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uShip CEO Kris Lamb Talks Summer Shipping Trends and Outlook for Transporters

States nationwide are slowly awakening from their COVID-19-induced shutdowns. This means transport, logistics, and supply chain management will continue to play a vital roll in how quickly we re-emerge as an economy and a country.

In an exclusive interview, uShip CEO Kris Lamb sits down with Joe Hafkey, host of uShip’s The Long Haul podcast, to talk about this re-emergence and expectations for summer shipping trends, especially how over-the-road carriers on uShip can keep their trucks and trailers full.

headshots of uShip CEO Kris Lamb and Joe Hafkey of The Long Haul Podcast

USHIP UPDATE

On uShip, freight demand has not only rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels, it’s actually surpassed those levels thanks to a few key categories. For transporters, this has been great news relative to other traditional freight companies who have found themselves struggling.

Kris reveals top categories seeing a resurgence, what carriers might expect around freight volumes as states reopen, and how the impact of e-commerce is a golden opportunity for providers, whether behind the wheel of a sprinter van, car hauler, box truck, pickup, or flatbed.

KRIS-TAL BALL REALITY

Kris also warns that there is no real source of truth for what lies ahead long term in our dismantled economy. As a result, he’s just focused his trend-spotting attention on this summer – from Memorial Day to Labor Day – a reasonable span to share outlook based on existing activity and historical seasonal trends on Ship.

side view of black motorcycle with white background

TREND NO. 1: MOTORCYCLES ARE SEEING A STRONG REBOUND

In the heart of the pandemic shut down, this wasn’t necessarily the case. In fact, carriers who haul motorcycles and powersports vehicles reported that the motorcycle market had gone very quiet compared to past “normal” months.

But as of late April, there’s been a solid and quick resurgence. That’s continued into May and should carry on over the summer, especially as key motorcycle partners come back online and need transport services for their buyers. E-bikes are also a trend that can’t be ignored.

To be sure, this trend is a bit illogical and counterintuitive. You don’t normally see this type of buying during times of high unemployment – motorcycles aren’t exactly how one spends their money during an economic downturn if no other reason than to save on gas costs. It may be how people wanted to spend their stimulus checks. Or people are selling their motorcycles to free up cash for household expenses.

KRIS-TAL BALL TAKEAWAY: It’s very difficult to say shippers’ true motivations for shipping motorcycles, but if you’ve got capacity and equipment for motorcycle and powersports hauling, jump on and ride this opportunity.

mid-century styled three drawer dresser with stained wood

TREND NO. 2: TAP INTO THE EXPLOSIVE E-COMMERCE MARKET DIRECTLY THROUGH USHIP

One thing the quarantine showed us is that isolated Americans sure love to shop online. Popular e-commerce companies like Etsy, Chairish, 1stdibs, Vibe Kayaks, and more all report strong demand from pent up consumers. In fact, Etsy reported a 79 percent surge in non-mask sales. That’s huge. Vibe Kayaks also reports tremendous seasonal sales as people are itching to get outdoors.

For providers on uShip, this ultimately means transport opportunity for everything from high-end furniture to sit-on-top kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and surfboards.

Hundreds of providers on uShip have already tapped into the uShip In-Home Delivery program and done quite well. They’ve essentially used uShip to immediately tap into e-commerce companies that would normally take years to establish a relationship with as a single transport company.

KRIS-TAL BALL TAKEAWAY: If you aren’t part of uShip In-Home Delivery, this is an opportunity. Certain feedback and cancellation rates are required. Given that it’s summer, buying should continue through Labor Day, especially outdoor furniture, until late August when there’s a hint of fall in the air. We historically see a strong fall season for antique furniture shipping as well.

passenger side view of red 2000s ford mustang
TREND NO. 3: RESURGENT USED CAR SALES WILL MEAN MORE OPPORTUNITY VIA AUTO DEALERS 

Did you know that today just a small percentage (like “single digits” small) of dealerships truly offer digital retailing service? To survive in a time of social distancing and self-isolation, industry experts expect that number to explode to around 90 percent by year’s end. Essentially, they’ll be taking a page from Carvana and Vroom’s online dealership playbook.

What’s this have to do with uShip? At the moment, similar to how it works with eBay Motors and other partners, uShip is in the process of becoming a shipping service for dealerships and auto auctions, as well as the software vendors who help those two parties run a smoother operation, including shipping.

This will mean a LOT more vehicle shipments coming through the uShip network. While the hope is that we’ll see a summer surge, it may be a longer-term vision for this opportunity.

KRIS-TAL BALL TAKEAWAY: If you have DOT and MC authority and have the equipment to ship vehicles, look out for this opportunity. It’s a very real, ripe opportunity that’ll take shape over the back half of 2020 and into 2021.

graph showing resurgence of new available loads on uShip beginning weeks after COVID-19 fallout

CONCLUSION

  1. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, the demand for reliable transport is there and will ALWAYS be there. Carriers on uShip – and drivers everywhere – play a critical role in fulfilling this need.
  2. We’ve also seen uShip can run counter to the overall market. For example, while many trucking companies saw off-the-cliff trends almost overnight, we’ve seen an upswing that’s exceeding pre-COVID-19 levels from early March.
  3. Last, be ready. There are things you can do right now that don’t involve being behind the wheel or planning your next route: Build up your uShip carrier profile page with a short paragraph about your service (or give it a refresh if you’ve already got one), add new photos, reply to reviews, generally do some profile spring cleaning.

Prepare for the onslaught of new customers. Think and act like a business you’d want to work with – and good things will follow.