News and Press

The Logistics Manager’s Guide to Expedited Shipping

by Joe Crofoot, Logistics Managers on January 4, 2017

container truck and cargo plane in transit

The Logistics Manager’s Guide to Expedited Shipping

The repairs to a cell tower in rural Wisconsin were nearly complete when the onsite techs discovered they needed two additional parts to complete the job before the tower was operational and service could be reinstated to the area. Without cellphone service, the techs radioed the company’s parts and logistics group in Chicago to arrange to have the equipment delivered to the job site ASAP.


Within a few minutes, the wireless company’s parts logistics manager contacted its company’s third-party logistics (3PL) provider to handle shipping. Soon, the 3PL would dispatch a sprinter van to pick up the small load and get it to the techs. Job done.


Welcome to the world of expedited shipping, where speed and response time trump everything, including cost. In truth, the world of expedited deliveries is a lot more complicated than the cargo van “calvary” saving the day at the last minute. With this post, I’ll help you understand when expedited shipping make sense, what are your delivery options, and what does it cost when the freight can’t wait another hour.


When Should You Use Expedited Delivery?


Most of all, shippers choose expedited shipping to respond to emergency and unexpected events. For instance, public and private utilities are big users of expedited services when power must be restored to storm-ravaged areas. Any company that operates complex equipment to produce, manufacture or create goods is also a frequent purveyor of expedited services. When equipment breaks down, replacement parts are needed to reinstate manufacturing.


Additionally, manufacturers operating just-in-time assembly lines use expedited service to deliver parts and sub-assemblies to the factory only on the days and times they are needed. Companies that rely on inbound logistics services, such as automobile manufacturers, use expedited delivery services.


Just-in-time delivery also decreases a company’s inventory costs because fewer parts are warehoused.

Overall, we get called when the unexpected happens!


What Are Your Expedited Services Options?


By ground

Expedited shipments arrive by land or air. Depending on the size of the load, your ground transport options include cargo or sprinter vans all the way up to a 53-foot tractor trailer. Vans typically hold up to one to three pallets of freight or around 2,800 pounds. Sized in between the vans and tractor trailers are the 20- to 26-foot trucks. These can carry large pieces of equipment and up to 10-16 pallets and 12,000 pounds.


A telecom company may need a new antenna delivered quickly, which calls for one of the largest tractor-trailer rigs. Additionally, any of these truck options can be dispatched with two drivers for around-the-clock driving. When we estimate how long it will take a shipment to reach a destination the smaller cargo van can average 60 mph on a 1,000-mile trip, whereas a tractor-trailer may average a more conservative 45 mph.


By air

Of course, your fastest delivery options will arrive via air. Air delivery services run the gamut from parcels sent via UPS and FedEx aircraft, to pallets and equipment shipped via commercial airlines. Faster than any of these options, but also the most expensive, are chartered planes. We have multiple requests a year for shipments that must go via chartered aircraft because you’re not at the mercy of the airline’s schedule. Your 3PL should have a network of chartered aircraft it taps for these occasions. Chartered air service gives you the flexibility to pick up two pallets of goods at 8 a.m. in Chicago and deliver them to your customer in North Carolina by 2 p.m. the same day.


What Does Expedited Shipping Cost?


Expedited shipping is a premium service, therefore expect to pay premium prices. There are no general rules because it’s a lot more complex than having your order sent next-day air through Amazon. You can manage your costs, however, by only using the service that meets your need. Cargo vans, trucks and tractor trailers charge a consistent rate per mile. Air freight expenses vary widely and depend on commercial airlines, cargo networks and the delivery timeframe requested by the customer.


But expedited shipping also doesn’t always mean the customer has an open-ended budget. We see our clients taking a lot of heat from its customers demanding something be delivered, yesterday. The knee-jerk reaction is to take the quickest option, which can be two or three times more than the next option that could deliver the shipment just a few hours later.


Know your options and have a plan for when that next expedite need comes across. Time is money and relationships are important. Moreover, when you have all the facts, no one can take advantage of you.


Need 4,000 widgets in Wichita by Wednesday?

Get an Expedited Quote, Fast!