Household Goods Shipping: Summer Outlook and Challenges 05.12.2021 | Kyriako Bouris

relocation services

Summertime is nearly upon us and, in addition to more daylight, warmer temps and a lighter wardrobe, the lazy-crazy-hazy days are traditionally the busiest time for relocation activity. That’s because the weather is less likely to cause transit delays, families with children want to be settled in before school begins and homes are looking their manicured-landscape-best for market.

Despite the lingering effects of the pandemic on talent mobility, all signs indicate that this summer is shaping up to include increased move activity.

Of course, this summer will feel a bit different from those of years past. If you manage your company’s mobility program, there are a number of things related to household goods shipping and storage that you’ll want to consider and share with your mobile employees to ensure winning outcomes.

1. Early planning will be more critical than ever. With pandemic restrictions still in effect in many places, crew sizes will most likely be smaller. That means slower moves and less availability. Put simply, the earlier you start planning, the better you’ll be able to book satisfactory move dates. Weichert’s Move Network partners work together, across agencies, to ensure that optimal timing and capacity drive the decision of who handles a shipment, so our clients receive priority service even at peak times. Companies may also want to consider approving weekend and/or overtime (if an option) to secure preferred moving dates and transferees should be encouraged to move mid-month (if possible) instead of the first and last week which tend to be the busiest times of the month.

2. Expect moves to take longer. One of those lingering effects we mentioned earlier is a labor and driver shortage in the household goods moving and storage industry. While the industry has struggled with driver shortage for years, labor shortages this year will further exacerbate scheduling challenges as some individuals will earn more by not working. Further compounding this is a regional migration issue where some states are experiencing more people leaving than moving in. Under normal circumstances, most freight haulers can count on return trip shipments to help pay for their trips home. When there is a significant lack of inbound move activity, the hauler may have to wait for a return shipment, which affects availability for the next move. Combine this with fewer crews and drivers and the result is protracted move times. In the same way we ensure priority service through inter-agency cooperation, our Weichert Move Network partners work together to promote each other’s return shipments, which helps ensure trailer availability in all areas.

3. There will likely be an increase in storage costs and exception requests. With the housing market surging in most places, sellers will not always be able to delay a closing to accommodate the movement of their household goods to their new location. That stuff has to go somewhere, though, and unless you have really good friends with a really big garage, that usually means storage. As storage capacity becomes scarcer, costs will likely escalate as the need for longer storage periods occurs. Weichert encourages exploring Discard and Donate programs to help reduce shipment and storage capacity needs, while also leveraging our deep moving company partnerships to ensure access to storage and minimize costs.

4. COVID-related challenges will remain with us for a while. Even with significant vaccine distribution and many areas no longer under restrictions, our moving crews are still using PPE and observing social distancing in many areas; no small task when your team is carrying a 300 pound mahogany dresser down a flight of stairs in 95 degree weather! These practices add time to the pack, load and unload processes. Since the onset of the pandemic, our Move Network partners have adopted some innovative ways of lessening the impact of these practices while ensuring the health and safety of crews and transferee households, including visual/virtual surveys via teleconferencing apps, rotating crew members in and out for mask/personal sanitizing breaks, and frequently sanitizing sites and surfaces throughout the pack and load process. Weichert’s counseling staff works in tandem with our Move Network Counselors to help our clients inform their employees about these practices and set proper expectations to ensure a smoother and more efficient process.

5. There are still a number of cost containment measures available. Of course we saved the best for last! With an increase in the number of planes flying, air freight space has become more readily available, which drives down cost and speeds up shipments. Our Weichert Move Network partners work skillfully to identify situations in which an air shipment might be a better cost-timing option, and utilize those if warranted.

Because it’s not cost effective to run a partially empty truck, everyone has to wait for that last amount of freight to make it full when using a conventional large trailer for multiple smaller shipments. Weichert has found a rather cost effective alternative by offering several containerized small-shipment options wherein a secure, heavy-duty container is delivered to a property for loading, either by a crew or by the transferee, and then picked up on request (reasonably!) once it is ready to go. These solutions reduce wait times, offer tremendous flexibility in thelevel of benefit options clients can offer, include storage at no added cost for a period of time, and actually help free larger vehicles’ capacity for larger shipments. A classic win-win-win-win.

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Written by Kyriako Bouris

Rocko Bouris

Kyriako “Rocko” Bouris, CMC, is Weichert’s Vice President, Global Transportation Solutions. He oversees every facet of our integrated move management solution, strategizing with our household goods specialists and network partners to ensure superior point-to-point communication, cost control and accountability throughout the entire household goods shipment process. He has over 20 years of relocation move management expertise and earned the Certified Moving Consultant (CMC) designation.

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