Consumer-focused shipments remain front and center in a COVID-19 world

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor · October 9, 2020

It may feel like a long time ago, when were all stressed out about getting toilet paper, certain types of food, and many other things, due to the myriad supply chain issues that were caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic back in mid-March. But it really was not all that long ago, in retrospect.

That said, many things have changed since then, and, perhaps, as it relates to tracking shipment types, it really does not come as that much of a surprise to see what shipment types are leading the way in this COVID-19 world.

A recent blog by Vivek Vaid, Chief Technology officer, for Chicago-based FourKites, a provider of real-time tracking and visibility solutions across transportation modes and digital platforms, observed that consumer packaged goods (CPG), food and beverage (F&B), and retail payments are leading the way for shipments and “continue to drive overall growth in shipment volumes across the U.S., with a huge surge in less-than-truckload and parcel shipments.”

What’s more, Vaid explained that, in the short-term, this represents a significant shift in buyer behavior to purchase smaller volumes based on varying demands, and an indication of the impact of increased e-commerce volume due to COVID-19.

Taking that a step further, he wrote that total shipments of U.S. goods saw steady growth in the summer months, before falling slightly in September, with May shipments up 2% sequentially, with June, July, up 8% and 1%, respectively, while September slipped 3%. When looking at those tallies, Vaid said that they come with the caveat that CPG, F&B, and retail shipments represented almost 80% of that growth.

E-commerce shipments unsurprisingly continue to be the method of choice for consumers, as well as in the form of contactless delivery and store pickup options, too. Vaid said this has played out in FourKites’ data, which has seen “a strong spike in smaller shipments in both B2C and B2B,” as smaller shipments of goods moved via LTL and parcel, for packages less than 100 pounds, have seen major gains.

As examples of this, he pointed out that LTL shipments are up 42% when compared to March and June parcel shipments peaked at 71% and have subsequently stabilized to 37% in September compared to March.

This analysis and related data provides a clear overview of how things have been in the age of COVID-19, specifically as it relates to shipment growth and for specific sectors and commodities. The future remains incredibly unclear, and there is a lot to keep an eye on, to say the least. But no matter what happens, it really seems like consumer-focused shipments continue to be the lever being pulled, with supply chain and logistics operations clearly up to the challenge.

October 9, 2020