How to Manage Trucking’s Four Seasons

How to Manage Trucking’s Four Seasons

If you have a Class A CDL, you will always be able to find a driving job, but how much you make depends on what you are hauling or how well you are taking advantage of trucking’s four seasons.

As an owner-operator, managing cashflow is critical to pay for unexpected emergencies or to prepare for the coming quiet months.

Experienced drivers know that there are times when carriers follow the seasons around the country.

Being aware of the seasonal pattern is important to know where supply and demand are being concentrated and how to take advantage of it.

Let’s walk through what the trucking season looks like so you can manage your cashflow well.

January – March = The Quiet Months

After the holiday season, freight volume is down, and the trucking industry remains quiet as many drivers don’t want to drive in the winter weather or are resting before the trucking cycle picks up again.   

There is still plenty of work to do, but you will likely see shorter runs and 10-20% less miles.  

Around March, freight volume starts picking back up as we are getting closer to spring months.

For example, cross-border Mexico produce peaks in early March and Texas starts to see fruits and onions begin harvested.

Also, early spring is when nurseries, commercial growers, and tree farms are starting to ship seedlings and saplings on pallets to the market to meet the spring planning demand.

April – July = Produce Season/Reefer Season

As temperatures rise, so does regional produce shipping, starting from southern states (Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico and California), then the Carolinas and Northern California, and finally the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

You don’t have to ship produce to be affected by produce season because there is typically an average load to truck ratio of 3:1 during this season. 

If you are hauling food, fresh produce can only be transported using refrigerated trucks. Reefer loads are tighter and freight rates can increase up to 30%.

In certain regions, the capacity and rates change drastically for non-produce shippers, as carriers are massively switching to high-paying produce loads.

For example:

  • Mid-April is pack day for onions out of Georgia
  • May sees reefer trucks heading down to Florida to move peaches, corn, and mixed vegetables
  • June sees onions, fruits, beef, and mixed vegetables in northern Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California
  • July sees onions in Colorado, fruits, mixed vegetables, and plants in mid-northern California and the Carolinas

During this time, it’s crucial to research your regions of interest to understand how much you may be affected by produce.

Flatbed shipping is highly dependent on the weather as well, dependent upon construction and capital expenditures. If you are not shipping produce, or there is a lull between the start of the next regional produce season, then flatbed shipping is where you need to be.

*Note: China has been locked down for nearly a month as they battle through their zero-COVID policy. With almost a quarter of unberthed ships stuck outside Chinese ports (412 ships, up 58% since February), US ports will be hit hard in June or July, causing a high demand for truckers.

July – October = Peak Shipping Season

As produce season moves to the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest, shippers are preparing for the holidays and the back-to-school time of the year.

Sales are typically up and companies are actively shipping products in and out of warehouses to ensure they are ready for the holidays.

This means rates and volume are peaking and the roads are busy with freight.

If you haven’t already, start stashing away profits to prepare for emergencies or the winter lull.

November – December = Holiday Season

Holidays are coming, making this season see surging rates as companies push to get last-minute orders in and shipped to store shelves.

Carriers can find high-paying loads as businesses are shipping overlooked products, delayed products, or last-minute items. Drivers can often see 10 -20% more miles during these months.

Towards the end of this season, carriers and truck drivers begin to take time off before the trucking cycle restarts.

Roadmap to Success

Check out the full guide with videos, articles, tips, and more.

DOT licensing and permitting needs

Compliance Navigation Specialists has been licensing and permitting trucking companies for over 30 years, that’s how we got started! 

Our team knows the nuances of licensing and permitting. No matter what state you are in, your size (from one vehicle to a thousand vehicles), nor the complexity of your operation, we here at CNS can handle it.

We offer a long list of licensing services and are always adding more to accommodate our clients, including obtaining DOT numbers, MC authorities, vehicle registration, UCR and so much more.

If you’re just getting started we can help obtain all the relative information you need to be compliant and legal. If you are an established company, we can help add new or delete vehicles from your account, track and renew your vehicle registrations, title management, and more.

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