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logistics

LTL Is Capturing The Middle-Mile

COVID-19 has made a tremendous impact around the globe, and the United States was certainly no exception. The less-than-truckload (LTL) sector in particular saw volumes drop to levels not experienced since the Great Depression. However, for the 25 largest carriers in the US, the total revenue decrease was a mere 2.7 percent for 2020. Compare that to a staggering drop of 23.8 percent during the Great Recession a little more than 10 years ago.   

The intervening years of 2010 to 2018 saw a period of continual growth for the nation’s largest LTL carrier firms including a 10.7 percent growth spike year-over-year for 2018.  

The LTL sector is growing in spite of the financial disruptions

So why is this important? While recessions and economic downturns come and go, if one was to look closely, they would see that the LTL sector is growing in spite of the financial disruptions, and has been for over a decade.  

LTL Sector Homes In On Retail Market 

Historically speaking, the LTL sector has been focused on industrial manufacturing, which represents 60 percent of the total trucking tonnage in the country according to data collected from the US Census Bureau. Given the slow recovery of the US industrial complex, many carriers were unable to achieve year-over-year gains.  

The saving grace for the LTL industry has been the emergence of e-commerce.

The saving grace for the LTL industry has been the emergence of e-commerce, especially in the wake of the pandemic, as many house-bound consumers turned to sites like Amazon to fulfill all their shopping needs. As a result, LTL carriers have been picking up the “middle-mile” slack, hauling freight to end-of-the-line distribution and fulfillment centers. 

“The middle-mile for the retail sector was a huge contributor to shipment and revenue growth for the industry,” said Satish Jindel, President of Transportation Research and Consulting firm SJ Consulting Group. “For those LTL carriers who have traditionally avoided retail customers, it may be time to re-evaluate that thinking and look beyond just handling shipments where their trucks can bump the [industrial loading] docks,” Jindel added. 

The middle-mile, while good for both sustainability and growth of the LTL sector, isn’t without its own set of complications. More commonly, LTL carriers are delivering freight to big-box stores, shopping centers, and locations that lack even the simple convenience of a loading dock to receive freight. In some cases, LTL carriers are even moving into the last-mile phase by delivering large or bulky items directly to a customer’s home.  

Jindel points out that LTL volumes are declining faster than LTL revenue, at 5.4 percent and 4.5 percent respectively, according to data from an SJ Consulting Group analysis.  

“That’s an indication carriers are doing a better job of capturing price for the cubic attributes of their shipments, enabled by deployment of thousands of dimensioning machines,” Jindel said. The increase in e-commerce-related LTL freight and dimensional pricing “presents a great opportunity for the LTL industry to correct many of the ills of the past,” Jindel added, which includes many obsolete systems the industry has used for decades including but not limited to paper bills of lading, discounted rates, and outdated published tariffs.  

A Promising Future

Overall, the LTL sector is faring well given the circumstances. While many industries are still feeling the sting of the first half of 2020, when the pandemic brought almost everything to a grinding halt, the LTL sector has recovered and will continue to grow in the future.  

As the nature of the trucking industry tends to be a bumpy ride at the best of the times, the growth of the less-than-truckload sector in the United States indicates that carriers are flexible enough to handle any obstacles in the road ahead. This is incredibly important as it is unlikely that e-commerce growth is going to drop off at any point in the foreseeable future – due to the change in consumer buying behavior.  

Even smaller carrier operations are finding their own niches in the market, handling local fulfillment while their larger counterparts eat up the middle-miles. All in all, the pandemic has brought about a restructuring of the supply chain for many businesses, and carriers are responding in kind, ready to carry the load.   

Business Intelligence: Bringing Your Operations To The Next Level

Logistics and the global supply chain drive the world as we know it today. Everyday tasks such as going to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner to online shopping all rely on the supply chain operating smoothly and efficiently. However, the logistics methods of the past have since become obsolete, especially in the wake of ever-expanding global operations, the boom in e-commerce and tightening delivery expectations, all of which put pressure on the supply chain. While navigating these challenges is a daunting task, business intelligence is the necessary game-changer for shippers to enter into the next era of the supply chain with an edge over the competition.   

Fortunately, logistics and the supply chain have entered into a veritable digital renaissance. Driven by ever-increasing competition, both carriers and shippers need to step up their operations if they want to remain competitive, both in terms of a consistent brand experience for their customers as well as balanced and competitive pricing structures.  

Driven by ever-increasing competition, both carriers and shippers need to step up their operations if they want to remain competitive.

There are challenges that need to be overcome in order to streamline operations to the point of optimal efficiency. These obstacles include compliance to ever-changing regulations, volatile fuel costs, supply chain management, and increasing demands from customers and consumers. These challenges are compounded by the fact that the supply chain across the United States is incredibly volatile due to a surge in e-commerce brought about by the pandemic, and the snarl in the global supply chain as a whole due to a shipping container shortage and heavily congested port traffic.  

As a result, shippers are constantly on the lookout for solutions that will make their lives easier and help them excel during these uncertain times.

The Benefits Of Business Intelligence 

Business intelligence is developing an operating strategy by leveraging technology to analyze data from the supply chain. This data analysis extracts actionable data from a seemingly incomprehensible data stream and can offer significant benefits for shippers.

Reduce Labor Costs through Automated Reports 

Business intelligence is the key to the kingdom of Automation. BI tools can reduce the need for labor hours that are spent on mundane tasks such as generating reports. Shippers can generate comprehensive reports automatically without requiring a manual effort allowing those employees to be dedicated to more value-added tasks.   

  • Automated data collection creates more detailed reports 
  • Reports are generated automatically on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. 
  • Reduces time spent on training staff which further reduces labor hours. 

Information Transparency Leads To Better Visibility Into Your Supply Chain 

Supply chain visibility is crucial to the success of shippers. Business Intelligence reduces the need to sift through and extract the necessary data to create a comprehensive report. Organizations can drill down to specific metrics to create operation-specific dashboards based on their needs. BI tools can help to define and extract data as needed (avoiding data-overload syndrome) which improves efficiency and eliminates information blockages and data silos.  

In short, your company can find the data it needs, when it needs it, without all the hassle that comes with standard data analysis. 

Translate Data Into Actionable Business Intelligence 

Having data is all well and good, so long as you know what to do with it. The problem is, extracting the data is not the same as being able to interpret it. Transportation and logistics companies that rely on manual report generation often run the risk of working with outdated information, which can negatively affect business operations. Because Business intelligence tools can generate this information automatically, working through a BI suite can provide real-time information as to the current state of the business. This can, in turn, be used to spot issues as they happen and identify detailed information from a top-down view.   

Better Decision Making 

Armed with actionable intelligence, supply chain leaders are able to make better decisions about their supply chain and their operations. Higher levels of visibility within the supply chain means your company can perform a supply chain analysis. Business intelligence tools can help to draw out latent inefficiencies and reduce operating costs, which makes the supply chain run leaner and more efficiently than ever before. 

How Can An Inbound Logistics Program Help During Produce Season?

For those in the trucking industry, produce season carries an awareness of the many opportunities and challenges that comes with transporting perishable commodities. Managing the rapid changes in available TL capacity when increased volumes begin to consolidate in California presents one of the most significant of those challenges. For produce sellers and retailers, the goal is to bring in the freshest produce at the best prices. In order to do this successfully, they will have to manage their logistics and supply chain accordingly. 

In our recent webinar, we addressed what challenges shippers face during produce season, the driving forces behind rising transportation costs and tighter capacity during produce season and how businesses can utilize an inbound logistics program to overcome the challenges of the produce season.

As the nature of logistics and supply chain management is complicated at the best of times, the produce season may serve as a further wrench in the works, especially as it falls during a time in which many carriers are being diverted for vaccine distribution. Below is a break down of a few of the points in further detail. 

Limited Equipment During Produce Season Complicates Supply Chain Needs 

The choice of which logistics approach to embrace becomes especially impactful as carriers feel the crunch in California. Meanwhile, stocking shelves with visually appealing, fresh produce is even more important in 2021 than in recent years. The pandemic has accelerated an existing consumer trend towards health-conscious, home-cooked meals, creating an increased demand for fresh produce across the country.   

The need for well below freezing storage temperatures necessitates the need for specialized equipment, specifically reefer units.

As COVID-19 vaccines are manufactured and subsequently delivered, the need for well below freezing storage temperatures necessitates the need for specialized equipment, specifically reefer units. Given the availability for these trailers and the public need for the vaccine to be distributed, produce shippers will have to pay a premium for reefers in addition to working around a delivery schedule that is tighter and decidedly more limited than years past.   

Driver Shortages and a Highly Regulated Supply Chain 

It is no secret that the United States has an incredibly finite amount of drivers, decidedly less than demand requires. Driver shortages and lengthy detentions have already plagued 2020 and are slow to show any significant improvements thus far in 2021. It’s no wonder so many agricultural carriers are concerned with the delicate nuances necessary to coordinate a successful produce season this year. The question is, what can shippers do to help mitigate the impact of the driver and equipment shortage so they can keep their shelves stocked in the coming months? 

In addition to the driver shortage, there are also federal regulations that need to be considered when transporting produce. The FDA has a fairly stringent set of standards in place regarding the transportation of perishable and consumable goods such as produce. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has a myriad of sanitation, storage and transportation requirements that must be adhered to, or else carriers could be subjected to a series of fines and penalties.  

Perhaps a blessing and a curse for produce shippers.

In addition to the FSMA requirements, there are also the HoS mandates that dictate just how long a driver can work at any given time. Perhaps a blessing and a curse for produce shippers, there are some addendums and exceptions to the Hours of Service mandate when it comes to agricultural supply chains that allow shippers to be more efficient when moving produce. However, knowing what these exceptions are and how to best utilize them can be a challenge for even experienced shippers, given that the regulations continue to change.

Watch The Recorded Webinar Below

Roadcheck Week is Coming: May 4-6

Roadcheck week is a program created by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) which will deploy inspectors across the country to ensure that commercial vehicles and their drivers are upholding the set safety standards. Every year, the CVSA chooses a focus for their inspections, typically based on the past year’s violations. Last year, in 2020, it was driver violations. This year, they will be focusing on the top vehicle maintenance issues and driver violations from 2020 which were vehicle lighting and hours-of-service compliance.  

