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Trade Show Freight Costs are Rising. This is Why.


You may have already noticed that trade show freight costs are rising – significantly.

If not, you will.

There are so many contributing factors affecting trade show shipping prices right now that it is hard to determine if any one specific thing makes up the bulk of the increases we are experiencing. But the fact is, the trade show freight market is already experiencing record high prices and there is no immediate relief in sight.

If you look at the current economic climate, data shows that consumer spending over the 2017 holiday season was the highest it has been in over four years. Add to that, the U.S. has increased manufacturing to a 13-year high according to an article in American Manufacturing. Another report shows factories received more orders in December 2017 than they have since 2004.

What does all of this mean? It means more manufactured “stuff” is being shipped, either headed for export or travelling over the road to distribution centers and final destinations across the country, and it all takes up capacity.

Shipping capacity was already getting thin even before the most recent boost in manufacturing was added to the mix. The restricted hours of service that carriers are now governed by creates a shortage of equipment and higher rates, using the basic economic principles of supply and demand.

Then came the ELD mandate which is intended to help create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status (RODS) data. Most experts believe, the full effects of this congressional mandate haven’t been fully realized, and won’t be for some time.

Then there is the driver shortage which has been an ongoing concern for several years. According to the American Trucking Association, the driver shortage is reaching an all-time crisis with an estimated shortage of 50,000 drivers at the end of last year.

We also can’t dismiss the fact that natural disasters and weather have also played a role in higher prices as well. Multiple hurricanes, wild fires, and significant snow storms late into spring have challenged both shippers and carriers alike to get shipments delivered into and out of areas that are affected by these forces of nature.

In an article in The Produce News from January 2018, a citrus grower in Texas explained that he was having extreme difficulty getting all their loads covered. He went on to say that he has never seen such a shortage in the two decades he has been in the citrus business. When they did finally get the freight arrangement secured, they were finding rates that cost approximately $2,700.00 in November 2017 have now climbed to $5,500 in early January 2018. The article goes on to emphasize that if trucking capacity is short now, we could be in for a huge problem as the season picks up.

So what can you do in terms of your trade show programs to help mitigate these increasing freight costs that will ultimately impact your trade show budgets?

Here are some very simple things you can do to help keep your freight costs in check: Stop shipping boxes and boxes of marketing materials. Distribute your marketing materials electronically. You don’t have to display every product you sell in your booth. Some products are bulky and heavy and you can easily tell your trade show story with interactive technology and some smart graphic design.

Sometimes less is more when it comes to the actual structure you have in your exhibit. Be smart and creative in your design and keep freight in mind when you are deciding what you really want, what you actually need and the things that you just have to have in your booth space.

Through Skyline’s extensive experience and focused mission, we have several things that we can do to help ease the increasing freight pain from a design and technology perspective. By designing custom exhibits with highly engineered exhibit display systems that are lightweight and made to pack down tight and light, you can reduce the sheer number of crates and weight that you need to ship to and from the show.

About the Author

Scott B. Young is a Marketing Consultant with Skyline-Holt Exhibits + Events in North Carolina. For the past two decades, Scott has been working with organizations of all shapes and sizes to make marketing and business development efforts easier and more effective. As a strategic advisor, he truly wants his clients to consider him an extension of their team and most of them do. Scott specializes in understanding big picture goals and then creating and executing the action plans needed to meet those goals and exceed expectations. Scott also created the “Trade Show Marketing” group on LinkedIn where 3000+ trade show marketing enthusiasts share ideas and resources.

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