Flatbed Seasonality: What Shippers Should Expect in 2023
Although it’s now been three years since the global Covid-19 pandemic upended life as we know it, the lingering effects are still impacting the shipping industry in some significant ways. Coupled with overall seasonal trends, flatbed shipping capacity can be a bit difficult to predict. Fortunately, strong data, such as that offered by ShipperGuide, can help you make more accurate forecasts.
Current construction and housing market trends
While truck spot rates largely declined throughout 2022, flatbed rates remained much more stable than dry van rates. This is likely due to the fact that the housing and construction markets, on which flatbeds largely rely, have remained strong. Dry vans primarily carry consumer goods, for which demand has softened due to concerns over the economy. The housing market has taken something of a hit due to rising interest rates, but backlogs and pent-up demand have kept it from declining very far.
Still, flatbed rates declined a bit more sharply in the second half of 2022. If interest rates continue to rise, flatbed rates are likely to further contract throughout 2023. In addition, consumer savings fell to a 17-year low in 2022, meaning that shippers shouldn’t need to worry too much about sudden spikes in trucking spot rates this year.
However, shippers should be aware of the rise in flatbed rates that can occur due to the seasonality of the construction industry. Flatbed trucks are unlike dry vans and other types of shipping equipment. Long and open to the elements, a flatbed truck is best suited to hauling heavy equipment and construction materials, as well as items such as mobile homes. Therefore, flatbeds are unique in the trucking industry in that they are heavily impacted by the seasonal nature of the construction business.
Although some construction happens year-round, construction season in most states is generally considered to last from April through October. The ground tends to be warmer and drier during these months, making it easier for construction crews to get their work done without significant delays.
During construction season, vast quantities of construction materials are being delivered across the country. This means that there is a far higher demand for flatbed trucks, making it tougher for shippers to find capacity. Many of these loads also have special handling requirements, due to being heavy or odd-sized, and many flatbed trucks make multiple delivery stops.
All of this means that you can expect higher rates for flatbed shipping during construction season. It will be particularly noticeable if you are in the construction materials business, but no matter what you sell, if you need flatbed capacity during construction season, you can expect to pay more.
Surviving and thriving during construction season
While the supply chain issues of the pandemic have largely been resolved, lingering challenges are likely to remain. From the ongoing war in Ukraine and rising tensions between the U.S. and China to historically low river levels on the Mississippi, it could take some time for construction material inventories to return to what they were. This puts even more pressure on shippers to find flatbed capacity and get goods moving, even at higher rates.
If you are having trouble finding capacity at reasonable rates during construction season, these tips can help:
- Know your consignees. Make sure you understand all the delivery restrictions, including hours, at your delivery location. The last thing you want is to get stuck with storage fees while the driver waits for the site to open.
- Think about accessorial fees. Be sure you are aware of any surcharges or accessorial fees that might arise, such as for drivers to assist with unloading.
- Plan ahead. You’re not the only one shipping a lot of building materials during construction season. The further you can plan ahead, the easier it will be to secure flatbed capacity.
- Handling and insurance concerns. Flatbeds are, by design, open to the elements. While drivers will use tarps and other protective equipment, you can help to ensure safe delivery by choosing packaging that is durable and can stand up to rough treatment. Also make sure you have plenty of insurance coverage on your goods, just in case anything should go wrong.
Create more accurate forecasts with ShipperGuide
We know the challenges that construction season can bring for those who need flatbed capacity at competitive rates. Our freight management software for shippers, ShipperGuide, is designed to meet shippers’ needs through all three phases of logistics: planning, procurement, and execution. And you can narrow your focus solely to Flatbeds, allowing you to hone in on the specific data you need.
In ShipperGuide, you can view historical data to help you better understand the construction season and its effects on demand for flatbed trucks. This can help you determine how much inventory to stock, when to increase your inventory, and how to set more accurate delivery dates.
Procuring construction materials from vendors continues to be a challenge. Within the ShipperGuide platform, you can access trusted carriers, fair pricing, and even industry benchmarks. No more switching back and forth between multiple apps and websites to line up your procurements.
After years of lengthy delays, construction crews and their customers are tired of waiting. ShipperGuide offers two ways to better execute your deliveries in a timely manner. You can import your current carrier network, which allows you to track such important details as their bid history, compliance, and timeliness. Or you can utilize our internal network of high-quality carriers.
Throughout the entire logistics process, ShipperGuide provides you with as much data as possible to help you make better decisions. We combine historical insights and real-time benchmarking, helping to improve your long-term forecasting as well as your on-the-fly responses to changing market factors. And our streamlined platform offers you a single spot for all your logistics needs, including providing real-time updates to your employees and customers.
ShipperGuide was built by shippers, for shippers. We understand the challenges of construction seasonality, and we work hard to help you minimize their effects.
Are you ready to use better data to increase efficiency and boost the accuracy of your budget? Gain insight into industry benchmarks when using ShipperGuide as your RFP tool. Contact us to learn more or sign up today!
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