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Peak Season & Workforce Planning: A Tactical Approach

As the e-commerce boom evolves into a continuous climb, transportation and logistics providers are quickly and frequently weighing their options to adjust their ways of working in order to meet – and uphold - the high direct-to-consumer (DTC) demand through a COVID-19 resurgence, a possible vaccine launch, a volatile political climate, and residual effects of the potential post-Brexit border backlog.

Just months after the strongest market conditions on record, The FTR Shippers Conditions Index was the lowest it’s been in two years and circumstances are expected to become significantly worse in the second half of 2021. Many freight experts predict continued tighter capacity and higher shipping rates, and some even suggest volume increases anywhere from 50% to 2.5 times the norm. 

What’s more, with the supply chain already functioning at its capacity, a second stimulus check could mean increased online spending and heightened consumer expectations for timely deliveries. COVID-19 has already accelerated growth of e-commerce by nearly six years, so to prepare for the historic months ahead, transportation providers are looking to offset the impact by leaning on strategic initiatives to reduce fixed costs and increase asset utilization by continuing to squeeze efficiency from all overhead costs. Some say that improvements in logistics may be the only low hanging fruit through the remainder of the year. 

A recent survey highlights that roughly one-third of the surveyed supply chain and logistics executives admit that their companies were not prepared for shifting supply chain needs over the last six months. Additionally, 35% of those surveyed say they were lacking an omnichannel strategy to adjust to consumer buying behavior, and 34% noted that they had not established the necessary partnerships to handle supply chain demand. So, what can industry leaders do to prepare for the months ahead? 

FreightWaves Market Analyst Zach Strickland sat down with DDC’s own SVP of Client Experience Donna Kintop for insight into how companies can maneuver through the pandemic-related red tape of seasonal help and how they can better optimize their current operations in preparation for an extended peak season.  

Watch the full interview here:

“This industry has done a phenomenal job at being very adaptable to the changing situations and making sure that services are always delivered to their customers.” says Kintop. With peak season projected to last into Q2 of 2021, carriers can do the following to better prepare for high demand and tighter capacity:

  • Analyze data to forecast rising volumes 

  • Review staffing levels and need to adjust 

  • Flex different geographies for optimal efficiency 

  • Rely on operational partners for strategic workforce plans 


Once carriers establish their pain points, they can identify how to best use their resources to their advantage and allocate accordingly. Many are relying on partners to help with labor elasticity so that they can avoid hiring employees only to lay them off early next year when volumes stabilize.  

Making methodical investments in technology during this time is also advised. As the industry wants to secure necessary solutions that will achieve full visibility and reduce costs, decision-makers must let their overarching goals guide them. When navigating the shift to digital operations, it’s important to remain technically agile and explore new products as they become applicable.  

We’re all still learning how to best maneuver through this pandemic, and while uncertainly surrounding a resurgence exists, contingency planning and a tactical strategy can help elevate and sustain performance through an extraordinary peak season. 

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