CVSA President Sgt. John Samis, who is also with the Delaware State Police, said in a CVSA statement that there is an element of business as usual during Roadcheck Week. “The inspections conducted during the three days of International Roadcheck are no different from the inspections conducted any other day of the year,” he said. “Other than data collection, the inspection process is the same.

Shippers will need to take Roadcheck week into account when planning their freight movement.  

While Roadcheck week is an important safety measure to ensure unfit vehicles and drivers aren’t in operation (and a risk to the public) it does pose a serious issue in terms of how it affects the available capacity and market spot rates. Shippers will need to take Roadcheck week into account when planning their freight movement.  

2021 Inspection Criteria  

Inoperable lamps were the top vehicle violation in 2020, accounting for 12.24 percent of all vehicle inspection failures discovered for the entire year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  

Inspectors will also be checking the vehicle’s brake systems, cargo securement, coupling devices, driveline/driveshaft components, driver’s seat, exhaust systems, frames, fuel systems, lighting devices, steering mechanisms, suspensions, tires, van and open-top trailer bodies, wheels, rims, hubs and windshield wipers to ensure all meet the necessary specifications. 

For drivers, hours-of-service violations reached nearly 34.7 percent of all driver-related concerns. During the inspection, inspectors will check the driver’s operating credentials, hours-of-service documentation, seat belt usage and for alcohol and/or drug impairment. A driver will be placed out of service if an inspector discovers driver-related out-of-service conditions. 

Any vehicle found with a “critical vehicle inspection item violation” will be considered out-of-service, meaning the vehicle cannot be operated until the condition has been corrected and re-inspected.  

In light of the importance of COVID-19 vaccine transportation, any vehicle caring vaccines will not be held up for inspection, unless there is an obvious and serious violation that could be considered an imminent hazard.  

Successfully passing the inspection will earn the vehicle and driver a CVSA decal. During the three-month period that the decal is valid, both driver and vehicle will not be subjected to subsequent inspections. In light of the importance of COVID-19 vaccine transportation, any vehicle caring vaccines will not be held up for inspection, unless there is an obvious and serious violation that could be considered an imminent hazard.  

“CVSA shares the dates of International Roadcheck in advance to remind motor carriers and drivers of the importance of proactive vehicle maintenance and driver readiness,” Samis said. “International Roadcheck also aims to raise awareness of the North American Standard Inspection Program and the essential highway safety rules and regulations in place to keep our roadways safe.” 

Roadcheck Week Causes Volume Drop and Capacity Fluctuation 

While the program is designed to keep both truck drivers and other motorists safe, it also comes with an unintended consequence. During Roadcheck week, the Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI) drops precipitously, causing a shortage in both transportation volume as well as fluctuations in available capacity.  

In 2020, during the inspection blitz, OTVI fell from over 16,125 down to 13,628. The only other times during the course of the year it has been lower was over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  

Typically speaking as OTVI climbs, capacity gets tighter as it suggests that more loads are being tendered on a daily basis. That being said, a drop in OTVI would suggest more available capacity, but that may not be the case. As drivers and vehicles are flagged as out-of-service, the overall operational capacity, nationwide, could be affected. Given the immediate needs of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, capacity is already stretched thin, especially for dry van and reefer units given the storage requirements of the vaccines. 

Many drivers prefer to avoid Roadcheck week altogether and opt to take vacation during this time which causes a temporary disruption in capacity and thins out the already shallow pool of available drivers.

Additionally, many drivers prefer to avoid Roadcheck week altogether and opt to take vacation during this time which causes a temporary disruption in capacity and thins out the already shallow pool of available drivers. With fewer available drivers and more shippers turning to the spot market to find available capacity, rates could increase 

Shippers, in particular, will need to keep a close eye on the OTVI during the beginning of May as it could affect both spot rates as well as overall transportation time. It is important that shippers begin considering their options now as Roadcheck week will soon be upon us. 

The Power Of Using A TMS For Any Size LTL Shipper

A transportation management system (TMS) is traditionally used in larger shipping operations. The benefits of these systems are managing transportation costs and navigating capacity crunches. They can also aid in balancing dynamic customer demands with driver scheduling. 

Small shippers tend to range from 5 to 25 shipments a day. The next step up is mid-sized shippers. Typically, midsized shippers consist of a number of smaller shipping operations across smaller businesses and locations. Usually, their freight consists of all less than truckload or full truckload with a one-off shipment here and there. They negotiate on a shipment by shipment basis, so a TMS is less about freight spend and more about getting the perfect price each time and squeezing more productivity out of shipments. 

Freight plays a prominent role in the reputation of a company. Timely drivers can make a significant impression. But managers also need to know how freight is moving in order to optimize operations, win customers and overcome some of the limitations of being a mid-sized company. 

TMS Adoption Is Low In Mid-Sized Shippers 

Some of the TMS in larger companies focus on things like managing a capacity crunch and optimizing their freight for transportation across various modes. Larger companies have a lot to gain from converting LTLs into truckloads and continuous moves. Since the volumes being handled are mostly one mode for mid-sized companies, there are fewer optimization opportunities from older TMS models. 

One of the barriers to entry for TMS in this sector is the gap between the clear advantage of using technology to manage shipments and the willingness to do so.

TMS is often seen as impractical by smaller and mid-sized shippers. Many managers feel they get their shipments out just fine with their existing practices. One of the barriers to entry for TMS in this sector is the gap between the clear advantage of using technology to manage shipments and the willingness to do so. Mid-sized companies find it too expensive and difficult to implement. It is overwhelming to their budget and operations. They may lack some of the staff necessary to support running a traditional TMS. When a shipper decides to use TMS, there is historically a lot of effort to get all of that data over to the TMS in order to simulate the rates that the carrier has loaded. This process can cost thousands of dollars in paid labor. Every year when the rates change, the process needs to be repeated. EDI setup is a part of this issue. Setting up TMS usually involves establishing EDI for dispatching to schedule pick up, handle tracking, etc… It’s a considerable upfront expense in labor, which is then being passed on to the customer and hurting the shipper’s ability to offer competitive rates. This can put TMS out of reach for smaller to mid-sized shippers. 

TMS can also be complex and intimidating for mid-sized companies whose employees are used to processing their daily tasks via apps, spreadsheets, and websites. 

Want A Free BlueShip TMS Demo?

Innovations In TMS Accessibility 

Recent advancements in TMS include the prevalence of Application Programming Interface (API) which are essentially programs that can communicate with databases, retrieving useful information that can be used in other applications. Carriers are gaining functionality from their core systems via APIs that other systems can consume. This innovation allows TMS to connect directly to the carrier and pull necessary information directly through machine-to-machine communication. This means there are fewer labor hours spent on back-end issues. It significantly lowers the time and labor investments that keep mid-sized shippers from adopting TMS. 

While a TMS is a powerful tool and typically full of various and helpful features, not every company will need the full suite of options in order for it to be beneficial. In fact, too many features can get in the user’s way. Instead, small and mid-sized shippers should look at carefully curated feature sets for their TMS. Modern TMS solutions are both scalable and customizable, so while an off-the-shelf solution is great for a larger company, this provides a better range of options for smaller companies. With a curated feature package, implementing a TMS becomes a less daunting task.  

An intuitive interface will streamline operations instead of frustrating the employees of mid-sized shippers.

In addition to having it scaled appropriately for your operations, user experience is another consideration. An intuitive interface will streamline operations instead of frustrating the employees of mid-sized shippers. Transparent pricing, next-day readiness, and a subscription model with no end-user IT effort are all attractive offerings of a modern TMS. 

Promising New Options 

Multiple transportation management systems are hitting the market presently, specifically geared towards small to mid-sized shippers. In some, invoices are streamlined via integration to QuickBooks. Attractive features allow carriers to split loads and plan legs of transportation as opportunities unfold. Push notifications keep drivers informed. According to MH&L, “The ability for carriers to connect their ELD providers (to TMS) allows for enhanced visibility for predictive ETAs, integration of Hours of Service information for driver scheduling, and improved location tracking. “ 

In an interview with Fleet Owner, Cody Schmidt, corporate purchasing manager at Plastic Ingenuity, touts his TMS experience. “I’ve seen my team save hours of time and remove many of the manual tasks involved with tendering freight. I’m impressed with how quickly we were able to get set-up within days.” Cody was able to slash time to tender “from three hours to under 15 minutes” by using modern TMS innovations for his mid-sized company. 

Mid-sized companies can create seamless integration by choosing a cloud-based TMS platform that connects directly to their current carriers and 3PL support of choice.

How BlueGrace can Help 

BlueGrace’s proprietary TMS is designed to put the power of easy supply chain management and optimization back in your hands. BlueShip® 4.0 offers cutting-edge tools for strong reliability and quick performance. Our customers are especially impressed with the updated user experience, customer address books and product catalogs that make the entire process of creating new shipments simple and swift. 

The BlueGrace core technology platform enables you to proactively identify opportunities to alleviate costs and optimize your supply chain. BlueShip 4.0 gathers pricing and tracking data from 100’s of our carrier partners nationwide. Our updated LTL Volume solution allows users the ability to see real-time capacity and spot rates for their volume shipments. Our customers also receive access to our expert IT department and a full suite of web services and API’s. 

To learn more about BlueShip and to request a demo to see how our TMS can benefit your company, contact us at 800.MY.SHIPPING or visit us at https://mybluegrace.com.

Delivering A Passion For Logistics

Mark Derks, Chief Marketing Officer

I have a passion for logistics and recently joined the BlueGrace Logistics team as Chief Marketing Officer. In my initial weeks of onboarding, I’ve been able to connect with many of the customer facing and supply chain engineering resources for the organization.

In my discussions I’ve asked what, as a shipper, should I be considering for a successful supply chain logistics program. Here’s a synopsis of what some of the industry’s most forward thinking thought leaders have to say.

