Pilot PMR People

Holiday Peak Season is Shifting for Trucking Industry

By   |  

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are officially over, but the trucking industry’s busiest season is just getting started. Due to the continued growth of online shopping and changing consumer habits, December has now outpaced November as the busiest month for carriers.


Data released by Verizon Connect shows that as consumers spend more money online, transportation patterns are shifting. Last year, truck and van drivers using the tracking system made 29% more stops and drove 27% further in the core five-day period around the Christmas holiday than during the Thanksgiving holiday. This marks a major shift. Historically, Thanksgiving was the height of trucking’s peak holiday season as retailers didn’t launch Christmas sales until that time.


That’s all changed due to the rise of e-commerce. Holiday sales now extend as late as Christmas Eve, both online and at brick-and-mortar stores. Consumers no longer have to wait days if not weeks for their holiday packages to arrive. Two and one-day shipping options are the new norm, meaning that consumers can wait longer to make purchasing decisions. This change in habits has shifted the peak holiday times for truckers back.


Consumers are making more purchases than ever before. U.S. consumers spent $7.4 billion online this Black Friday, a more than 19% increase from last year. Cyber Monday sales were even higher, reaching $9.4 billion, a nearly 20% increase.


These increased holiday shopping rates have impacted the logistics and trucking industry. Last year, the number of stops and miles driven by truckers supplying retailers and restaurants between October and December rose by 18% year-over-year.


As December approaches, spot market truckload freight volumes have been rising and spot rates are beginning to follow as shippers demand more capacity. As holiday purchases increase both in-store and online, less-than-truckload carriers are gaining freight previously moved by truckload carriers. This freight is now being shipped in smaller lots to stores and e-commerce distribution centers.  


At-home deliveries have also risen. USPS expects to deliver 800 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Surprisingly, a growing number of shoppers sidestepped delivery wait times this year. There was a 43% increase in buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) orders. Logistics companies and brick-and-mortar retailers have been teaming up lately to bridge the gap between online and offline retail operations, and it appears to be working.


Holiday shopping season continues to grow each year, and that trend isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. The increase in sales and changing consumer behavior will continue to impact the trucking industry. A shift in the holiday peak is only the beginning.