So what's a shipper to do?

There is no doubt that there will continue to be a shortage of capacity for the truckload segment of transportation, due to a reduced number of carriers (through bankruptcies and mergers), a recovering economy with greater demand for freight transportation, increased international trade, governmental regulations like Hours of Service, and a shortage of drivers.

A recent freight transportation summit at the Logistics Institute at Georgia Tech (www.gatech.edu) offered several strategies for shippers to deal with the capacity crunch. If product can move at a slightly slower pace to the final customer, shippers can consider intermodal movement, although rail is beginning to experience its own capacity issues (see "More freight is riding the rails,").

Another alternative is to begin employing brokerage services. Brokers are in business to find capacity for clients. A possible problem is that other shippers are aware of the possibilities and brokers, too, are seeing business increases.

Shippers can make better use of available tools — particularly in technology — to provide themselves with better forecasting and planning in order to tamp down peak-and-valley demands.

All truckload carriers are advocating establishing long-term relationships with shippers so that both sides of the supply and demand equation can work together with the goal of maintaining a viable supply chain.

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