The current commercial transportation market is a “mess” right now. “Mess” is a technical term; it means everything is going in the wrong direction. Capacity is hard to find. Rates are going up by leaps and bounds. Service levels are dropping like a stone. Carrier relationships are becoming frayed. It’s just a “mess” out there in the logistics space.
If you have annual contracts in place with your transportation providers, then you are somewhat insulated from the vagaries of the marketplace for right now. Eventually as the environment persists, and it will, this will catch up with you too. Regardless of your contracts, you may still be seeing carte blanche service embargoes from the LTL segment. These have hit a broad base of shippers and 3PL’s, no matter their size and scale. Depending on your location the pain could be severe as you scramble to change carriers (if that’s an option) to get capacity to handle your freight.
If you buy on the spot market, good luck and God bless! First off, you must find a truck to haul your products. Then you must live with the price of the truck. Truck rates have gone thru the roof, with no end in sight right now. It’s a trickle-down effect. As the truckload segment gets maxed out, the freight shifts down to more expensive modes like LTL (less than truckload). As LTL gets overwhelmed the same thing happens to parcel. Networks get out of balance; rates continue their march skyward and good service levels become a thing of the past.
How did this happen? In a macro sense, it’s a simple equation. More freight, less drivers, and workers to handle it. Carriers furloughed drivers anticipating that the Covid pandemic would persist, and freight volumes would reduce for quite some time. The opposite happened. Freight volumes dipped, then came roaring back. Carriers could not adjust their pools of labor, drivers, dock workers, etc., fast enough to compensate and the network became overloaded.
When is it going to change back to the “good old days”? Not sure about the when, but if I were you, I would plan for the long haul well into late 2022.
What can you do about the spot market if that’s where you live? Tap into a reliable 3PL who already has contracts in place and can provide you with consistent rates for FTL, LTL, Parcel, and Intermodal (if you use it). 3PL’s typically negotiate their rates in annual contracts. Because of this they can provide you with rate stability. The biggest problem in business is dealing with the unknown. If you cannot predict your costs, then you cannot predict your future. A 3PL solution to the current mess is a step in the right direction to controlling your logistics costs.
Jim Durfee – Vice President Business Transformation
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