Shipping by the Season: Mastering Yearly Over-the-Road Peaks and Valleys


Just like nature, every industry has specific seasons, marked by high levels of demand or relative quiet and operational downtime. Though the shipping industry has been in a state of constant flux and disruption over the past few years — driven by the pandemic and growing popularity of e-commerce — there are certain long-familiar industry patterns which remain intact to this day.

While seasons change, the need to maximize efficiency is present year-round, and is key to meeting demand throughout each annual cycle. Understanding seasonal freight and parcel trends allows stakeholders to anticipate and easily overcome their associated challenges, as well as take full advantage of opportunities. This is what the annual rhythm of the industry looks like:

OTR Transportation in the Spring: Setting the Tone for the Year

The spring season from April to July marks an increase in shipping volume as levels return to normal following the post-holiday slowdown.

Challenges: During the spring, shippers can expect an uptick in order volumes as many industries pick up after a typically slow winter season, leading to increased demand for OTR transportation. After a quarter of downtime and lower order volume (depending on the industry), shippers are under pressure to make up for lost revenue. During this time, meticulous planning is crucial to maximize cost savings and profitability. Laying a foundation for efficiency now is essential, as it prepares operations to handle the increased volume and demands of summer and fall, and sets the tone for higher annual profits.

Considerations: Identifying and eliminating inefficiencies throughout the operation frees up resources and increases shipping capacity, so shippers can make the most of the year to come — all areas where transportation software can help.

OTR Transportation in the Summer: Peak Freight Shipping

The summer months from May to September (often bleeding into October) are usually the busiest time of the year for freight services. Retailers gear up to stock inventory in preparation for the holiday season, requiring efficient logistics to move the perishable goods safely to market.

Challenges: For freight shippers, maximizing revenue now is critical, as order volume and demand won’t return to this level for another year. Maintaining efficiency is key to not only handling the increased volume and competitiveness of the landscape, but also cutting out inefficiencies to reap more profit. Extreme weather events like summer storms and wildfires pose a significant risk, potentially disrupting operations with unexpected delays and logistical hurdles.

Considerations: Shippers must be vigilant and have contingency plans in place to mitigate the impact of these disruptions on their schedules and service commitments. Learn more in our Summer shipping blog.

OTR Transportation in the Fall: Peak Parcel

November and December are peak parcel season as consumers ship a record-high number of packages for the holidays. This time of year has always been the busiest for parcel, but demand exploded during the pandemic as e-commerce accelerated in popularity. Experts pace U.S. e-commerce holiday sales as growing at 11.3% year over year. Freight companies could also see unusually high order volumes as retailers work to replenish their inventory during the holiday season, but for most freight shippers, the busiest days were in the summer.

Challenges: Because there’s so much demand and so little room for error, it’s essential for shippers to improve shipment accuracy, streamline operations, and maximize resource utilization as much as possible by the time this season rolls around to avoid costly errors, delays that hurt their reputation, and lost business. With so much demand, parcel companies have the leverage to negotiate their best rates of the year, making efficiency even more important to fully capitalize on this opportunity.

Considerations: Transportation and shipping software are crucial during this busy season to maximize efficiency, ensure on-time delivery, maintain a low error rate, and avoid employee burnout.

OTR Transportation in the Winter: The Down Season

The rise of ecommerce has transformed January into an increasingly busy shipping season due to the high volume of post-holiday returns. However, once returns drop off,  the shipping sector typically enters a quieter period in February and March, with shipping volume at its lowest point of the year. This slowdown allows companies to recover and reassess their operations following the intense peak season, providing time for maintenance, planning, and preparation for the upcoming busier months.

Challenges: During winter, shippers face dangerous road conditions due to snow and ice, so workers benefit from this period’s lower demand. Because of lower order volume, many shippers face the decision of whether to scale back capacity until business picks up. However, this down period also presents an opportunity to assess operations and review performance from throughout the previous year. It’s also an ideal time to implement new technologies, such as transportation software, which can enhance operational efficiency and reduce operating costs for the coming year.

Considerations: Investing in and utilizing data analytics from transportation software will help stakeholders glean valuable insight into operational shortcomings and how to improve performance in the coming year.

Stay Ahead of Seasonal Freight Trends with 3G

Optimizing shipments and operational efficiency in such a hectic logistics environment is virtually impossible for companies that rely on manual processes and standalone software. To truly weather the challenges of each season, shippers need trusted and advanced transportation and shipping software to unify workflows and serve as a central command center for the entire operation. That’s where 3G transportation management and shipping software comes in.

With cutting-edge capabilities for automated route planning and load optimization, predictive packing, carrier selection, and more, 3G’s solutions are the key for every type of player in the logistics landscape to improve efficiency and maximize cost savings. Schedule a demo to experience the platform yourself.




Publish date

April 30, 2024



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