Long-time LTL carrier, Yellow, announced bankruptcy and the halt of all operations on July 30th, 2023. Saddled with debt after mismanaging large loans paid out by the federal government during the pandemic and struggling to come to agreements with employee unions, Yellow Corporation was forced to shut down.
Yellow’s fleet contains roughly 14,000 trucks and 169 terminals across North America, so it is easy to imagine this shutdown sending ripples through the industry. But what exactly will that look like?
Overall Market Impact
Yellow was one of the largest LTL companies in the United States and possessed many assets in terminal space, trucks, trailers, drivers, and more.
A bidding war was ignited this weekend after Old Dominion Freight Line submitted a $1.5 billion dollar bid to acquire Yellow’s North American Terminal Holdings. This outstrips Estes Express Lines’ previous bid by nearly $200 million.
The allocation of these assets will be hotly contested as the company that secures the bid will drastically increase its fleet and get a foot in the door with clients that previously utilized Yellow’s services. In Q1 of 2023, Yellow held upwards of 10% of the total LTL market share. Carriers will be fighting to take over as much of that newly available freight and equipment as possible.
Zipline Logistics LTL expert and Account Manager, Jake DiCello, jumped into the latest episode of The Truck Yeah! Podcast to give his insight on the potential impact this will have on LTL rates. “[Yellow shutting down] won’t impact rates initially. I think that it’s going to be the beginning of the year [before] everyone figures out how this is going to affect their capacity and networks.”
According to Jake, LTL carriers on average were already operating with 15-25% excess capacity. This means that LTL carriers across the market have the available capacity to absorb the volume made available when Yellow shut down. Beyond the occasional company pushing the limits of its available trucks, the market has managed to keep capacity relatively stable and avoid massive price hikes as a result.
As Yellow’s assets are sold off and the shuffle stabilizes, we will begin to see the actual impact on the market. Carriers are operating on their excess capacity to take on what volume they can and the biggest LTL carriers (Old Dominion, Estes, FedEx) are waiting to make major strategic plays until they see where the leftover assets land.
As the trucks, terminals, and drivers are spread out in the market, we foresee two main possibilities. First, there will likely be carriers that aim to acquire as much of the remaining freight volume as possible. These carriers will likely take on a lower General Rate Increase (GRI) for the upcoming year to secure that volume.
Second, there will be carriers who are not inclined to lower their rates and will price themselves out of the surplus freight. This could include carriers who invested significant capital to secure Yellow’s assets and need to recover those costs. Carriers who operate in a different vertical and don’t consider it necessary to incorporate Yellow’s previous customers into their network to grow within their market niche would also hesitate to accept a lower GRI.
Potential Impact on Consumer-Packaged-Goods (CPG) Brands
For companies in the CPG space — especially those who utilize LTL services frequently in their supply chain — the impact of the Yellow shutdown will be felt in the shuffle as assets are reallocated in the market. For companies who partnered with Yellow primarily, this impact will be greater.
The relationships built with operators and local terminals will likely need to be re-established as other companies take assets over and new operators move into roles held previously by Yellow employees. This turnover could happen several times as terminals change hands between carriers.
What Can CPG Shippers do to Minimize the Impact on Operations?
- Organization and communication are continually important in logistics, but especially during a time of market disruption, they become cornerstones of successful navigation.
- Have BOLs ready in advance to make sure you have ample time to schedule shipments and allow ‘cushion time’ in case of any issues.
- Ensure you have a specific dock-door assigned for LTL carriers to ensure orders can come in and out of your warehouse quickly. LTL carriers usually won’t wait around for doors at pickups/deliveries, so having an LTL-specific door at your warehouse goes a long way in preventing missed pickups.
- Double-check all work between parties within your supply chain. Communication between internal teams, outside brokers, and carriers should be thorough and exact to ensure that operators aren’t falling into old habits, reusing improper BOLs with incorrect carrier information, or assuming a new carrier has all necessary knowledge of facilities.
- Lean on your transportation partners. They should have extensive knowledge of your consignee facilities and carriers who operate in that space. If you work with a 3PL who is well-versed in the LTL space, ask for help in identifying new carriers who possess the capabilities to take on the freight that Yellow previously handled. If you haven’t worked with a 3PL in the past, now may be the time to reach out and see what value can be added to your supply chain through a partnership.
Let Zipline Logistics Help You Navigate the Shuffle
If you’re familiar with how we operate at Zipline Logistics, it won’t surprise you that we are handling this situation proactively. Our expert operators are reaching out to receivers right now and clarifying necessary delivery information, as well as touching base with preferred carriers to confirm capabilities and identify opportunities to replace Yellow in our clients’ supply chains.
At Zipline Logistics we have 16 years of experience delivering high levels of service to our CPG clients and are committed to helping customers navigate difficult markets with a focus on long-term success in retail locations.
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