The annual shipping season for seasonal products, such as flowers, plants and produce, typically begins in the early spring months and continues through summer. As there is much to understand about the ins and outs of seasonal shipping, our logistics experts have compiled a list of the top six things that shippers need to know.
Shipments of plants, produce and other seasonal goods originate in the Southern United States as the climate allows for year-round growing seasons. Shipments are often picked up from small farms and nursery operators and then transported north to garden centers and nurseries throughout the Midwestern and Northeastern United States.
The influx of seasonal shipments traveling north causes a sudden shift in the market. Capacity begins to become imbalanced as demand increases faster on south-to-north lanes as compared to north-to-south lanes.
Peak shipping season for nursery and produce shipments typically begins as early as February and lasts until July. The highest shipment volumes occur around Mother’s Day due to increased demand for flowers and the start of spring in the upper Midwestern United States.
This shipment pattern means that peak season shipping follows a wave-like motion. For example, it will begin earlier in the southern-most parts of the United States, such as the tips of Florida and Texas. It will then continue to move north into states such as Georgia, New Mexico and California as the weather warms up.
Shippers of seasonal products should work with their 3PL as early as possible to fine-tune their transportation strategies. We recommend meeting with supply chain partners in November to review the previous year. Typically, shippers and 3PLs will review carrier performance, spend and supply chain disruptions of the prior year. This cadence helps the two make adjustments in processes for the year ahead.
After the New Year, 3PLs and shippers typically make final adjustments to transportation plans due to the growing season projections and capacity-need expectations.
During the peak shipping season, we suggest scheduling shipments two months in advance of the day of pick up. This additional lead time will ensure capacity and drivers are secured so that delays are avoided.
The most common mode of transportation for seasonal nursery and produce shipments is Multi-Stop Truckload. This mode of transportation is exactly what it sounds like. One trailer is filled with product and stops at multiple destinations to drop off certain orders. Many large nurseries and gardening centers will ship Multi-Stop Truckload as it is more cost-effective and simpler to manage compared to numerous less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments.
Liftgates are common accessorials for seasonal shipments. While liftgates simplify the loading and unloading of cargo, they come at an additional charge. It is important for shippers to plan for the additional liftgate charges when estimating transportation costs and quoting customers.
Certain products, such as flowers and produce, can require the use of refrigerated trailers. Other products can be shipped via dry van truckload without concern. If the product will be ruined when exposed to high or low temperatures, then using temperature-controlled trailers is one way to safeguard the cargo.
Additionally, weather can be unpredictable in the Midwest during the early spring months. Selecting refrigerated trailers can help protect the cargo from freezing in the event of pop-up winter storms.
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