Automate & Simplify

Breakdown your internal processes on a continual basis and automate everything you possibly can. Automating even one step of a process can mean significant savings over time. There are benefits such as employee/customer/user satisfaction, driving business rule compliance and creating scale while reducing OPEX when you simplify process to make work easier. The mostly likely areas for automation could be procurement, order fulfillment, service and system queries, tender activity, track/trace, payments and invoicing and any type of data entry or reconciliation processes. Eliminating repetitive, non-value-added tasks, while improving internal and external workflow should be a top priority across multiple business units.

Focus on Order Management

By unlocking order management processes, you remove bias to things like mode selection or freight service and focus on improving the entire fulfillment process for your end customer. The use of business rules can drive load planning and match your executive strategy to your tactical execution. For organizations who are ready to scale, order management supports automation across the supply chain. Order receiving, tracking, fulfillment, etc. under one cohesive brand experience.

Improve Data Accuracy

Good clean data drives viable consolidation, automation and optimization. Volumes of accurate data employ AI and machine learning strategies. Much of the available historical data from legacy transportation management systems doesn’t hold the accuracy or structure standards needed to accomplish actionable results. Improving data quality increases trust in technology and tech-driven outcomes. Quality data also helps brings normality to a fragmented industry. Efficiency, productivity, experience and more all start with clean, accurate data.    

Final Mile & COVID-19 Evolution

COVID-19 has resulted in changing buying patterns, shifting freight networks, fluctuating manufacturing cycles and more. As the market reshapes itself to address a more B2C environment now is a great time to adapt and be proactive in engaging a final mile strategy.

Sales Leadership

Include Sales Leadership in your supply chain strategy and decision making. The commercial leadership role stands behind the value proposition and service requirements to make customers successful. Supply chain logistics is at the heart of every customer transaction and being inclusive of sale leadership offers advantages and scale in customer service, communications and overall growth and retention. Actionable data and a proactive transportation network also help enhance the customer experience. Brands who leverage their supply chain team throughout the organization can increase sales and grow results.

Work with a Driver-Lead Provider

Drivers are the most critical part of transportation and the end-delivery of your freight. Most think truck drivers are the responsibility of the carrier they work for. In fact, organizations should consider their support and engagement of drivers directly, beyond that of the carrier. Driver retention depends driver experience throughout their supplier list, so it’s all our responsibilities to try to improve their life on the road. This driver-lead approach is unique and can keep the two most important commodities you have in transit: the driver and your freight.

Find Value

Grow valued-based relationships and bring them your biggest challenges. Solely buying on price might save you a few dollars but won’t bring you value and solve your biggest challenges. Look for that provider that makes you say, “I got what I paid for and find value in that.”

The Number One Item to Consider: Have A Passion For Logistics.

When prompted on what that means, it’s the idea that logistics can make every business better. Across industries, companies can make themselves better, provide greater customer experience and achieve higher employee engagement by improving supply chain logistics. One small change in the way you plan, organize, execute and communicate can have immediate and great impact on your costs, risks, efficiencies and growth.

Sound advice for organizational success. Does your company have a PASSION FOR LOGISTICS? I’d love to hear your thoughts as to why.

Shipping Challenges For The 2021 Produce Season

Volume increases in shipping can drive up rates and create challenging conditions in freight capacity. Under normal conditions, the strain on CPG shippers occurs tidally. Produce season causes disruptions, but occurs with a fair degree of regularity. Even if a carrier does not transport agricultural goods, the influx of produce to shipping can affect operations, capacity and costs. COVID-19 is a new factor in shipping volume. Therefore it is challenging to prepare already tight margins for additional freight volume.

Driver Shortages

LTL is estimated to be experiencing a shortage near 20,000 drivers. A lack of qualified drivers is one theory. Prospective employees deciding their pay is inadequate for the working conditions is another. HOS regulations, meant to keep drivers safe, have also eaten up revenue opportunities for the young and ambitious.

arriers, shippers and 3PLs will all have to work together to entice drivers back towards the industry.

Due to COVID-related closures, supply chain disruptions have increased driver detention, which costs both drivers and shareholders significant amounts of both time and money. The threat of infection has slowed enrollment for in-person training programs and made travel less appealing. Older workers may decide to retire rather than risk exposure as high-risk individuals. Currently, there is no standardized hazard pay for drivers working through the pandemic. Carriers, shippers and 3PLs will all have to work together to entice drivers back towards the industry.

Social Distancing And E-Commerce Sales

According to Zipline Logistics, “when carriers devote trucks to moving high crop volumes, the available capacity diminishes. This yearly phenomenon drives up rates and can affect your ability to book shipments in or out of affected and nearby states.” LTL freight has already entered 2021 with significantly higher demands. Quarantine has driven consumers to fill their carts online. Amazon remained ideally situated to support consumers during the pandemic with an efficient last-mile shipping model and obsession with customer service. Unfortunately, most other major carriers got caught in a capacity crunch. Border closures resulted in a bottle-neck of supply chains and forced some on-the-fly spot rate decisions. The shift from retail stores to individual homes for house-hold purchases put added emphasis on timeliness.

To stay ahead of the many challenges this produce season, freighters will avoid unnecessary losses by turning to 3PL providers for capacity foresight.

Carriers found themselves choosing between paying FTL rates for trailers that were not full and waiting on further LTL shipments. Companies that remain competitive with Amazon will have to change their operations to meet customer expectations amid the rising demands of e-commerce. Shoppers unable to go to a retail shop cannot absorb lengthy delays the same way as a box store can, and with Amazon offering same-day shipping in much of the country, they don’t have to. COVID-19 has exponentially accelerated a generational industry change that was already on its way. Amendments to a business model while running operations are a tall order for any company. To stay ahead of the many challenges this produce season, freighters will avoid unnecessary losses by turning to 3PL providers for capacity foresight.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

We’ve seen that COVID has put pressure on carriers due to its effect on e-commerce trends. Labeled “Operation Warp Speed” by the United States Government, vaccine distribution adds another layer of urgency to shipping logistics. Vials from all approved sources currently require handling without any breaks in the cold chain. Vaccines are a part of the solution to COVID-related slowdowns in the flow of goods, but they also compete for refrigerated capacity.  Security concerns and the unstable nature of the COVID vaccine require constant monitoring, which means two-driver teams. Doubling drivers puts further strain on staffing shortages coming into produce season.

High demand means high value. Carriers who lose or damage shipments will forfeit contracts, profits and industry standing.

The shipment of fragile medical supplies also requires additional training for all who will handle them. COVID-19 is a matter of life and death, so the vaccine has a high demand. High demand means high value. Carriers who lose or damage shipments will forfeit contracts, profits and industry standing. According to information gathered by Heavy Duty Trucking, “WHO estimates nearly 20% of temperature-sensitive healthcare products get damaged during transport, and 25% reach their destination in a degraded state because of breaks in the cold chain”. Refrigerated freight specialists will need impeccable capacity logistics, highly trained drivers, well-maintained fleets and smooth transitions at both load-in and load-out to compete in Operation Warp Speed.

Carriers who possess both the experience and equipment needed to handle the vaccine roll-out is a small percentage of trucking. These companies will find themselves highly sought after as a part of the solution to a virus projected to have claimed 1 million Americans by May 2021.

Investing In Support

Factors such as driver shortages and a massive overhaul in e-commerce are sure to confound already challenging conditions. Investing in 3PL support is the profitable choice for fleets distributing any kind of temperature controlled freight this produce season. BlueGrace is connected to both national and regional carriers with refrigerated capabilities ready to handle your next load. Contact one of our experts today to learn more.

The Logistics Of The Super Bowl

Not even COVID can stop what is according to Supply Chain 247  “the world’s most-watched single sporting event”. As Tampa, Florida prepares to host Super Bowl LV, a litany of logistics experts huddle to make sure wardrobes are the most consequential thing malfunctioning on February 7.

Creating A Super Bowl Experience 

Construction materials leading up to hosting a Super Bowl do need to be transported, but a much larger demand on shipping will be from the cultural traditions that football fans hold for the big game. It’s not Super Bowl Sunday without wings, our favorite drinks and every kind of chip dip imaginable!  

Over 1.25 Billion chicken wings, 28 million pounds of potato chips, 54 million avocados and 50 millions cases of beer will be consumed on what is known as the second biggest eating day of the year. 

With an abundance of demand, goods need to arrive on time to avoid shortages and missed opportunity for profits in retail. 

So whether fans make purchases in or near Stadiums, prior to a gathering at home, or out at their favorite sports bar; consumers are ready to spend for the experience. Food, alcohol, apparel, and decorations will all need to be stocked by retailers. With an abundance of demand, goods need to arrive on time to avoid shortages and missed opportunity for profits in retail. 

Meeting Inventory Demands Through Capacity 

The most important and often the most challenging problem in fulfillment is last-mile delivery. If disaster is going to strike with a carrier, the largest impact this can have is during the transfer from distribution center to storefront. Distribution centers cannot order perishable items too far in advance.  However, if an inbound load is late to the distribution center, stores have the option to order other items from their distribution inventory while still receiving their in demand non-perishables. With interruptions in last-mile delivery, consumables may not reach the shelves in time for the big game surge in purchasing. Retailers do not like losing profits and market share.  

Carriers want to focus on accurate projections in order to make best-fit decisions between FTL and LTL. FTL options are enticing due to their lower spot rates, however LTLs can have a significant cost-benefit advantage when expediting a load is the priority. Unfortunately, carriers can lose the gamble with FTL.  When shippers are in a crunch for time and need to get a load sent out, even if it’s a partial, they may end up paying FTL rates instead of LTL rates, which tend to be decidedly cheaper for the volume of freight being shipped. 

Luckily, resources like visibility and real-time notifications mean that making choices for a reliable supply chain don’t have to feel like betting the farm.

Since retailers are not likely to forget the bad taste in their mouths left by coming up short during a high sales annual event, it may benefit freighters to make the safe wager on last-mile delivery by booking LTL. Luckily, resources like visibility and real-time notifications mean that making choices for a reliable supply chain don’t have to feel like betting the farm. With transparency through technology from BlueGrace, you can take a move out of the NFL’s own Frank Supovitz’s handbook and be prepared for anything this Super Bowl Sunday. 

