Unexpected circumstances or disasters, such as severe weather, can have devastating impacts on supply chains and disrupt the shipping process, leading to delays.
While shipping disruptions are difficult to predict – and sometimes unavoidable – being prepared and having a plan in place can help shippers better avoid extremely long delays or slowdowns that could impact customer supply chains. Partnering with a third-party logistics company, such as Red Kite, can also help shippers be better prepared for potential obstructions.
Here are some key things that shippers can do to prepare their supply chain for shipping disruptions.
Schedule Shipments Ahead Of Time
Under typical shipping circumstances, providing carriers with shorter lead times usually means that truck capacity will be fuller, making it difficult for shippers to find the truck they need for their load.
Under unusual shipping circumstances, such as those complicated by natural disasters, truck capacity becomes even tighter, making it much more difficult to secure load coverage, especially with short lead times.
When the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared in March of 2020, for example, dry van truckload capacity was extremely limited as consumer demand for goods deemed essential skyrocketed. Severe weather, such as snowstorms and hurricanes, can also reduce capacity as truck drivers try to re-route around forecasted storm areas.
Shippers can prevent or mitigate shipping delays caused by unexpectedly tight shipping capacity by securing the transit needed for their load well in advance of delivery dates. By scheduling shipments ahead of time, shippers have a truck secured for their load should something disrupt the shipping supply chain.
Shippers who do not know exact delivery dates should also provide their carrier of choice with an expected shipment schedule so their carrier can plan on having a truck available for them during the specified period of time.
Monitor Market & Seasonal Trends
While it is not always possible to predict when events that disrupt shipping will occur, monitoring seasonal trends and market trends can help shippers be better informed and prepared for when these events could occur and how they will impact freight.
Severe weather typically occurs in seasonal patterns. For example, hurricanes will typically occur in the fall months, and snow and ice are more likely to impact certain regions during winter. By being aware of the seasonal weather patterns within their shipping regions, shippers can create a plan and prepare for potential shipping disruptions that could occur during those seasons.
Monitoring the freight market can also indicate how supply chains may be affected by certain events. If a natural disaster increases demand for food and beverage products, for example, dry van and reefer truck availability could decrease within the region in which the disaster occurred. Shippers could monitor market trends such as truck capacity, freight rates and shipping news to gauge how their supply chain could be impacted by this event and determine whether they need to make adjustments to avoid delays.
Shippers can also partner with 3PLs to gain valuable freight market insights from logistics experts. The Red Kite team, for example, understands which market factors are the most important to shippers and passes those insights along so shippers can adjust their freight plans as needed.
Build Strong Carrier Relationships
Having strong relationships with a few key carriers is important in navigating disruptive shipping markets, as these relationships mean that carriers will work with their trusted partners more closely to find a truck for their load.
Carriers can also help keep shippers they regularly work with more informed about any expected shipment delays as a result of a supply chain interference. This information is crucial for shippers to have so they can keep an open line of communication with their customers about delivery delays and maintain these important relationships.
3PLs like Red Kite can also use their strong carrier connections to secure load coverage for shippers within tight capacity markets and enable shippers to build strong relationships with reliable carriers.
Develop A Back-Up Plan
Even if a shipper secures load coverage in advance and is generally well prepared, extreme circumstances could cause their initial freight plan to fall through and hinder their supply chain, such as an unexpected driver shortage that leaves a shipper without a truck for their load.
Developing a back-up shipping plan allows shippers to avoid catastrophic delays that could result from their initial plan failing. When developing a back-up plan, shippers should consider a variety of different factors and scenarios, including the following:
- Alternate carriers, in the event that their primary carrier is unable to deliver their load
- Alternate shipping routes that could be used to deliver a load
- Alternate delivery dates and times, if a customer has delivery flexibility
- Alternate modes of truck transportation
If shipping plans get disrupted, shippers could also work with an experienced 3PL to find a shipping option for their load. 3PLs like Red Kite have extensive carrier networks and experience in solving logistical challenges.
Partner With A Trusted 3PL
Partnering with a trusted 3PL can also help shippers prepare for potential shipping disruptions and delays. 3PLs have teams comprised of logistics experts that understand how unexpected events can disrupt supply chains and know how to best prepare for the impact of those events on shipping.
3PLs also take the time-consuming process of finding a new carrier or trying to secure load coverage during market disruptions away from shippers as well, which allows shipping coordinators to focus on more important tasks, such as communicating any expected delays with their customers.
With over a decade of experience in logistics and a strong carrier network that spans across North America, Red Kite can help shippers find load coverage during market disruptions and navigate the supply chain challenges that come with them. Our expert team is ready to assist shippers using our carrier connections to find a cost effective, reliable solution for their trucking freight needs.