build in extra days for time-sensitive shipments. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be challenging if you don’t plan ahead for it. Planning is especially important leading up to the winter months and during the holidays, so be kind to yourself and get started now. This will be essential for your supply chain if you’re shipping cross-country or to areas that are prone to winter storms.

Work with a broker to strengthen your carrier network. With winter storms causing service issues for carriers this time of year, you may need to think about expanding your network. Working with a broker is an easy way to gain instant access to additional resources. Brokers typically work with a vast amount of carriers and have the knowledge to match you with services that would be best for your lane and delivery needs.

Be flexible when possible. If you have some wiggle room with pickup and delivery dates, it’ll be easier to work out an economical solution with your carrier when weather delays strike. Also avoid setting up unnecessary appointment times that could restrict the driver. If the window of time is too short and the shipment gets held up due to weather, you could be delayed a whole day rather than a few hours.

Pay attention to service alerts from your carriers. Staying on top of weather issues can be difficult. Luckily many carriers have service alert pages on their websites and some will even send you notifications when they experience weather-related closures or limited operations. Here are a few service alert pages for common carriers: 

Shipping to a tradeshow? Prepare for the worst. If you’re shipping your exhibit materials to a tradeshow, it’s a good idea to have it sent to the advanced warehouse so you don’t have to worry about it delivering on time. Otherwise, you’re shipping direct to the show site which leaves you vulnerable to devastating delays. If you’re not able to ship to the advanced warehouse, have a contingency plan in place so if you’re stuck at the show without your booth it’s not a total loss. Determine ways you could print materials on-demand ahead of time or bring a few merchandise samples with you.

Communicate clearly with customers. During the busiest time of year for retailers, how you deliver on customer expectations can make or break your business. Customers are ordering holiday gifts online and making sure they arrive in time is essential. Add some buffer days to your transit times and make shipping deadlines clear and visible throughout the entire ordering process.

Budget for increased rates. Going into this winter season, truckload capacity is already tight, which has driven rates up. Drivers will also need to comply with the new ELD mandate starting December 18, which puts an additional strain on carriers. Now more than ever, you’ll need to be savvy to navigate the season.

Being proactive is the first step towards smooth shipping in the winter months. Planning for the inevitable bad weather will help you to not miss a beat when you encounter a service disruption. When you work with PartnerShip, our shipping experts can find solutions that are right for you. Get a free analysis today!

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Truckload Rates Are Going Way Up. Are You Ready?

October 31, 2017 at 12:13 PMJerry Spelic

Truckload shipping costs have been steadily climbing and are poised to go even higher because a perfect storm of events is pushing truckload rates to record highs: the looming Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate; the cleanup and aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria; and an already significant driver shortage that has stressed truckload capacity.