Do you have questions about your LTL or FTL? Are you curious if you might need help optimizing either for them for your “big game”? Contact our logistics experts at BlueGrace Logistics today and let’s talk more.

Carrying the Cure: The Logistics Of The COVID-19 Vaccine

The first wave of the COVID-19 vaccine has rolled out into communities. First-responders and those who work in high exposure professions are first on the list to get the shot. The two major distributors for the vaccine in the U.S. are Pfizer and Moderna. According to the CDC, the Pfizer vaccine “will arrive at a temperature between -80°C and -60°C (-112°F to -76°F)” and the Moderna vaccine “will arrive frozen between -25°C and -15°C (-13°F and 5°F)”.

Transit Priorities 

In addition to temperature-control needs, freighters will feel the crunch with capacity related constraints. Labeled “Operation Warp Speed” by the United States government, there is pressure on the labor force to transport these doses without delay or damage.  

Security and labor are another consideration companies need to make when meeting this unprecedented need for refrigerated shipping.

Security and labor are another consideration companies need to make when meeting this unprecedented need for refrigerated shipping. According to WSJ, “carriers typically use two-driver teams for such shipments to keep trucks moving and ensure valuable cargo isn’t left unattended.” Of course, this also increases costs by needing to pay a two-driver team for every shipment.  

Monitoring Temperature 

Temperatures need to be checked regularly and recorded each day to account for any excursions. For the most accurate readings, the CDC recommends using a DDL (digital data logger) with a detachable probe.  These probes should be buffered. Teflon®, sand, glycol and glass beads are all appropriate buffering materials for the temperatures required. According to CDC guidelines, monitoring temperatures should include “a temperature log and one of the options below:

  • Option 1: Minimum/Maximum Temperatures (preferred) Most DDLs display the minimum and maximum (min/max) temperatures. Check and record the min/max temperatures at the start of each workday. 
  • Option 2: Current Temperatures –  If the DDL does not display min/max temperatures, check and record the current temperature at the start and end of the workday. Review the continuous DDL temperature data daily.”

For the recommended storage log in Fahrenheit, click here.  To access the CDC recommended Celsius log, click here.

Projected Numbers

Recent estimates show that the number of doses the U.S. has signed up for will require about 632 trucks in 2021. Those numbers have room to grow.  Such narrow error margins with temperature mean replacement orders will happen. Security issues will arise, and the FDA will approve more manufacturers. Unforeseen events have already taken place, like the Wisconsin pharmacist who allegedly ruined a shipment of vaccines under his care.  

It is plausible to assume shipping demands will increase due to the Defense Production Act to expedite the delivery of 100 million vaccines during the first 100 days of President Joe Biden’s incumbency.  

According to information gathered by Heavy Duty Trucking, “WHO estimates nearly 20% of temperature-sensitive healthcare products get damaged during transport, and 25% reach their destination in a degraded state because of breaks in the cold chain”. While these are the present industry standards, the stakes are higher for a vaccine that will prevent a viral infection.

Managing Changes 

Presently, the number of trucking companies with both the equipment and the experience to handle the demands of this roll-out is a small percentage of the industry.  

In an interview with Wall Street Journal,  “Robbie Neilson, chief operating officer of Cavalier Logistics, a freight transport company based in Northern Virginia that specializes in temperature-controlled logistics and is involved in the Covid-19 vaccine distribution efforts” offers his opinion that the industry is well-equipped to handle the challenges. He admitted that the volume is unusual but further explained his confidence. Since this is a global problem, there is high motivation to be a part of the solution. He does not expect capacity constraints to be a significant barrier to success.  

However, not everyone in the industry agrees. Andrew Boyle, co-president of Boyle Transportation, shared his experience with WSJ as well. He says that developing the expertise necessary to work with pharmaceutical companies, obtain certifications to meet global standards for the transportation of medications, and “undergoing extensive quality audits, took us about 10 years. You can’t haul chicken nuggets and then transport oncology drugs”.

It is difficult for companies in any sector to make large changes to logistics.

It is difficult for companies in any sector to make large changes to logistics. To make those changes during unprecedented events can be near impossible. With so many lives on the line, companies would be prudent to invest in third-party logistics support.  Allocating internal efforts towards the training of drivers and cargo handlers will be of the utmost priority. High-end equipment will need to be acquired and maintained. While these are hefty up-front costs, there is an opportunity for companies to make a reputation for themselves.

If you need help raising the standards in refrigerated freight, BlueGrace can help. We provide real-time tracking of our full truckload fleet providers, including any and all temperature-controlled transport partners. With industry expertise and a reliable carrier network, we can secure capacity for you and eliminate common supply chain disruptions. Contact us at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below to request a FREE refrigerated quote today.

 

It’s Cold Outside. What Are My Options to Keep My Freight From Freezing?

Winter is rough on freight for many reasons. Snowstorms and ice can create dangerous travel conditions that delay trucks in the best case scenarios and can bring the supply chain to a screeching halt in the worst.

However, while most people are worried about the tractor-trailer jackknifing in the middle of the highway, most people aren’t considering the condition of the freight itself. Winter weather conditions can damage even the hardiest of freight. However, as most shippers are moving raw materials around, it raises the question: What are my options to keep my freight from freezing? 

Know Your Product

Did you know that freeze-dried goods like coffee and flour are vulnerable to spoilage due to low temperatures? Before you do anything else, it is vitally important to understand what temperature ranges are okay for your freight. Different goods require different temperatures, so what is perfect for one item might be too cold for another.

After all, it doesn’t make sense to spend the extra on specialized equipment for your freight if only certain items will survive the trip.

If you haven’t done so before, now is the time to take stock of your products and get a better understanding of what temperature is safe for your items to travel at. Not every product is rated for the same temperature, and some goods might need to be kept warmer than others. It’s important to make sure that you’re not mixing these types of items on your pallets. After all, it doesn’t make sense to spend the extra on specialized equipment for your freight if only certain items will survive the trip.

Plan Your Route And Keep An Eye On The Weather 

As the cold season runs from December to March, it’s important to plan accordingly. Understanding where your freight is going and what route it will take to get there is important. While California might be fairly warm when the rest of the country is freezing, the Midwest and Upper Northwest states can see temperatures fall to double digits, below zero.

Keep an eye out for any impending weather events that not only can that affect the temperature, but it can also delay your shipment.

Keep an eye out for any impending weather events that not only can that affect the temperature, but it can also delay your shipment. Both of which we are looking to avoid. 

Finding the Right Equipment

The best method to protect your freight from freezing is to utilize the right equipment for the job. Load it onto a temperature-controlled unit, such as a reefer truck or in a heated dry van trailer. A reefer unit is a trailer equipped with a refrigeration unit that controls the trailers’ internal temperature. While these units are typically used to keep goods cold during the summer months, they can also work in reverse, keeping freight at the right temperature even when it’s freezing outside.

Some drivers have the option of parking their trailers in a heated warehouse. This is a great option to take advantage of, especially if the shipment will arrive over the weekend when the loading dock might not be manned until the following business day.

Another option is for the driver to idle their truck. The engine’s small vibrations can actually prevent freight from freezing and can be useful in shorter hauls. This option can also be augmented by using thermal blankets and pallet covers, which can help keep most of the chill off freight during transit. The level of protection necessary will depend on what type of freight is being transported.  

Detail the Bill of Lading 

If you’re shipping temperature-sensitive goods, it’s important to document that on your bill of lading. Many carriers offer a protect from freeze (PFF) option, which can be agreed upon once a carrier accepts a load. If the shipper decides how they want their goods to be protected from the cold, this should be detailed in the BOL. A good rule to follow is the more detail provided, the fewer chances there are of damage to the product.

Additionally, issuing a PFF means that a claim can be filed when the freight arrives at its destination frozen. Otherwise, the shipper is liable to pay the damages to the freight.

Don’t let your freight give you the cold shoulder this winter. Take time to consider how you’re shipping it, where it’s going, and what kind of protection you’ll need to keep it in proper condition.

New Year Resolution: Start Collecting More Data in 2021

Most of us are happy to have put 2020 behind us. A new year means a new start and for most people, that means setting goals of making it out to the gym, cutting back on the indulgences and maybe paying a little more attention to the checkbook. With everything the past year has thrown at us, a fresh start sounds like just the thing the doctor ordered.  

If 2020 has taught businesses anything, it’s that our supply chains are not nearly as secure as we might have once thought.

However, resolutions need not only apply to individuals. A new calendar year is a perfect time to set some goals for your organization and start planning new business strategies. If 2020 has taught businesses anything, it’s that our supply chains are not nearly as secure as we might have once thought. COVID-19 has exposed quite a few vulnerabilities in both the procurement and distribution process of goods and materials and the overall transportation process. As many organizations have scrambled to find alternative suppliers and quick solutions to the myriad of problems that cropped up from the pandemic, now is the time to reflect on what we’ve learned and begin to implement a more robust system to be better prepared for when such disruptions happen again in the future.  

So what should the number one resolution be for every organization that is responsible for managing a supply chain? As you might have guessed from the title, it’s time to start collecting more data. 

The Big Benefits of Big Data 

Over the past two decades, information technology has grown by leaps and bounds, which, considering how outdated most practices are in the freight industry, it’s a welcome change.

For starters, the process of digitalization means that companies are moving away from paper logs and forms, countless emails and phone calls, and are automating their processes. Not only does this result in fewer human errors (a missing form here and a mis-click there), but it expedites the entire process of booking and shipping freight, allowing organizations to operate more smoothly and efficiently.

However, the benefits of this process don’t stop there. Digitalization also creates the opportunity to collect data that would otherwise fall into the unknown. That data is what creates the necessary visibility into your supply chain and day-to-day operations to truly understand what’s happening behind the scenes.  

In the past, companies have simply operated blindly. A carrier was booked, the cargo was moved, it arrived where it needed to go, maybe late, maybe on-time. Job done. However, in today’s marketplace, that’s not enough as the “Amazon Effect” has pushed customer expectations to new heights. Consumers aren’t content to order their package and wait. They want real-time updates as to where their goods are; they want ultra-fast delivery times; they want it for free (or as close to free as possible), and they want it now.  

