With winter fast approaching, many business owners are likely turning their minds to navigating the shipping and freight needs of their operations throughout the colder weather months. During the winter, freight operations face considerations that simply aren’t present throughout the rest of the year.
Preparing your organization in advance is crucial for ensuring successful shipments, even in inclement weather. Read on to explore how to prepare for shipping freight in the winter so you can continue to provide efficient and dependable service to your customers all season long.
Recognize the Hazards of Winter Shipping
Before you can take action to improve your shipping operations, you need to fully understand the challenges your supply chain will face in the winter months. Winter shipping can be hazardous due to extreme cold, snow, wind, and icy conditions that significantly increase the risk of accidents. These conditions can also lead to road closures and other events that can slow down shipments. As a business owner, you need to balance the priorities of delivering on time while ensuring the safety of your shipments.
Understand Weather Conditions in Your Region
One of the greatest challenges of shipping freight in the winter is how varied and unpredictable the weather can be, especially if you’re shipping across multiple parts of the country. That’s why it’s crucial to understand how winter affects the specific region you’re working in.
Pay attention to your shipping routes and make sure you know what your drivers are up against wherever they go. For example, if you’re shipping in the Midwest or Northeast, be prepared for sleet, ice, heavy winds, and ample snowfall. Icy roads are common in these regions, so try to factor poor driving conditions, road closures, and other potential complications into your schedule.
If you’re shipping around or through the Rocky Mountains, be wary of fast, heavy snowfalls that can block entire roadways. Elevation changes make the winter weather particularly unpredictable, so ensure your carriers have backup routes set in case of road closures.
In warmer regions—like in the southeastern United States—freezing temperatures are less of an issue. However, winter precipitation can still cause flooding that leads to road closures, accidents, and other complications.
Be Smart About Shipment Capacity
Don’t let delays, carrier complications, or weather-related product damage cause you to underdeliver to customers. Keep your shipments and carriers optimized all season long by planning accordingly based on available carriers, truck capacity, and other details.
Strategically position high-demand products closer to customers during the winter months. This can help reduce transit time and minimize risks associated with weather-related delays. You should also plan for contingencies by allowing for additional transit time due to potential weather-related disruptions. This may mean sending shipments out earlier or arranging for backup transportation to ensure products arrive on time.
Build Good Carrier Relationships
Having strong relationships with logistics partners and contract freight carriers is always important, but it’s particularly important when preparing for shipping freight in the winter. Winter is challenging, and not every carrier has the resources or capabilities to spend long hours hauling freight in sub-freezing temperatures. Many limit their services and availability in the winter, which means the ones who remain are more likely to raise their rates for the season.
A good relationship with carriers helps you stay informed about any changes in service or availability, negotiate better rates, and ensure a more reliable service during winter.
Choose Carriers Who Have Winter Experience
In addition to maintaining good relationships with your carriers, make sure you work with people and businesses who have experience hauling winter freight. Ideally, you want to partner with contract drivers or carrier companies who have experience hauling in your specific region.
Ask your carrier about how they prepare for the winter season. What kind of vehicle preparation and maintenance do they perform? How do they ensure driver safety while on the road? How do they track shipments during inclement weather? Questions like these will help you choose a carrier you can rely on even when challenges arise this winter.
Factor Delays Into Your Shipping
You can’t predict when things will go wrong, but you can make sure your business has the time and resources to work around unexpected delays. Flexibility and forethought will help ensure your customers receive their orders in a timely manner, even if things go wrong.
Be ready to adjust your shipping plans based on changing weather conditions. This may require working with multiple carriers or finding alternative routes for your shipments. In case of severe delays, have backup plans in place. This might include securing additional warehouse space to store goods or having a contingency crew to help unload your cargo quickly. Additionally, plan shipping dates as far in advance as possible so you can book the best rates and secure space on your preferred carriers.
Keep Your Supply Chain Visible
Keeping your supply chain visible and analyzing data about your operations helps you identify issues and create effective solutions to get you through the season. Collect data on previous years’ winter shipments, including details on delays, weather conditions, and carrier performance. Analyzing this data can help you identify patterns and predict potential bottlenecks in your supply chain.
From there, you can work on solutions to reduce the risk of disruptions. This can include finding alternative carriers or routes, adjusting your shipping schedule, or investing in better packaging materials to protect your goods against cold temperatures.
Stay on Top of Communication
Sometimes, winter weather disruptions are unavoidable. However, maintaining open lines of communication with your customers and partners can help mitigate any negative impact on your business. If you remain honest and dependable in the midst of issues, customers are more likely to forgive delays.
Practice clear and fast communication. Be transparent about delays and update your shipment tracking consistently so customers can stay informed. Remember, customers who face delays without any notice or update are going to be more frustrated—and more likely to cancel orders or take their business elsewhere—than the customers you treat with honesty and respect.
Prioritize the Basics
When all else fails, dependable packaging can get you through. Choosing advanced secondary packaging solutions, such as palletizers and stretch wrappers from Robopac USA, makes sure your products stay secure on the pallet. This helps prevent damage to the product and its primary packaging, ensuring safe and dependable delivery to your customers.
Robopac USA’s industrial wrapping machines feature our patented Cube Technology, which delivers powerful pre-stretch and precise, strategic film placement. Experience complete control over your pallet wrapping and ensure consistently stable product loads when you optimize your packaging line with equipment from Robopac USA.