Capacity has been tight for months, signaling consumers’ renewed willingness to spend money as vaccine efforts continue and COVID-era restrictions are loosened across the nation. At the same time, the trucking industry has not recovered from the pandemic’s effects on its already-dwindling driver pool, placing an even greater strain on capacity. How shippers, brokers and 3PLs choose to navigate this challenging landscape will affect both their own chances of success and their relationships with their carrier partners for years to come. 

“The freight market has caught up since the pandemic,” Trucker Tools Founder and CEO Prasad Gollapalli said. “The overall freight volume in the country has gone up tremendously. Lack of capacity to handle that volume is exacerbated by the driver shortage.”

At the peak of the pandemic, consumers shifted their spending away from travel and services, instead funneling their cash toward things like new furniture, building materials, paper products and pharmaceuticals. Now that people have become more comfortable venturing out of their homes again, hard-hit sectors are rebounding. At the same time, spending remains higher than average in many of the sectors that saw sales soar earlier in the pandemic. This has led to a significant economic stimulus, resulting in surging demand for transportation services. 

“There are supply chain disruptions on all different levels, adding a lot of uncertainty into the freight market and driving some of the spot demand we are seeing,” Choptank Transport President and CEO Geoff Turner said. “There’s the overall COVID environment, coupled with unprecedented economic stimulus. On top of that, every carrier I talk to says they need to hire more drivers. The perfect storm of things is happening right now.”

To respond to this kind of storm, carriers, brokers and 3PLs alike must be armed with the right tools to help them eliminate inefficiencies. Solutions like the Trucker Tools app help ensure both parties are successful by offering everything from top-notch visibility services to digital freight matching. 

In addition to helping these key players stay on top of their operations, the Trucker Tools app aids drivers by offering valuable information about parking availability, truck stop hours and fuel rates. This is more important than ever at a time when drivers are leaving the industry faster than they can be replaced. Using the Trucker Tools app is one way brokers and 3PLs can make things easier for drivers and improve their relationships with carriers. 

“The pendulum has swung in the carriers’ favor, and they have their pick of freight right now,” Gollapalli said. “Relationships are driving a lot of capacity today.”

While carriers are “favored” in the current market, these companies are still grappling with the stress of being seriously understaffed, as well as responding to the industrywide call to adopt more and more technology. Carriers are also under a degree of universal pressure to keep costs low and performance high in order to recover from any COVID-related losses. 

While demand for their services is high, carriers still face their share of both performance and financial pressure. Brokers, 3PLs and shippers that recognize this reality will be able to build better, more productive and enduring relationships with carriers. These relationships are instrumental in ensuring shippers have access to reasonably priced capacity at times like these. 

“Having those relationships with carriers and understanding what each carrier likes and does not like is always important,” Turner said. “There are still real cost pressures on these carriers. We should not be trying to nickel and dime them because we need them to be successful in order to have a successful supply chain.”