Simply put, good data drives better service. 

In the B2B world, shipments must be on time, in full, or shippers run the risk of getting hit with fines, penalties, and chargebacks. Not to mention the risk of losing preferred supplier status, which is a major hit when dealing with big retailers like Wal-Mart. With competition tighter than ever for just about any industry, providing that insight isn’t just a nicety, it’s a necessity. Simply put, good data drives better service.  

How Do I Collect More Data? 

This is one of the most important questions every company needs to be asking themselves. The supply chain is capable of generating vast amounts of data, in some cases, too much. There are a few problems with this. First problem is that the data either gets overlooked, or siloed away where it doesn’t serve any other purpose than consuming bandwidth. Companies that ignore their data miss out on some significant opportunities to improve their operations and reduce their overall operating costs.

Without a focal point and clear goal, too much data is just as bad as not enough data. 

The second issue is that even if companies begin collecting the data, they end up getting lost. This is known as “analysis paralysis” a state in which so much data comes flooding in and there is no conceivable means of separating what’s good from what’s not. Without a focal point and clear goal, too much data is just as bad as not enough data. 

This brings us to the third point, oftentimes there is no clear goal or direction to go with the data. Data analytics is a powerful tool that can push shippers to new levels of operational efficiency if they know which direction to go with it.  

To that end, many shippers decide to bring in help from outside their organization either by working with a third party logistics provider or by incorporating a transportation management system (TMS).

A TMS is key in helping you mine valuable data from your supply chain, which increases your operational visibility and offers insights into areas where your company can improve. But it also goes beyond that. A TMS can also reduce your operational costs, which, given what we’ve seen from 2020, will be an essential survival strategy for every company going forward into the new year.  

The good news is, implementing a TMS into your organization doesn’t have to be a costly or disruptive endeavor, and the benefits that can be realized from both the supply chain optimization and the cost reduction are significant. Moreover, the data collected from utilizing a transportation management system can create an insight into your organization that you might not have had otherwise. That insight is both powerful and necessary should you decide to take your resolution a step further and perform an internal audit of your operations.  

The New Year is just around the corner, so it’s time to start making your resolutions and more importantly, planning to make them a reality. Request your FREE Supply Chain Analysis today!

The Impact Of The Amazon Effect On Traditional Freight Transport

Before the e-commerce segment rose to mainstream relevance, the retail industry’s logistics part had seen little disruption over decades preceding it, sandwiched between opaque workflows and stifling inefficiencies. That said, the consequential impact that e-commerce has on the workings of the supply chain today would not have been possible without the online retail behemoth Amazon and the ‘Amazon effect’ that lies in its wake.

In essence, Amazon obsessed over its customers.

Put simply, the Amazon effect is the evolution of supply chains from looking at end consumers as ‘yet another’ part of the value chain to putting them at the center of their operations. In essence, Amazon obsessed over its customers, aligning its product offerings and services to ensure the highest standards in parcel delivery experiences.

Subsequently, the consistent efforts of Amazon to provide impeccable delivery fulfillment to its customers snowballed to create an environment where expedited shipping became a parameter that set businesses apart from their market competitors. Eventually, this led businesses to start looking at delivering faster and keeping their customers in the loop on last-mile parcel movement.

While the need for visibility and expedited shipping have long been an expectation within the supply chain industry, they are not possible without digitalization.

While the need for visibility and expedited shipping have long been an expectation within the supply chain industry, they are not possible without digitalization. In many ways, digitalization within the freight industry can be inferred as the direct consequence of e-commerce. Data in supply chains remains frozen within siloed operations, as companies continue to cut off their data streams and not gain insights by feeding them to data-driven algorithms.

Meanwhile, consumer expectations within e-commerce have overflown from its business to consumer (B2C) segment to the business to business (B2B) segment of freight logistics, where shippers are increasingly expecting better experiences while moving freight. Shippers often rationalize their visibility requirements, contending that when Amazon could show them precision location status of individual parcels, fleets could afford to track entire containers.


Amazon effect’s impact on inventory levels

The e-commerce segment differs from the traditional retail industry in the way the former reduces the number of intermediary nodes within supply chains connecting the manufacturer with the end consumer.

Traditional retail moves products through several nodes in the supply chain, including manufacturers, distribution centers, and retail inventories, before selling to end consumers in retail outlets. E-commerce compresses this value chain, cutting out the retail inventories and storefronts, and replacing it with a multitude of last-mile delivery models.

As e-commerce bites into the physical retail market, there is a steady shift in the size of inventories and the way they are held. The depth in e-commerce offerings has translated into an increase in the variety of products stocked in inventories, inevitably showing up as an expansion in overall inventory volumes.

However, the inventory volume increase is not proportional to the expected increase. Shortening of lead times can be one of the reasons for the inventory volumes to not increase to expected levels. That apart, while logistics stakeholders look to stock products that are in demand, they also opt to stock limited quantities and not worry about overstocking due to short lead times. This way, companies also reduce the risk of stocking product lines that have become obsolete. Obsolete product lines are a real possibility as product demand is an extension of consumer interest in a said offering, which can abruptly change in a matter of days.

This is especially true of electronics, where older versions witness a rapid fall in demand as improved versions hit the market. The ease of e-commerce makes it easier for manufacturers to approach the market without intermediaries, increasing the chances of entire product lines being trashed due to a better alternative mushrooming in the market.


Last-mile delivery disrupted by the Amazon effect

Amazon’s customer obsession has ensured that the last-mile segment is one of the primary differentiators for delivery fulfillment within the e-commerce market. The last-mile is expected to be nimble, with the gravity of consumer expectations making it one of the crucial parts of freight movement.

Retailers are reevaluating their supply chains, attempting to consistently improve their customers’ delivery experiences. Technology has come to the rescue, with several additions being made to the way the last-mile is handled, including automated delivery bots and VTOL drones. Dynamic route optimization is part of a last-mile delivery company’s arsenal, with delivery vans given routing instructions based on parameters like location, parcel specification, and delivery time windows.

or logistics at large, there are two main operational costs – inventory and freight.

For logistics at large, there are two main operational costs – inventory and freight. While expenses on inventory and freight are comparable, the Amazon effect has successfully pushed scales towards freight costs – courtesy, an inordinate increase in air freight movement due to expedited shipping options. However, with the last-mile almost exclusively fulfilled over the road, the trucking industry would inevitably continue being impacted by the ubiquitous Amazon Effect.

Intra-Canada vs. Cross Border Freight: Understanding the Difference

As any shipper can tell you, it’s decidedly easier to ship domestic than it is to ship across the border. When crossing the border into Canada, you add several other variables that you have to consider when booking freight. This changes from situation to situation. For example, if you’re shipping freight cross-border from the U.S to Canada, there are different variables to consider when you’re shipping intra-Canada.

Intra-Canada freight, by definition, is the shipment of goods from one Canada address to another Canada address or, more simply put, the shipment both begins and ends in Canada. This is different from cross-border freight, which has Canada as either the origin or the destination, but not both.


Different Shipments Mean Different Taxes

The actual locomotion of freight aside, one of the most significant differences between the two is that intra-Canada shipments, ones that start and stop in Canadian provinces, are taxed differently. Each province has a different breakdown of what taxes will be applied to the shipment. Typically, a province will use one of (or a combination of) the following three tax codes:

  • GST – Goods and Services Tax
  • HST – Harmonized Sales Tax
  • PST – Provincial Sales Tax

Interestingly, Quebec has its own unique tax code, the QST, or Quebec Sales tax, which only applies to shipments with an origin and destination with Quebec. Aside from that, all provinces use some combination of the previously mentioned taxes for intra-Canada freight, with a slight variation in the percentages between the different provinces.


The Timing of Currency Conversion

Much the same as other countries, Canada has its own currency, and with it comes more complications for shippers. Currency conversion becomes an issue when a shipper decides to pay for their shipment in Canadian dollars. If your TMS doesn’t support currency conversion, it becomes a tedious and manual auditing process to ensure that everything is paid for and handled properly. Specifically, it’s a matter of determining when the currency needs to be converted during the shipment process because the foreign exchange rate can vary daily.

This needs to be reconciled both for the sake of customer service and to ensure that all of the appropriate taxes are being paid completely and in a timely fashion.

It also means that what a customer is quoted at the beginning of the shipping process doesn’t include the applicable sales taxes from the various processes. While that’s generally understood for Canadian customers, it can lead to discrepancies between a Customer’s invoice and a Carriers invoice. This needs to be reconciled both for the sake of customer service and to ensure that all of the appropriate taxes are being paid completely and in a timely fashion.


Bringing You a Better Option for Canadian Freight

No system is complete when it first roles out and, if it is, then it quickly becomes obsolete as time progresses. At BlueGrace, we are dedicated to making sure that we have a robust system in place to help facilitate your shipment needs. In this case, it means updating our user interface and our processes to help make your Canadian books quick, accurate, and easy.

If you’d like to learn more about the processes we’ve updated, implemented, or changed, check out our Intra-Canada Freight webinar below.

The LTL Process And Your Business: 10 Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments can be a perfect augment to your shipping abilities, especially when you don’t have enough freight to send a full truckload but don’t want to delay a shipment. However, as with anything, the more moving parts you have, the more opportunities you have for things to go wrong.

The bad news is, LTL mistakes are pretty common, and those mistakes can add up quickly, eroding your shipping budget. The good news is, these mistakes are rather easy to avoid. Here is a list of the ten most common mistakes shippers make when shipping LTL freight as well as solutions to correct the problem.


Going it Alone

Most organizations have a “can-do” attitude about everything within their organization. While the spirit of independence is great, it can also create a near-sightedness within their operations. In order to save money, many shippers attempt to manage all of their LTL shipments on their own, which leaves plenty of opportunities to make mistakes.

Solution: Simply put, you’re not going to be good at everything you do. Freight brokers and 3PLs are a fantastic addition to your company. Freight brokers can help you to consolidate LTL shipments into FTLs, saving lots of money and reducing the environmental impact of shipping. 3PLs, on the other hand, are dedicated logistics managers, and can take the bulk of that responsibility off your shoulders letting you focus on your day to day operations.


