Unprecedented LTL Industry Capacity Challenges

By Estes Express Lines

The less than truckload (LTL) freight transportation industry continues to experience unprecedented capacity issues.

These challenges are expected to build and multiply over the coming months, as the pandemic, driver shortages, the accelerated growth of the e-commerce industry, and the stimulus package are working together to create disruptive ripple effects across the entire LTL industry.

These unprecedented factors, and the timing with which they’re hitting the LTL industry, are having never-before-seen impacts on our nation’s freight, such as:

  • Home deliveries at an all-time high, due to the rise in e-commerce
  • The overburdening of truckload and parcel networks, resulting in the diversion of high volumes of additional freight into the nation’s LTL networks
  • Extraordinary backups at ports with inbound international freight, causing widespread drayage and rail capacity issues
  • The impact of COVID-19 on the hiring process, and the challenges faced by carriers when trying to hire additional drivers and dockworkers

Today’s capacity issues make it more important than ever for LTL shippers to work closely with their carriers to proactively plan their freight shipments. By working together, shippers and carriers will be better equipped to not only navigate these challenges, but also mitigate their impact on America’s freight. 

Here’s what LTL shippers can do to help their carriers serve them better during this challenging time:

  • Be sure to correctly classify their freight
  • Consolidate multiple freight shipments in a single pickup and load freight directionally
  • Provide consignees with shipment tracking/PRO numbers
  • Use electronic Bill of Lading (BOL), when possible, to include the consignee’s name and contact information
  • Make loading and unloading freight a priority by ensuring they have the resources they need at pickup and delivery
  • Ship their freight as early as possible, and allow for additional transit time whenever possible
  • Factor potential delays into their anticipated transit times

Keeping Freight Moving

In the fall of 2020, when it became very clear to us that these capacity challenges were going to continue to intensify as we headed into the spring season, we launched a strategy to prepare for what we believed would be an unprecedented, industry-wide freight event.

This plan involved ramping up our investment in the equipment, personnel, and resources necessary to help curb the capacity challenges we were anticipating. To keep our customers’ freight moving, we opened new terminals, purchased additional equipment, and hired more drivers. But our biggest pivot came in the area of Final Mile residential delivery.

More than a year since the start of the pandemic, home deliveries are at an all-time high due to the rise in e-commerce. And to make matters more challenging, residential consumers often anticipate that freight delivery will be as simple and streamlined a process as they’ve come to expect with parcel shipping.

It’s with these considerations in mind that we adopted a more streamlined standard Final Mile delivery service that eliminates the need for consignees to schedule delivery appointments or sign for their shipments. By eliminating the need for delivery appointments, we’ve reduced scheduling delays and improved freight efficiency for our customers and the people they serve. We believe that by working with our customers to face these unprecedented challenges, we can continue to minimize their impact and, as always, keep their freight moving.

Estes Express Lines is a privately-owned freight carrier based in Richmond Virginia. Contact the company at marketing@estes-express.com or 804.353.1900. Visit estes-express.com to learn more.

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