Working around the future of flatbed.
November 9, 2018
The flatbed shipping market is constantly fluctuating. In fact, data shows that the flatbed load-to-truck ratio hit an all-time high in April of 2018, but fell drastically by the end of summer. These dips are difficult to deal with in regards to quality and staying within your budget, and the disruptions will happen again. As a shipper, it’s best to understand what challenges you are up against in order to keep things as consistent as possible.
Market fluctuations can occur due to a variety of supply and demand factors including natural disasters, lack of drivers, seasonal demand, other industries' growth or decline, and more. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors and how they play a role in the ever-changing flatbed shipping industry.
Ramped up capacity.
Natural disasters can create a lot of disruptions, and 2018 has been no exception. For example, when a hurricane blows through, communities are often forced to rebuild and the need for supplies skyrockets. Factors such as these play a part in the increased demand for capacity.
In addition to relief supplies taking up several more trucks than usual, construction workers are needed to help rebuild, and they are often pulled from the same workforce as truckers. Since the industry is already experiencing a driver shortage, this can cause even larger disruptions.
Supply and demand.
Flatbed load-to-truck numbers declined over the summer. The carriers continued to invest in new equipment which eventually caught up with demand. And in some cases, flatbed shippers investigated opportunities to shift some freight from traditional flatbed shipping to ride on standard vans to tap into additional capacity.
Also, uncertainty surrounding economic policies left everything a bit up in the air. For this reason, freight experts believe that several infrastructure and large capital projects that often rely on flatbed shipping have been put on hold until the dust settles. These components (plus a few more) are what led to and continue to lead to a softening demand.
Making sense of industry forecasts.
As it has been for a while now, capacity is tight. During the capacity crunch, drivers have been looking to pick up the loads that have the most to offer. Whether it’s an extra hand at the dock or a simple thank you, it matters.
However, keep in mind that you cannot predict the future. While forecasts are pointing towards a normalization of the load-to-truck ratio in the new year, several factors can throw predictions off track. In the meantime, the best thing you can do as a shipper is to ensure you are taking the right steps to become a preferred shipper. Have the right supplies on hand, continue to provide accurate information up front and again, treat your drivers with respect.
Looking towards the next quarter.
While fluctuations come and go, best practices will last forever. Making your way through an ever-changing market is no easy task, but staying on top of trends, listening to what the experts are predicting, and leaving room for the unexpected will help you stay ahead of the game.
For more information on flatbed best practices, download our whitepaper "Navigating a Fluctuating Flatbed Market.” If you are interested in learning more about Freightquote by C.H. Robinson’s flatbed shipping services, contact us today.
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