Check Call

Check Call: All I want for Christmas is a giant tree

Truckload is out, rail is in | Ho ho ho history

Hot Take

Image: Twitter

It’s not truly the beginning of the holiday season until New York City holds the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. For a tree that is one of the most iconic things about Christmas, it sure isn’t an easy task making it happen every year. 

To start, Erik Pauzé, head gardener at Rockefeller Center, is given the monumental task of looking for the year’s Christmas tree. He will travel to local nurseries and drive through residential areas of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as well as pore over the online submissions. Each year his team has to choose the tree based on requirements such as it must be a minimum of 72 feet high and 45 feet wide. 

This year’s tree was found as he was driving along a road in Elkton, Maryland. He saw it earlier in the year, pulled over, knocked on the door of the family and asked if they would donate it to be the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Simple as that. From there his team constantly monitored the tree to ensure its health.  

Once the time has arrived, the tree is cut and transported to NYC to get all dressed up for the holidays. At the beginning of August, about a week before the big cut and haul day, the tree is wrapped to protect the branches during transport. From there, Torsilieri Inc. works with the various permit departments in the states the tree will pass through, as well as New York City, where it coordinates with the NYPD to close off streets and allow the tree the safest way into the city. 

The tree is then reunited with the donors to ceremoniously nail the steel spikes into the ground that support the tree during the season. Decorations are added for a few months and the tree is topped with a 900-pound Swarovski crystal star.

After the holiday season, the tree is donated to Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for those in need. The Christmas tree tradition was started by construction workers putting up a tree while building Rockefeller Center that has now morphed into one of the most iconic signs of Christmas in the U.S.

Quick Hit

Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Rail is the new black? Due to the rising costs of truckload shipments throughout the country, many shippers are opting for longer transit times and moving more items on the ole rail lines. While Southern California is designed to handle a majority of the nation’s imports, the long wait times for drivers to get into the ports haven’t improved shippers’ delays.


As shippers are getting more creative, utilizing the rail and switching imports to different ports in the U.S., 3PLs are going to have to adapt as well. Not adapting and coming up with creative solutions is what will cause others to capitalize on your shortcomings to not only make those promises but also deliver on them. If your customer wants something faster, maybe just maybe a crazy idea like the rail or river will work.

Market Check

SONAR TRAC Market Dashboard

I know it’s not Thursday but we have some TRAC data for you that seemed a little more appropriate given that the Rockefeller Center tree took this same route. While not everyone is following the same route, and the chances of hauling a 12-ton, 46-foot-wide tree are slim, we can see quite the yo-yo effect on this lane over the past month. 

Current rates are about $7.33 a mile for an all-in rate of $1,093 for a 149-mile trek. It’s the lowest this lane has seen in the last 30 days and $1,093 all-in may seem high, but given the shipment heads into NYC, you can expect a premium for that. Not everyone has the NYPD shutting down streets for them to bring goods into the city.

Holiday History Lesson

Image: Makeameme.org

A common mantra is to buy early as supply chain disruptions stand to jeopardize Christmas, but Christmas wasn’t always about the presents and big decorations that are stuck out in the ocean. Gifts on Christmas became a major thing in the U.S. in the 20th century when marketers started targeting children in an effort to entice parents to spend more. 

In the early 2000s it was estimated that shoppers in the U.S. alone spent over $4 billion each day during the Christmas shopping season, with an average individual spending over $1,000 on gifts. It wasn’t always about the gifts, and some still focus on the religious aspects.

Gift giving is said to have gotten its roots from a pagan custom that was rationalized into Christianity by relating the gift-giving custom to the gifts of the Magi to Jesus. However, gift giving has been around longer than that, according to historians, who have said the custom of giving presents during the middle of winter was seen in early Roman and Norse cultures. A winter solstice festival that included gift giving was called Saturnalia

Some form of winter gift giving has been around for thousands of years and I don’t see it diminishing anytime soon, regardless of how many ships sit out in the port. After record years this year for a lot of retailers, I see the next year being heavy on inventory replenishment and high levels of spending.

The more you know

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The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes Forward Air (No. 37).

Mary O'Connell

Former pricing analyst, supply chain planner, and broker/dispatcher turned creator of the newsletter and podcast Check Call. Which gives insights into the world around 3PLs and Freight brokers. She will talk your ear off about anything and everything if you let her. Expertise in operations, LTL pricing and procurement, flatbed operations, dry van, tracking and tracing, reality tv shows and how to turn a stranger into your new best friend.