Dealing with the bulk freight capacity crunch in 2021

Posted on April 15, 2021 by Andrew Scibelli

As the freight capacity crunch drags on, you may begin to wonder if things will get back to normal. While “normal” may look a little different in the future, it is a safe bet that this capacity crunch won’t last forever. How long it lasts, however, is anybody’s guess. Until that day comes, there are things you can do to improve your odds of securing bulk trucking capacity now and in the future.

4 ways to mitigate the freight capacity crunch

freight-capacity-crunch1. Adapt inventory strategies. For instance, order extra product so that you have a reserve stock on hand. In a tight capacity market, banking on “just in time” deliveries is far too risky a gamble. You need to assume that there will be times when there will be a significant lag between your desired delivery date and actual carrier delivery.

In addition to keeping reserve stock on hand, you could install an extra storage tank on site for surplus product, or adjust operations so that you can ship and receive bulk products in totes and drums in addition to tankers and dry bulk trailers.

2. Be flexible with shipment schedules. No transportation provider wants to turn away business. But, in a freight capacity crunch, it’s not always possible to move your products when you want them moved. By being flexible with your transport partners, you make it more likely that they can accommodate you.

What does flexibility look like? It means scheduling your loads as far in advance as possible (a week or more is ideal when conditions are as tight, as they are right now). It means giving your carrier or freight broker options in terms of scheduling windows and, conversely, adjusting your operations to accommodate your transport partner’s schedule. It may also mean accepting deliveries at inconvenient times like after hours or on weekends, or ordering product from different vendors in different shipping lanes.

3. Be aware of the current environment. The transportation industry changes on a daily basis in terms of equipment availability. To improve your odds of obtaining transportation services, it is important that you stay alert to transportation-affecting events so that you can avoid disruptions. In Q1 2021, we’ve already seen rare events have drastic impacts on the supply chain, including crippling snowstorms in Texas, rail shortages and a major blockage of the Suez canal. The longer it takes you to react to such events, the tighter capacity will become.

It is also important to understand that there are capacity-tightening events that often occur far from the public eye. For instance, some shippers will take advantage of tight capacity conditions by securing a truck when they know full well that it can’t be unloaded at the designated time. Such shippers would rather pay a boatload extra for demurrage and driver layovers as the extra days pile up than risk not having product move. The problem is that these actions can throw off a carrier’s schedule and make life more difficult for other shippers.

4. Lean on your trusted/repeat partners. In tough times, you lean on your trusted allies. In the case of bulk shipping, you should hopefully have close relationships with different carriers and bulk freight brokers that know your business and can allocate capacity once it opens up.

Like any business, the bulk trucking industry is built upon relationships. If you are a regular customer to a transportation provider, that provider is likely going to look out for your needs before taking care of a completely new customer. If you’re more spot-market driven, now is a great time to reconsider your strategy and forge relationships with different transport providers so that you have multiple allies to lean on the next time capacity is tight.


Lean on Bulk Connection during the freight capacity crunch

Bulk Connection is a 3PL freight broker with over 30 years of bulk shipping experience and one of the largest bulk carrier networks in North America. While we feel the capacity crunch just like everyone else in the industry, the size and scope of our network makes us unique in our ability to get shippers’ bulk loads on the move when others can’t. To learn more about our services, contact Bulk Connection today.


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This entry was posted in Bulk Transportation, Freight Industry Issues by Andrew Scibelli