We’re taught from an early age to see summer as a joyous occasion. In a normal school year, when the final bell rings at the end of the semester, kids throughout the US run out the door to enjoy a months-long vacation uninterrupted by school, homework, or responsibilities.
Food and beverage logistics professionals see summer through a different lens.
From hurricanes to strained capacity to DOT Week, summer shipping season is littered with obstacles that add a layer of complexity to an already challenging role. While kids are enjoying their well-deserved summer vacation, logistics professionals are navigating these six complications to their food supply chains.
- Produce and beverage seasons
Demand for perishables surges during the summer months, with consumers buying more produce than any other time during the year. The long produce season that runs throughout the southern US begins to overlap with the produce seasons beginning in May in the Northwest, in July in the Midwest, and in August in the Northeast. At the same time, as the weather warms up, consumers purchase more beverages to beat the heat.
- Rising temperatures
On the subject of heat, summer temperatures wreak havoc on food supply chains. Many food and beverage shipments require reefer trucks, but they aren’t the only products demanding reefer shipments during the hottest months of the year. As demand ramps up during the summer shipping season, food and beverage perishables have to fight freight like pharmaceuticals and electronics for reefer capacity by looking to their backup contracts and the spot market.
- Fluctuating capacity
The impacts of summer aren’t uniform across the country. In May, while temperatures are hovering in the low 60s in Seattle, they’re creeping into the 90s in Las Vegas. As food and beverage freight demand surges in waves in different markets to match the weather, carriers will naturally shift trucks to where the work is. As in-market capacity surges or recedes, spot market prices will follow suit.
- Natural disasters
While freight seasonality, weather patterns, and shifting capacity are predictable, nature often throws a wrench in plans. During the peak summer shipping months, shippers must navigate flash flood and tornado seasons (April-June), wildfire season (June-August), and hurricane season (June-November). With thousands of natural disasters per year within the US, shippers can’t plan for specific weather events, but they need to prepare their summer supply chains for disruptions due to natural disasters.
- DOT Week
Every summer, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) leads International Roadcheck, more popularly known as DOT Week, in coordination with the Department of Transportation. Throughout DOT Week, enforcement officials stop tens of thousands of trucks for lengthy, 37-point inspections. Between the inspections themselves and some drivers choosing to take the week off, supply chain capacity tightens and shipments face frequent delays.
Back to schoolCOVID-19
In any other year, the summer months would give way to back-to-school season, but as we know, 2020 isn’t any other year. Instead, food supply chains have been thrown into disarray by the COVID-19 pandemic. After an initial surge in March in which Convoy flexed its network up by more than 50 percent to meet panic-buying demand, followed by a contraction of the market in April, supply and demand have remained unpredictable and require close monitoring.
The obstacles presented by the summer months require supply chain resilience even in the best circumstances, but in especially volatile times, it’s even more critical that shippers secure reliable and flexible capacity. By leveraging a freight network built on the five fundamentals of supply chain resilience, logistics professionals can rest a little easier knowing that their food supply chain is ready for anything. could see summer like a kid again.