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Preparing For Peak Season 2023 - Tips For Drivers

It's peak season for trucking companies. The holidays are fast approaching and truckers will be working around the clock to get freight to its destination. Trucking during peak season is no easy feat, as drivers have to be ready for anything. The upcoming season may be a little slower than some are used to in previous years, but we're still going to see a lot of truckers driving their rigs across the country. Staying focused and prepared for peak season can make a big difference in both profit and experience. Luckily, there are a few effective ways to prepare for the challenges ahead.

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Current Trends

With the current economic shifts post pandemic, there has been instability in the freight market. Industry experts are forecasting that this year’s peak season may be slightly more moderate than the seasons prior, due to shifts in freight demand and inventory. Merchants are seeking to get rid of an excess of inventory built up from the pandemic, and freight rates are below what they normally would be. Intermodal volumes are at some of the lowest levels seen in several years now. There has been minimal expansion in inbound trade imports this year, and consumer spending is shifting, due to both economic impact and a desire for more services and experiences, as opposed to goods. 

Despite the slowdown we have seen from previous peak seasons, there are still going to be chances for work, and the usual challenges of peak season to combat with. Truckers can prepare for a heavier schedule and more time pressures to deliver freight. Roads will see an increase in traffic due to the holidays as well, while weather is not going to be pleasant in most areas, which can be challenging. It’s a stressful time of year and truckers have a lot on their plate. It’s essential to remain vigilant and ready for this peak season by taking care of what you can control.

Preparing For Peak Season

Plan Ahead

While peak season is already in motion, there is still time to work out a proper plan to tackle the coming months. To stay ahead and ensure you are driving for the most of your 11 hour window, look ahead into where you’re headed. Look into traffic, road conditions, and shipper or receiver reviews. If you know that certain companies unload slowly, you can plan ahead for it, instead of arriving and sitting around. Trucker message boards, LinkedIn and other online communities are great resources for finding out what you need to know, to keep you moving. Don’t forget to pack your supplies; extra blankets, food and any emergency supplies you may need in case of delay or breakdown.

Prepare For Your Financial Goals  

It’s important for carriers to consider fluctuations which come with the season, and look into any added expenses or resources needed to tackle them. If you divide monthly expenses and one time expenses by the miles you drive during the month, you’ll see your breakeven per mile rate, and then from there you can find your target per mile rate. It is always good to have an idea of what you want to earn, so that you know how many loads you may need to take on.

It's always helpful for carriers, especially owner-operators, to look into the operational changes which may be needed to keep up with the pace, and have that sorted, so you can focus on freight. Since freight availability is low compared to how many trucks are available, it is important to keep checking load boards and your online LinkedIn or social media networks for available loads frequently, as there are often last minute additions or loads being offered.

Extra Steps For Safety

Truckers know that on the road, you can really only control yourself. It’s important to remain aware of your surroundings at all times, in order to react quickly and keep things moving. If vehicles are slowing down out of nowhere, it’ll be key to react on time and adjust, as you don’t know what may be up ahead. Sudden weather changes can also become risky, so it’s important to always adjust your speed and driving to what is around you. Some key adjustments to make in winter can include:

  • Adding more space between you and other vehicles
  • Minimal lane changing
  • More caution practiced on bridges as they tend to be more icy
  • Slow down on sharp turns
  • Using your chains
  • Preparing to stop at red lights and stop signs by giving yourself time and extra room

During holiday peak season, snow can wreak havoc on the roads, so having alternate routes or choosing to pull over when you need to, is also important to your safety. No load is worth your life. If you can’t plan for giving yourself a longer delivery window in general, then make sure to communicate of any issues that may cause delay, as they happen.

Preventative Vehicle Maintenance

Having a functioning vehicle is for both safety and the ability to work. The pace starting to pick up during peak season will cause a lot of wear on trucks, which can be damaging if they are not maintained properly. Preventative maintenance is key to keeping your truck running this season. Colder weather and rough road terrain also makes for added stress on any vehicle, which is why ensuring all small issues are fixed early and constant checks are done, to prevent a bigger expense or time off the road due to repairs or truck breakdowns.  Some things to check include:

  • Engine Oil and Filter 
  • Fluids (Transmission, brake fluid, coolant, and engine oil)
  • Drive Shafts
  • Hoses
  • Fuel System
  • Brake System
  • Lights
  • Inspect The Tires 
  • Test Your Battery 
Prioritize Communication

Nobody plans for a blowout or poor weather, but things happen outside of your control, so it’s important to remain calm and communicate what's needed. It’s key to remain in communication in the case of any delays or issues coming up, in order to get them resolved in a timely manner.

Communicating regularly also provides a record for you, the customer and the company you may be driving for, of things that are outside your control, so that you are not the one dealing with any consequences. If you are running late due to road conditions or matters outside your control, let dispatch know and they can try to work with you to keep things moving.

Trucking is not just about the driving, as you’ve got to be ready for all of the peaks and valleys ahead. This season, make sure you're focused on the essentials when it comes to scheduling your commute. You can't always control the weather, road conditions and other factors that can affect your travel time. Pacing yourself is the most important part of peak season for truck drivers, but it's also the most overlooked aspect. Prepare for your peak season mile by mile.