Carrier execs say they are optimistic about Peak Season prospects at CSCMP EDGE

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor · September 24, 2020

When asked to assess 2020 Peak Season prospects, a pair of executives at some of the nation’s leading motor carrier and logistics services providers said at this week’s Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) virtual conference indicated things are looking solid.

That was the collective take from Derek Leathers, CEO and Vice Chairman for Werner Enterprises, and Greg Ritter, CCO for XPO Logistics, at a session entitled “A Look Down the Road—Carrier CEOs Speak,” which was moderated by Gail Rutkowski, Executive Director of NASSTRAC (National Strategic Shippers Transportation Council).

XPO’s Ritter said it is reasonable to expect peak season activity to look bigger and faster, adding it will come more quickly than usual, while also lasting longer.

“XPO is fortunate [in that] we work in almost every vertical we can in the industry, and we see a variety of different ways in which customers are approaching things,” he said. “With our retail customers, we see what they are doing today and how big their business is today, even though we are not yet at peak. It is really going to be an interesting effect, as we start up peak season over the rest of September and into October, as we start seeing volumes head up and deliveries increase.”

This is a byproduct of more cargo entering into West Coast ports, as well as in other regions, he said, with the expectation being things will move fast on that front, along with other facet’s of XPO’s business.

“I think what we are prepared for—because we have been operating at peak-like volumes—has allowed us to ramp up where we really need to ramp up, for things like people and technology, to ensure we are where we need to be,” he said. “We have been working closely with customers to make sure we have the right solution for them…and are having more serious conversations about mode diversion, about keeping capacity at the right spots, and helping us help them. It seems to be working really well.”

Werner’s Leathers concurred with XPO’s Ritter, saying that peak season prospects are shaping up to be very strong, noting that going back to July there has been very robust demand, coupled with tight capacity.

“One difference this year is that this peak is going to push all of us to be more nimble,” he said. “We have heard from a lot of retailers that just securing product for their peak has been more difficult than normal because of COVID-19. They have had to change sourcing and SKU mix and change maybe the kind of products they are bringing in, or, in some cases, are more uncertain on exactly what that product mix looks like. We are going to have to be nimble and in constant communication with our customers.”

With the expectation that capacity will remain very tight, given where things stand today and looking out over the next several months, Leathers said Werner believes that there is no reason to believe that capacity will be any less tight than current levels and will likely be tighter.

“That takes some creativity,” he said. “We are going to keep pushing for mode neutrality to find the best place for the freight logistics and intermodal brokerage group, where it makes sense…and will be in constant contact with customers.”

September 24, 2020