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Expedited and LTL Freight During Peak Season

July 25, 2022 Kevin Baxter

LTL Peak

Peak freight season, just like the shipping industry in general, has many layers for shippers and carriers. And among those layers are the variety of shipping methods to consider, including expedited and LTL - less than truckload - as well as a combination of the two. LTL shipping can take place at standard speeds or include expedited options. On the other hand, expedited is often synonymous with LTL but can also include FTL - full truckload (sometimes just referred to as TL) - and of course the fastest form of transport, air. There are even some intermodal lanes considered expedited. Just like other freight modes, costs to ship via LTL and expedited tend to rise during peak season as capacity gets tougher to come by. But shippers may also be more willing to pay those premiums during peak season if they have no other viable options to meet hard delivery deadlines. 

Why use expedited freight?

The primary reason to use expedited freight is simple - getting loads delivered to meet tight deadlines. After all, expedited freight is generally considered a shipping method that delivers as soon as possible, taking cargo from point A to point B with no extraneous steps. Expedited freight is often associated with LTL, as loads are often not as large. But for larger hauls, full truckload is also an option. In either trucking scenario, expedited delivery is basically a straight-thru drive that typically must be doable in a day. Depending on distance, it may be handled by a single driver the entire route, or may require a tag team approach to address FMCSA requirements for driver rest. Vehicles associated could be full-size semi trucks, smaller trucks or even vans. Other expedited options are same day air charters (dedicated freight-only flights - the most expensive option) or next flight out (either cargo-only flights or commercial passenger flights with space available).

When it comes to peak season particularly, capacity is always at a premium and service levels (as in, delivery times) tend to be less reliable. So even the best planners are likely to encounter a need for a short-notice transport or three. Sometimes, that means going with a national expedited carrier with whom the shipper has an established relationship. Other times, it may require a more local or regional expedited option. That could mean a hot shot, another owner-operator scenario or a small company. These can be harder to find (or at least vet) without the help of a freight broker or third party logistics provider (3pl). Because even the most prepared shippers may find themselves in need of expedited service during peak season, count on expedited volume being up and capacity being hard to come by. To get needed capacity, that also means peak season surcharges are to be expected.

LTL During Peak Season

Just as with any other freight mode during peak season, LTL service faces capacity and reliability issues as well as increased prices. A unique aspect of LTL is its even more direct relationship to consumer freight, specifically ecommerce. LTL is often the preferred shipping method for these retailers, which continue to take up more and more retail volume. Because of that, the holiday shopping season is perhaps the peak of the LTL peak season. For instance, UPS indicates its peak season starts in early November, while the overall peak freight season typically starts in late July or August. That means those planning to use LTL for their more routine shipments will either need to plan well ahead or look to other modes. One method that incorporates LTL and other modes to save money is LTL consolidation, in which  a shipper combines multiple LTL shipments within a particular geographic region into a truckload or intermodal container, which is taken to a destination point where the shipments are broken down and shipped LTL to their final destination.  Such a method, especially during LTL peak season, makes a lot of sense as it essentially combines many smaller LTL shipments into one larger shipment, only utilizing LTL for the final leg.

Need help with peak freight season expedited, LTL, expedited LTL or other forms of shipping? Drop us a line and we'll put our expertise to work for you with reasonable, reliable options. In the meantime, visit our Learning Center to learn more about the industry - and us. Or start with one of the links below: 

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