Though it happens from time to time in the shipping and transportation industry, in 2020, we’ve become even more familiar with capacity crunch thanks to the global pandemic. Capacity crunch — which refers to having less truck container space and fewer truck containers available for freight — makes it more difficult for shippers to get truckloads to full capacity or to haul cargo to specific destinations due to constraints. Capacity crunch ebbs and flows in the industry, depending on what’s going on in the world and with the economy, yet this year has been particularly challenging due to the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19 and the trickle-down effects of the world being mostly “on hold” for many weeks.

Why does the capacity get crunched?

There are many reasons why trucking capacity may get crunched:

  • Holidays and shortened weeks for delivery time is a common cause — this one is predictable, so always plan ahead if you need to ship around a holiday week!
  • Fewer trucking companies, fewer drivers, and fewer trucks on the road. This one is not so predictable, and many factors affect whether or not this could be an issue.
  • Economic factors. There may be equipment shortages, driver shortages, or any number of problems that would affect carriers’ ability to pick up and deliver goods on time.
  • Government transportation regulations — like drug testing, electronic logging devices, and speed limiters — are coming down the pike. These regulations are going to be trickled out over the next few years and could affect the trucking industry’s capacity crunch in many ways.

Why does capacity crunch matter?

For consumers, shipping when capacity is crunched means you’re probably going to see a rise in rates. Why? Because carriers must reevaluate their rates depending on fair fuel surcharges and the economic impacts of whatever caused the capacity crunch. 

How can consumers make the most out of capacity crunch?

As a consumer, it’s important to stay informed and on top of what’s going on with the shipping industry to best prepare for unexpected capacity shortages. 

Here are some ways you can make the most out of this situation:

Understand the needs of your shipment. This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised that many folks don’t understand how specs can implicate shipping costs and processes. By being an informed shipper, you’ll help set your freight up for success, no matter what’s going on in the industry.

Use the right packaging. Again, use your head when you’re packaging your shipment! Packaging is one of the most important things to think about as a shipper — it can be the make-or-break aspect of shipping that results in either a smooth or a nightmare of a shipping experience. If you don’t pack properly, you may experience damaged freight and/or a time-consuming and expensive claims process, in addition to potential reclass fees. Be smart about packing! And this leads us right on to the next one…

Protect your freight. Don’t leave it up to someone else to ensure your shipment is properly wrapped, crated, or padded. The old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure… rings true when you’re prepping your freight for shipment. Taking the extra time to ensure your package won’t break or bust open could likely save you a huge headache — and potentially money in claims — down the road. Be smart about it!

Know how much your freight weighs. Unless you’re one of those magical clowns at the fair who can “guess your weight” within 3 pounds, use a scale to weigh your freight accurately! Guessing the weight is not good enough. And don’t fudge the number — that could end up costing you more down the line — this is not your bathroom scale!

Be aware of odd-shaped shipments. Not every shipment fits neatly into a box. There’s no question about that. BUT when you are shipping something that will be on an LTL truck and may need to be moved around, you’ll want your package to be wrapped up in a uniform shape. Remember… whatever commodity you ship, you’ll have to buy all the space it takes up, despite the shape.

As we are in the thick of the summer months, still experiencing a global pandemic, and in the midst of an election year, which can wreak havoc on the economy — there are many factors that can influence capacity crunch in the coming months. Please contact us at 855.218.7LTL (7585) if you have any questions about how to best plan for your shipping needs in the months ahead — we’d love to hear your thought and/or concerns.