Shipper | Best practices

Best practices for working with your shipping provider during peak and promotional surges

Get ahead during your next promotional freight period by understanding how you can best work with your transportation provider.


1. Pre-plan and forecast

Provide as much lead time and details about the freight as possible. If a transportation provider knows what to expect, it can help them develop a wholistic plan and gives them enough time to secure the right capacity and equipment. There is a strong correlation between advance notice to shippers and the success of promotional or project freight.

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2. Communicate and collaborate

Every detail matters, so be forthcoming about whether there’s a requirement that needs to be taken into consideration, and be sure to mention any challenges that have come up in the past. The transportation provider can then effectively incorporate those conditions into the shipping plan.

Both the drivers and the receivers should be armed with the information and tools they’ll need for successful shipping and deliveries. Updated time schedules, facility details and other pertinent instructions can help ensure a more seamless drop, keeping deliveries on time and fines at bay.

3. Consider the need for specialty equipment

If you know your freight is best moved with a certain type of equipment, tell your transportation provider sooner rather than later. Advance notice of this requirement will help the provider locate the necessary equipment to ensure it’s in position when the promotional period begins.

4. Be flexible

When discussing your promotional freight, try to avoid requesting specific or rigid execution types. Doing so can limit options and drive-up costs. Being open to non-asset-based options or opting to incorporate modes such as over the road, power only or intermodal, can expand on the number of solutions that are proposed to execute the promotional freight. Additionally, shipping flexibility can potentially offer a cost savings.

5. Review transportation budgets

Be aware of any out-of-season cost modeling and budget estimating that was conducted well before the promotional freight period. Transportation costs vary based on time of year, capacity and other variables, so shippers need to be closer to the project date to know what the actual costs will be. The sweet spot is to start looking for carrier rates 90 days out from when the promotion will start to lock in the most accurate rate and overall promotional period spend.

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Peak and promotional freight is usually always calculated at a rate that differs from the base rate, making it an important differentiator from standard freight shipping. This should be taken into consideration as transportation budgets are determined and later discussed with a transportation provider.

6. Understand the geographical market

Know whether you’re situated in a headhaul or backhaul market, and how you intend to move freight within it.

  • A headhaul market occurs when the demand for the lane is greater than the supply of capacity available and is generally considered the load that’s heading to its destination. Carriers have plenty of outbound choices, which can cause shipping rates to be high.
  • A backhaul market accommodates a return trip over the same route. Carriers don’t want to deadhead—returning to its point of origin with an empty trailer—so to help ensure trailers are loaded with freight, there’s more willingness to negotiate price.

7. Don’t overestimate available freight capacity

Staging product for continuous shipping during peak or promotional times may not result in faster shipping. If the required driver density isn’t available, the timeline for shipping product may need to be extended. Transportation providers will have insight as to what the available capacity is and how freight can be staged and shipped efficiently.

8. Adjust the cadence

There’s a substantial influx of deliveries during peak and promotional freight periods. In some cases, the receiving facilities may not be equipped to process all that freight at once. This can result in sitting product, leading to backups and congestion. If there’s time to space out shipments without derailing timing elsewhere, that can help staff handle the substantial uptick in freight over a longer period of time.

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9. Additional tips for successful shipping

Organize a central communications hub

Be it in person or virtual, coordinate a forum where both the shipper and carrier teams can consistently meet to review KPIs and troubleshoot any unforeseen shipping problems.

Find a transportation provider with scale

A key to peak and promotional freight success is to match the scale of the promotion with the scalability of the transportation provider. Knowing whether the provider has the right equipment (and if it’s available), enough drivers and the ability to flex capacity will be imperative to help ensure a flawless execution.

Embrace automated reporting

Manual tracking and reporting can be time consuming and usually needs to be delivered on a fast timeline. Leveraging a transportation management system to capture and analyze data will provide quicker, more actionable results.

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Make your freight attractive to carriers

Fine tune your freight to maximize acceptance rates and ensure there’s capacity during your peak season.

Peak and promotional freight is vital in a shipper’s business cycle. To mitigate delivery frustrations during these accelerated times, shippers should prepare for their promotional freight as much as possible and find a transportation provider that understands the unique challenges of this type of freight. Schneider can act as that trusted advisor and deliver on the key requirements shippers find themselves needing the most during peak and promotional periods—visibility, scalability, multimodal capabilities and the ability to stack capacity.

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