Not Insuring Your Freight

Theft, traffic accidents, and natural disasters; any one of these potential incidents is waiting to attack your freight, leaving your company to pay for the damages.

Solution: Just like your car and your body, insurance is there to cover the result of a “what if” becoming a reality. Having the right amount of coverage can give your company peace of mind during a shipment, as well as protect your profit margins should the worst come to pass.


Loose Loads Means Damaged Product

Typically, an LTL shipment will go through multiple locations, being loaded and unloaded from a number of different trucks until it reaches it’s final destination. Until we find a way to break the laws of physics, shipping freight will always run the risk of damage. When a truck has to stop short, or rounds a corner too quickly, anything loose essentially becomes a projectile and no amount of packing peanuts will protect the product within.

Solution: Palletize your freight. While it might add to your process time, it will protect your freight during shipment, making sure it all gets to its destination in the best possible condition.


“Where’s this going again?”

It happens to the best of us. Data entry errors can easily result in a costly delay of your shipment.

Solution: Double check your shipping addresses (both beginning and final)before any shipment is scheduled. It sounds obvious, but you might be surprised by the number of shipments that end up in the wrong location because of this.


What Happens when You Assume

Delivery schedules are nice because it gives you a time frame as to when your package will arrive at its intended destination. A common mistake shippers make is to assume that freight will arrive by the estimated delivery date.

Solution: Employing a visibility software solution or utilizing those of a 3PL partner can give you accurate, real-time data that allows you to see where your shipment is during all phases of transit. You’ll know where it is and when it will arrive, allowing you to better communicate this information with your customers. Guaranteed delivery dates can also help to ensure a timely delivery.


Don’t Ignore Ground Freight

Many shippers believe that air freight is always faster. That’s not always true.

Solution: Every mode of transportation has its strengths and weaknesses. Depending on where it’s going, ground freight can actually be faster and more efficient than air freight (not to mention cheaper)! Explore all your options and choose the best one for your freight.


The “Set it and Forget it”

This is fine for a rotisserie chickenbut not a good habit for your freight. Shippers tend to trust their carriers implicitly and believe that shipments will be fine once it’s loaded on the truck.

Solution: Again, visibility is key. Working with a software that allows you to follow the progress of your shipment and get up-to-date notifications of the delivery process will allow you to adjust your supply chain accordingly.


Paying Too Much For Shipping

Rates fluctuate on the regular, and are influenced by a number of ever changing factors. Shippers can easily blow their shipping budget by shipping freight with the wrong carrier.

Solution: Shopping for rates can be a time consuming endeavor. Use a shipping platform that allows you to compare all the rates of carriers in one place so you can pick the right carrier at the right price.


Choosing the Wrong Service

When deadlines get tight, mistakes happen. Too many mistakes can leave a customer with a bad taste in their mouth.

Solution: It’s good business to ensure that your customer’s shipping expectations are met. Do your best to not only find the best rate for you, but also the best solution for your customer’s needs. Sometimes paying a little extra on your end is best if it keeps a good customer coming back for more.


“Guess the Size. Win a Prize!”

This is one of the most common errors shippers can make and is one of the most easily avoidable. LTL carriers charge based on dimensions, weight, and density of a package.

Solution: Make sure you collect your freight dimensions and certify them if possible. Armed with that, it’s easier to refute a re-class fee if the carrier decides that your package isn’t in spec.

Why Choose BlueGrace for Your LTL Shipments?

Looking for a comprehensive solution to your LTL woes? Thinking about incorporating a new strategy and opportunities with your LTL business? Look no further than to Bluegrace Logistics. A market leader with a robust LTL platform, our Blueship LTL technology allows clients tools that many suppliers don’t have. 

Bluegrace can give shippers options to select their carrier based on various attributes such as transit time and costs to name a few.  Tracking is visible through our Blueship tool via EDI and API connectivity.  

If LTL is something you would like to get off your plate and into the hands of experts please message us today to begin your discovery discussion.

The Supply Chain of the Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree has become one of the most iconic staples of the holiday season. While the origins of the evergreen tree stems back much further, Christmas tree sales in the United States began in 1850. Now, every year 25 to 30 million Christmas trees are sold in the United States. This is perhaps one of the most unique even as far as seasonal logistics are concerned and it’s not without its own set of challenges.

Every year 25 to 30 million Christmas trees are sold in the United States.

Before we get into the logistical challenges however, here are some interesting facts about the Christmas tree that you might not have known:

  • There are 15,000 specialized farms for growing Christmas trees based in every state, and most are located in the Northern States, such as Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, New York and Virginia.
  • There are many different species of trees used for Christmas trees, including fir, pine, spruce, cypress, and cedar.
  • Americans purchase more live Christmas trees annually than artificial ones, according to statista.com’s early November report that tracked sales of both from 2004 through 2019. Yet, the gulf between the two camps has narrowed since 2004, when 27.1 million real trees were sold versus 9 million fake trees. In 2018, the numbers were 32.8 million real to 23.6 million fake.
  • Approximately $2 to $3 billion in revenue is generated annually from the sale of Christmas trees.
  • Faux, Fake, or Artificial Christmas Trees were first produced in 1930 by the Addis Brush Company and used the same kind of bristles used for manufacturing toilet bowl brushes.

How are Christmas Trees Shipped?

Despite the fact that more Americans are buying artificial trees these days, that doesn’t stop the massive sales of real trees. Because they are a living plant, they require special shipping conditions which can make transportation more complicated. Christmas trees are moved in either dry vans or refrigerated trucks with temperature control. Due to the need for moisture, the longer the distance a tree has to travel the less likely it is to survive the trip in saleable condition, which applies to both replantable whole trees, as well as cut trees. Additionally, because plants are sensitive to wind and weather conditions, flatbed trucks aren’t an option for long-distance hauls.

Christmas trees are moved in either dry vans or refrigerated trucks with temperature control.

Due to the difficulties and the high likelihood of damage to the product, many carriers refuse to take on the challenge of shipping live trees. Other carriers are out simply due to the lack of required equipment to keep the trees alive and healthy during their travel.

Supply Chain Challenges for Christmas Trees

In addition to the necessary equipment needed to transport Christmas trees, there are several other obstacles and challenges that come with the tree’s supply chain. A perishable product with a 60 to 90-day lifecycle is one thing, but demand really only lasts for a month. Additionally, Christmas trees involve a lot of one-way logistics with remote pick-up locations. Because the locations are remote and export only there are no back-hauls, so there is a considerable amount of deadheaded miles involved during the trip, something most carriers want to avoid. Christmas trees also involve a lot of difficult urban deliveries which can complicate the route and add even more time to the delivery route.

And all of this is happening during the holiday season, while there is a driver shortage issue in the United States.

The Supply Chain Disruption

For tree farms, Christmas tree logistics can be a nightmare. However, the issues with Christmas tree logistics create issues for other industries as well during this time of the year. Because of such a narrow window of demand, tree farms book their capacity well in advance out of necessity due to a smaller supply of the necessary equipment to haul the trees. However, as this is going on, retailers across the country are gearing up for one of the busiest times of the year as the Holiday sales begin to ramp up. As a result, capacity gets scarce and rates begin to skyrocket as every company labors to get their deliveries made on time.

For shippers, the high demand caused by tree sales could end up affecting their own freight forecasting and budgeting.

So what can shippers do to prevent having their supply chain be disrupted during the holiday season?

Carrier contracts are also a good bet as a contracted rate can protect your budget during peak seasons of demand. Additionally, shippers should consider working with a 3PL that can help to connect them with available capacity, especially during a time when freight space is going for a premium. Lastly, if you haven’t before, consider implementing a transportation management system (TMS) into your ERP or existing legacy systems. This allows shippers to readily see what carriers are available and see what the current rates are instantly, which removes the time consuming process of endless calls, emails, and other inquiries.

What Makes The BlueGrace Logistics Blog A 1st Place Winner?

On December 4, 2020 the BlueGrace Logistics Blog was awarded 1st and 4th place in the 2020 Logistics Brief MVP Blog Awards. We could not be happier with this recognition, but more importantly we are happy to be able to deliver valuable content to the logistics industry week after week.

How Was The Award Decided?

According to Logistics Brief the criteria is as follows: Logistics Brief brings together the best content from hundreds of industry thought-leaders. These awards will recognize the Most Valuable Posts as judged by our readers, award committee, and our machine intelligence and social media. We will recognize the posts that provide the highest value to industry professionals – useful and actionable information, that is tactical or strategic in nature, providing either long-term or short-term value.

Thank You Our Readers And Our Content Team!

We would like to thank all the readers who voted for us! We appreciate that you find our content valuable enough to award. We look forward to continuing to provide exceptional content in the future.

Our marketing department and team of writers strive to develop content that helps our customers, carriers, and shippers learn what is important in the logistics space. Our content can help you save money, time and frustration by informing you on the newest technology, trends and issues in logistics and supply chain.

The Best Of 2020

Normally in January we produce an email and blog post to highlight some of the most popular blog posts of the last year. We have decided since we have won these awards, it would be best to do it now, starting with the 2 blog posts that were voted on by Logistic Brief readers

#1 – 2020 Logistics Brief MVP Award for Other Category

There was no bigger news story in 2020 than the COVID-19 pandemic. How the pandemic affected business and especially logistics was full of new lessons and shifts in how we worked, conducted business and lived our lives. The toilet paper shortage was something no one could have predicted and unlike anything consumers had ever seen. Our readers enjoyed reading our view of how and why it happened. Click the image below to read the post.

#4 – 2020 Logistics Brief MVP Award for Freight Category

This blog post was partnered with our Whitepaper on Hurricane Preparedness that was one of our most popular downloads of 2020. Click the image below to read the post.

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Top 3 From 2020

Here is a list of the 3 most popular blog posts that we published in 2020 in order. Click on any of the images to read the post and we look forward to providing you with more of our award winning content in 2021!

Help Wanted: The 2020 Seasonal Logistics Hiring Boom

The seasonal shopping madness is already underway as retailers begin priming their customers for the holidays. 2020 has, without a doubt, been one of the strangest years for just about everything. The global pandemic, a myriad of natural disasters, and a tense presidential election will very likely mean that consumers are going “all out” for the holidays, and companies like Amazon and Walmart are happy to help them with their purchase needs.

