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If you’re a business owner, time is short and to-do lists are long. With all the details you have to manage, freight shipping is not usually top of mind.
But here’s what you should know: being strategic about timing your international importing or exporting can prevent delays and save you thousands of pounds every year.
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A number of factors can lead to freight rate fluctuations:
Freight, like anything else, operates according to supply and demand. Carriers have a certain amount of space, and shippers like you need to move your goods.
During peak seasons, when everyone is vying for the same space, prices go up, potentially even doubling. During less busy seasons, prices drop.
The good news is that peak season is fairly consistent: it centers around back to school and holiday sales. For sea freight, prices start to rise as early as July and remain high through October. Air freight hits its highest points of the year October-December to meet the holiday season rush.
Additionally, each country’s specific holidays affect shipping rates and times. Most notably, the Chinese New Year, which effectively shuts down the country for two weeks in late January-early February, causes soaring prices and delays.
General Rate Increases
Ocean carriers may apply a GRI, or general rate increase, to their prices, usually at the beginning of the month. These need to be announced in advance, but price drops, which typically occur mid-month as carriers scramble to fill supply, do not. This means booking during the later part of the month could provide significant savings.
Tariffs, Natural Disasters, and Other Uncertainties
These are the true uncertainties that any shipper faces: new tariffs, extreme weather, carrier bankruptcies, or disasters like the 2015 explosion at the Port of Tianjin. But even though these situations are unpredictable, there are ways to deal with them.
How to time your shipments to save money and avoid delays
With all of these factors in mind, here are nine tips for navigating the choppy waters (#freightjoke) of freight rate fluctuation:
1. Ship during off-peak seasons.
To the extent that you can, plan to ship during non-peak seasons. Think springtime for shipping: March-June are typically the most affordable months, so anything that can be shipped during that time– and won’t cause you exorbitant storage costs– should.
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