Who’s thirsty? Everyone!

Drivers, Resource, Shippers

Beverage season means a wave of demand for hauling drinks

What’s happening: It’s hot, and that means a tidal wave of demand for hauling drinks to consumers, from water and tea to beer and soda.

By the numbers: Beverages are a $146 billion business in the U.S.

Tips for better shipping: Work with carriers with relationships on both the shipper and retailer sides. Get more flexible delivery through drop-trailer agreements. Aim for predictable service during surges through long-term carrier contracts. Use brokerage to complement asset-based partnerships.

The bottom line: When it comes to the seasonal beverage surge, a little bit of planning and a couple of season-specific strategies can keep the drinks flowing.

As temperatures rise, a big appetite for beverages can leave shippers sweating the details of getting a tidal wave of drinks hauled, delivered, and onto store shelves. A little bit of planning and a couple of season-specific strategies can keep that traffic flowing.

One smart way to stay ahead of thirsty shoppers is to work with a carrier that serves both beverage shippers and the retailers they supply, said Adam Veron, head of Enterprise Sales for U.S. Xpress.

“We share a lot of the same grocery and major retail customers that beverage shippers serve, so we have a fundamental understanding of how those retail customers work because we do business directly with them,” Adam said.

Having drop-trailer privileges with many customers means U.S. Xpress can roll in with an empty trailer and trade that empty for a loaded trailer already packed with pallets of thirst-quenching drinks. That means shippers can load up the empty trailers whenever they’re ready, and work with wide delivery windows.

“We may be able to schedule more flexible drop delivery appointments which helps everyone out,” Adam said. “That extra flexibility could make the difference in on-time delivery.”

Trucking has several predictable seasons, including produce season in the spring and the holiday shipping season as the year draws to a close. But in a pandemic-disrupted world where every day delivers new and bigger surprises, it’s hard to come by a sure thing.

“We’re in a time of radical unpredictability,” Adam said. 

But it’s easy to predict huge demand for drinks, as the U.S. beverage industry is worth about $146 billion, and the global market is valued at $1.5 trillion – yes, that’s trillion with a T.

Sales of beverages in the U.S. fell sharply in 2020 as folks hunkered down, but the numbers roared back in 2021, topping out far above 2019 demand.

As summer heats up and consumers get even thirstier, partnering with carriers that work with a wide variety of customers in multiple industries is another strategy for meeting demand surges. Those companies are well-positioned to surf waves of demand and to accommodate the often unexpected ebbs and flows of shipping.

“We operate in diverse verticals – consumer products, retail, meal and beverage, manufacturing, paper,” Adam said. “If one section in surging, there’s significant advantage in having a lot of diversity as far a customer base. That diversity provides reliability, predictability, and versatility.”

The advantages of asset-based services include fixed costs, which can be an essential factor to planning for traffic that tends to run through cycles of demand.

“Customers that could be impacted by seasonal swings can benefit from contracted capacity and having commitments established,” Adam said. “That’s a good way to secure reliable capacity even during a crunch like beverage season.”

But brokerage services can be an important complement to asset-based services in meeting demand for capacity during surges.

“We work with thousands of partners carriers in our brokerage area,” Adam said. “Brokerage has unique advantages, including providing rates based on fast-changing market conditions.”

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