Many retailers, including Target and Walmart continuing through the month to meet the needs of online shopping.

Because there are still global restrictions and precautions in place due to COVID-19, we can expect to see a surge in e-commerce and retail sales. For example, Amazon’s Prime day, which usually takes place in July, happened in October this year. While Amazon hasn’t released their total sales figures, they did say that third party sellers on the marketplace earned over $3.5 billion. Black Friday looks to be on target as one of the biggest Black Friday ever, in terms of sales. Many retailers, including Target and Walmart continuing through the month to meet the needs of online shopping.

These companies are bracing for the massive capacity crunch, which could affect up to 7 million packages per day, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The real question is whether or not logistics companies will have the necessary capacity to deliver all of these orders. Even big players in the game, FexEx and UPS have already reached capacity. With the bulk of orders still to come, retailers and logistics companies alike are telling customers to shop and ship earlier than ever before. These companies are bracing for the massive capacity crunch, which could affect up to 7 million packages per day, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

All Hands on Deck at Amazon

To make sure they are ready for the holiday rush, Amazon has announced that they will be hiring 100,000 workers.

Amazon is a giant machine with an uncountable number of moving parts. To make sure they are ready for the holiday rush, Amazon has announced that they will be hiring 100,000 workers. While they didn’t say if these workers will be seasonal specific or full-hires, the goal is to flesh out Amazon’s logistics and fulfillment network. Amazon is offering a minimum starting wage of $15/hr and up to $1,000 sign on bonus in some markets to entice warehouse and delivery workers. Amazon also plans to open 100 additional buildings across it’s fulfillment, sortation, and delivery network. The e-commerce giant intends to bolster their capacity by upwards of 50 percent by the start of the peak season to meet the uptick in demand.

UPS ups Their Workforce

UPS is also looking to bring in 100,000 seasonal employees to prepare for the holiday season.

UPS is also looking to bring in 100,000 seasonal employees to prepare for the holiday season. Much like Amazon, the UPS ranks have already swelled at the beginning of the year to meet the logistics needs of the e-commerce boom caused by the pandemic.  During the second quarter of 2020, UPS saw a 23 percent growth of package volume over the same time last year which forced the company to bring on an additional 39,000 workers. The shipping deadlines for UPS are December 15 UPS Ground, December 21 UPS 3 Day Select, December 22 UPS 2nd Day Air, and December 23 UPS Next Day Air. UPS will also impose surcharges ranging from $1 to $3 per package on high-volume US residential shippers.

FedEx is Growing its Capabilities

FedEx will expand its Sunday home delivery service to cover nearly 95 percent of the U.S. population.

In addition to the 75,000 seasonal workers hired for 2020, a 27 percent increase from last year, FedEx is putting more effort into growing its delivery capabilities. The company will expand its Sunday home delivery service to cover nearly 95 percent of the U.S. population. FexEx will also be increasing Ground’s network capacity and expanding the coverage radius of FedEx Freight Direct service. The shipping deadlines for FedEx are December 15 for FedEx Ground, December 22 for FedEx 2Day, December 23 for FedEx Standard Overnight, and December 25 for FedEx Same Day. FedEx will also be applying peak season surcharges to high-volume shippers, ranging from $1 to $5 depending volume.

The USPS Freight Prediction

The United States Postal service will bring on it’s usual 35,000 to 40,000 seasonal workers for positions

The Postal service is preparing for the busy season, with an expected 15 billion pieces of mail and 800 million packages. The United States Postal service will bring on it’s usual 35,000 to 40,000 seasonal workers for positions such as mail handlers, holiday clerk assistants, and mail processing clerks. USPS, like FexEx, is working on a different angle, and will be pushing its Click-N-Ship feature, allowing users to order free Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage, and request free next-day package pick up. The USPS urges customers to plan accordingly as it predicts that December 14th will be the busiest day online with more than 13 million customers predicted to be on the postal service website for help with shipping holiday gifts. USPS shipping deadlines include December 18 for First-Class Mail and packages, December 19 for Priority Mail, and December 23 for Priority Mail Express.

Preparing for the Surge

This was one of the earliest holiday season kick offs ever, not to mention the biggest one to date. It is estimated that holiday spending will reach $1.15 trillion, a 1 to 1.5 percent increase from 2019. This year will see a dramatic increase in online sales as more and more customers avoid brick and mortar stores. Even with the increased personnel and investments in increased infrastructure, it’s unclear as to whether or not retailers will be able to handle the strain of increasing sales volumes. Even after the holidays are over, demand will still be radically steep as the post-holiday reverse logistics debacle begins. 

About BlueGrace

When companies want superior supply chain management services and best-in-class technology, they turn to BlueGrace. Why? Our progressive approach to transportation management helps customers of all sizes drive savings and simplicity into their supply chains.

But that’s only part of the story, because your success doesn’t depend on shipments and deliveries alone. To thrive, it needs dependable relationships between customers, carriers, and logistics experts. When Bobby Harris founded BlueGrace in 2009, he saw that even the top logistics firms were overlooking the true heart of their job. So, he built a company that put its people and its customers before profit. The proof of that is evident in our core values, our caring culture, our countless community efforts, and in the heartfelt testimonials from our customers.

We’re Hiring!

Looking for a job that’s miles away from ordinary? Do you want to work in a place where your voice will be heard and your passions celebrated? Do you want a career in one of the fastest growing business sections in the U.S? Why not join the BlueGrace team?

We’re always on the lookout for the humble and caring, the motivated and driven, the bold and talented – for those who want to have fun while contributing to the growth of a nation-leading company. Sound like you? Apply today!

How Technology Can Enhance Your Supply Chain In Four Ways

Supply chain disruptions are just a part of doing business. Seasonal events such as holiday shopping, black swan weather events, geopolitical tensions, and, in the case of 2020, a global pandemic. Anyone of these disruptions can cause a slow down in your supply chain and any combination of them can bring it to a screeching halt. Especially when that disruption has the ability to affect the entire world.

Nearly 75% of U.S. companies reported supply chain disruptions due to coronavirus-related issues.

According to a March survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Chain Management, nearly 75% of U.S. companies reported supply chain disruptions due to coronavirus-related issues. Before COVID-19 broke loose, most industries haven’t really felt the need to test their supply chain resiliency, or at least not to the extent that it is being tested now. Today, supply chain resiliency has taken on a new meaning and now includes aspects such as geographical diversification, visibility, and surplus capacity. These new considerations extend from raw materials to finished goods. 

What organizations needed from the outset of the pandemic, and will continue to need for the foreseeable future, is a reliable means of predicting COVID-19 cases as well as their current supply levels, product burn rates, and possible obstacles to sourcing materials.

As most companies haven’t found a reliable means to practice divination we’ve found that, with the right technology and data, this is possible.

As most companies haven’t found a reliable means to practice divination we’ve found that, with the right technology and data, this is possible. Here are four ways technology can help your organization build a stronger, more proactive supply chain. 

1.   Drive Comprehensive Supply Chain Visibility

Growth in global trade over recent decades has given rise to ever-increasing levels of complexity in supply chains. Few organizations likely evaluate the total network of manufacturers, distributors, and other logistics professionals who are all accountable for ensuring that the journey from raw material to delivered finished goods runs smoothly.

Yet 68% of product disruptions are a result of poor demand signaling. Global pandemic notwithstanding, the overall health and success of a supply chain rely on the ability to access accurate data with transparency into the whole of the supply chain. 

The health care supply chain is a perfect example. Early 2020 saw the initial outbreak of the Coronavirus and a drastic spike in demand. This was coupled with export bans from countries that supply more than 80 percent of the raw materials that are used to create personal protective equipment which created widespread shortages. In many hotspots around the world, supplies went from two-week worth of PPE supplies in February to only a few days’ worth by March.

Real-time data on the total supply chain enables organizations to accurately identify the intersection of demand and supply

Real-time data on the total supply chain enables organizations to accurately identify the intersection of demand and supply, secure product more effectively and sustainably, and better ascertain the potential risks with suppliers. Using a trusted supply-chain analytics platform delivers the reliable and precise data needed for organizations to identify areas of product vulnerability and introduce safeguards, whether it be a small disruption or something on the scale we’re seeing with COVID.

2.   Properly Managing a Complex Supplier Network

Within any multifaceted organization lies the beating heart of a complex supply network which consists of thousands of vendors working across multiple sites and regions that provide supplies and supporting operations. For example, an integrated health care system master vendor list can include upward of 6,000 distinct organizations, suppliers, vendors, and manufacturers.

Given the complexity, it is understandable that many organizations lack the ability to manage thousands of suppliers and their associated contacts

Given the complexity, it is understandable that many organizations lack the ability to manage thousands of suppliers and their associated contacts, proactively track services performed, and manage timely invoicing and payments.

To better manage the sheer multitude of vendors and reduce the overall risk of shortages and disruptions, organizations need a holistic strategy that typically includes the enlistment of a 3PL partner. Third-party logistics service providers can offer a procurement platform that leverages real-time data to more accurately manage vendor contracts, provide service verifications, automate invoicing and payments, manage overall supply chain costs, and improve the efficiency of the supply chain as a whole.

3.   Pinpoint and Engage Diverse Supply Chain Partners

Supplier diversity is a facet of the supply chain that has often taken a back seat to overall operations. However, as many organizations have had to learn the hard way, diversification is crucial to mitigating disruption.

While large companies are great for churning out products at a steady rate, small community businesses can help to fill in the gaps of your supply chain

While large companies are great for churning out products at a steady rate, small community businesses can help to fill in the gaps of your supply chain. Due to their size and agility, these companies can turn out projects with quick deadlines, as well as provide value-added services and products on a regular basis. For the healthcare industry, supplier diversity is essential, as it improves inclusiveness and equity, builds trust between patients and providers, and improves health outcomes for patients.

3PLs can help to solve this problem by linking you to a network of dedicated and reliable service providers, such as carriers

The challenge, however, is finding and vetting quality service providers, which is often difficult for larger companies, regardless of industry. 3PLs can help to solve this problem by linking you to a network of dedicated and reliable service providers, such as carriers, from their pool of trusted professionals, which allows your company to build a stronger supply network while reducing operations spending.

4.   Using Technology to Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan

The pandemic has caused a surge in demand across a wide variety of industries, as consumers have increased web orders across all e-commerce shopping platforms, a trend that will only continue to grow as we approach the holiday season and continue to see a resurgence in the spread of COVID-19 around the world. However, demand surges aren’t just limited to the pandemic, but can be triggered by black swan weather events such as hurricanes and winter weather.

These surges cause a significant jump in spot rates, which can throw your transportation budget completely out of balance.

These surges cause a significant jump in spot rates, which can throw your transportation budget completely out of balance. Not only do these spot rate jumps take months to return to pre-disaster levels, but the overall capacity shortage created by the demand hike can disrupt and delay the flow of your supply chain.

The technology systems that come with the right 3PL partner can not only help you improve your disaster response, but also help you find capacity when you need it most.

Strengthening Your Supply Chain with BlueGrace

With a technology-enabled supply chain, organizations can better allocate critical products and supplies while saving money, time, and―in some cases―lives.

Since 2009, our passion for logistics has helped shippers connect with carriers and keep our customers’ supply chains moving. We are dedicated to developing cutting edge, best in class technology that helps to drive savings, visibility, and efficiency into your operations. Contact us today to learn more about how BlueGrace can help your business not only survive these trying times, but thrive.

Preparing for 2020’s “Shipageddon”

2020 has been different from the norm in just about every single way imaginable, so it should come as no surprise that freight is going off the rails. This year we’re seeing big box retailers like Target and Walmart opening their Black Friday deals decidedly earlier than usual. Amazon, of course, has been leading the way in e-commerce sales for the better part of the year as quarantine and lock down restrictions forced many shoppers to go online, rather than in-store.

As we approach the holiday season, it is expected for cargo freight demand to rise to accommodate holiday shoppers.

As we approach the holiday season, it is expected for cargo freight demand to rise to accommodate holiday shoppers. This year, however, we’re also seeing a historic rise in import volumes measured in TEU (twenty foot equivalent unit) especially on lanes from Asia to the Pacific Coast. Containers and container spaces on ships are sold out and there is now a shortage of available containers in Asia for goods coming to the US. This leads to higher rates, longer lead times, congestion at the ports and higher rates for trucking and rail out of major port markets, especially Southern CA.

“To give you a sense of the demand right now, we are turning away  — each week  — more cargo than we are carrying,” revealed Matson CEO Matt Cox, referring to the scramble for slots on his company’s two China-U.S. services.

Holiday Cargo is Still Moving

When you have a massive amount of freight coming in by sea, it then has to be transferred over to land based carriers. Higher port congestion will create delays, bottlenecks, and an overall lag in the supply chain process. Again, this isn’t anything new for the holiday season. However, more holiday cargo is still being shipped and container and ocean freight space is still being oversold or cancelled. This situation could lead to the perfect storm scenario being dubbed “Shipageddon” in which freight doesn’t make it across the Pacific on time. Cox didn’t say anything to assuage such fears.


“What typically happens is that sort of by the end of October, most of what is going to make its way into the holiday-season shopping cycle will have arrived. That’s not what we’re seeing,” he warned.

“We’re seeing significant congestion in Asia. Although I’m not talking about Matson, we’re seeing cargo that wants to get on a ship that’s being rolled [pushed back to a subsequent sailing]. And we’re seeing the other international ocean carriers put in additional extra loaders [ships not in the normal service rotation]. This is not a typical season. There’s such demand for cargo. Many of our customers can’t keep up with the demand and cargo is back-ordered. For all of those reasons, we’re expecting to see the season extended. To when is the big question.”

Land Freight is About to be Buried

As we mentioned early, what arrives by sea must be shipped by land, be it to a retailer or a distribution center. With this massive uptick in ocean freight, we’re going to see a massive surge in truck freight for both the full truckload (FTL) and the less-than-truckload (LTL) sectors.

In addition to ocean freight space being well overbooked, there are other drivers for this potential shipping doomsday scenario.

Inventory Restocking Freight: While the holidays mean more toys, seasonal, and giftable merchandise, there are still the standard everyday items that stores need to carry for consumers. As we get closer to the holidays, retailers are hitting stockouts and empty shelves faster than ever. To complicate matters, investment bank Evercore ISI released a survey finding that shows 90 percent of respondents said their inventory levels were either “too low” or “a little too low” which suggests that the capacity shortage will continue, if not worsen, for sometime.

Higher than Average Holiday Spending: This year will also mark a potential rise in holiday spending that could range anywhere from a 1.9 percent increase in consumer spending to a 3.5 percent increase, pending the release of an effective pandemic relief bill and the release of a successful COVID-19 vaccine, according to RetailDive.

Holiday Shopping is starting Earlier and Lasting Longer: As we mentioned earlier, major retailers have begun their Black Friday deals well in advance of the typical holiday. Walmart has announced their “deals for days” holidays sales campaign, in which holiday sales will go on for the entire month of November. Target, and Amazon have also responded similarly, and it can be expected to continue right into the Holidays.

Last Mile Delivery is At Capacity: Major carriers such as UPS, FedEx, and the USPS, have had massive seasonal hiring events to try and bring in enough personnel to accommodate the influx in demand. Even with the staggering amount of seasonal workers to process, pack, and ship incoming packages, these carriers are warning consumers to shop now and ship earlier if they want to have their items arrive before the holidays. 

What Does this Mean for Shippers?

For shippers based in the United States, it’s about to be a bumpy ride. Capacity rates are going to be at a premium and even then, might not be available. To make matters worse, there is no way of telling just how long this is going to last, or how much worse it will get. It is important that shippers begin preparing immediately for what will be one of the busiest holiday seasons in memory.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. We here at BlueGrace are also making preparations for the holiday season and are ready to help you connect with carriers to ensure your freight gets to where it needs to be. Find out more about what BlueGrace can do for you and your supply chain today!

Will Q4 of 2020 Change the Way We Look at Bid Season?

If it were a normal year, the fourth quarter would bring a steady increase in trucking rates. However, 2020 has been anything but normal, so what does that mean for Q4?

Given that everything this year has been so drastically different from what we would expect, 2020 has been guided at best by short term predictions. It was predicted that Q2 would have lower rates due to lockdown, and while they were low, they still exceeded predictions. During Q3 we saw a surge in trucking rates, likely triggered by the e-commerce boom, and it’s expected to continue throughout the year. All signs are pointing to a prolonged trucking rally, despite the pandemic and political uncertainty in the U.S.

Ultimately, we’re in for something completely different for the fourth quarter than we’ve ever seen before.

Ultimately, we’re in for something completely different for the fourth quarter than we’ve ever seen before. All historical data is essentially being tossed out the window as 2020 has been unprecedented in so many ways. With bid season fast approaching for shippers, understanding what Q4 has in store will have a tremendous impact on how you go about your bidding process for 2021. 

High Q3 Rates Will Lead to Even Higher Rates in Q4

The pandemic has caused a shift in consumer spending due to social distancing measures and the lockdown period across the United States which has caused a spike in trucking demand. Despite the economic strains and widespread job loss that was experienced by many consumers, retail sales haven’t weakened. Instead of eliminating non essential spending, consumers have shifted their purchasing habits away from services and over to material goods, especially through e-commerce platforms.  

This means that retailers have been seeing peak volumes well in advance of the holiday spending season, causing them to struggle to keep stocks replenished. The demand has been reducing inventory levels, while sales remain strong (and continue to grow) leaving no buffer period before sales really start to climb in November and December as consumers begin their holiday shopping.

These two factors combined can result in elevated truckload spot rates and capacity shortages through the end of 2020 and potentially continue well into 2021.

With reduced inventory, a rise in demand for consumer products such as retail and grocery, and the continued recovery of industrial production will continue to push growth in truckload demand. However, challenges in the U.S. with the dwindling pool of truck drivers will continue to result in capacity shortages throughout several industries. These two factors combined can result in elevated truckload spot rates and capacity shortages through the end of 2020 and potentially continue well into 2021.

To add to the logistic nightmare, consumers now have an inherent expectation for fast shipping from e-commerce sites as well as a wider availability of pickup options which means that retailers are pressured to offer competitive shipping times or else lose out on sales to companies like Amazon.

Even with the current unemployment rate, the housing market is growing and consumer spending remains high.

The United States continues a strong economic climate despite, or perhaps in spite of, the uncertainties 2020 has given us; from social unrest due to the presidential election, to the ongoing struggle with COVID-19. The stock market is high and there is a growing optimism for an economic upswing ahead. Even with the current unemployment rate, the housing market is growing and consumer spending remains high. However, the economy could still be vulnerable, especially if the stock market is responding primarily to low interest rates and has an underlying weakness to its overall stability.

What can shippers do to manage current market volatility?

If we’ve learned anything from 2020 is that historical data is all but useless, as everything is different from the years we’ve seen prior. With bidding season on the horizon for 2021, it’s important to make sure that your organization has a clear direction on how to manage its bids to avoid redlining your freight budget.

An important place to start for your business in 2021 is with your routing guide procedure. Take another look at this document, make sure it’s up to date. Make sure you adjust for current rates and that it contains all your current requirements. It might be necessary to rebid for the short-term when the truck capacity is tight. Perform detailed research on market conditions and decide how long this customized “mini-bid contract” will last. As always, utilize freight forecasting and reporting to help manage your spot bids and awards.

How BlueGrace Can Help You Get the Most Out of Your Bid Season

In this year, more than ever, we need to think outside the box. In a constrained and uncertain market, this creates challenges for shippers. Last year, when demand was low and supply was outpacing demand, shippers had easy RFP cycles with carriers and brokers undercutting each other for rates. Programs like our Low Volume Aggregation program are attractive in the current market and can help shippers make sustainable bids for the upcoming year that will help them thrive during the uncertainties ahead.

Read more about our LVAP program here, or contact us using the for below to see how we can help your company succeed.