Most shippers limit their alternatives to the largest domestic players such as UPS, FedEx, Airborne and the U.S. Postal Service (including consolidators). Have you ever wondered if there were any alternatives to shipping your parcels? Well, there are alter-natives that are often overlooked. These overlooked alternatives are regional parcel carriers.
Regional carriers have their own unique characteristics, some very attractive such as a very high level of on-time service; flexibility in customizing their services; overnight ground service areas that extend farther than the nationals; competitive pricing; and many of the value-added services that are offered by the nationals.
The regional carrier portion of the parcel shipping industry is very fragmented. Here�s a sampling, by no means an exhaustive list, of regional carriers provided to give one a basic understanding of who some of the players are, where they are located and where to look for more information.
Northeast � Eastern Connection, headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts, provides coverage from Maine to Virginia. The company also offers 9:00 AM guaranteed delivery. For more information, visit
Mid Atlantic � Central Parcel Express (CPX), formerly RDS, is a subsidiary of American Package Express (APX). The company provides coverage in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and it also provides B2B and B2C options. For more information, visit
Midwest � Spee-Dee Delivery Service, headquartered in St. Cloud, Minnesota, provides coverage in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. For more information, visit Lanter Delivery Services, headquartered in Madison, Illinois, provides coverage in 14 Midwest states and nine southeastern states. For more information, visit
West � American Package Express (APX), headquartered in Irvine, California, is the largest of the regional carriers and is also a subsidiary of Western Parcel Express (WPX). The company provides coverage in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho. APX is a unique regional carrier that has grown by acquiring/partnering with other regional carriers and also offers inter-regional options. For more information, visit
UCI Distribution Plus, headquartered in Burbank, California, is a subsidiary of ATI Systems International. The company concentrates on B2B delivery and provides coverage in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. For more information, visit
Depending on a shipper�s location and needs, there are many regional carriers that can offer their assistance. A good starting place for researching your options would be to use the Express Carriers Association Web site at The association also hosts an annual marketplace to provide shippers with an opportunity to explore business opportunities with attending regional carriers.
Using a Regional Carrier
Scenario 1 � Limited Overnight Ground Service
Your primary parcel carrier is not providing the extended overnight ground service you desire. This has caused your expedited delivery costs to increase. A possible solution would involve a regional carrier to tailor a customized pick up and delivery schedule that would fit nicely into your budget. Often, the regional carriers can extend their overnight coverage up to and sometimes exceeding 500 miles.
Scenario 2 � Limited Zone-Skipping Opportunities
In this scenario, your current parcel carrier will not permit you to receive your pricing discounts on your zone skips. This solution would involve securing your own truckload rate to a regional carriers� main hubs, and the regional carrier would handle the distribution from there. This alternative also takes advantage of the regional carrier�s extended overnight service area.
Scenario 3 � Shipper Has Multiple Distribution Centers (DC)
Often, a shipper with a multiple DC network will overlook the regional carrier option. However, as mentioned before, there are many regional carriers that can provide the coverage for each DC. It might not be the same regional carrier for each of the DCs, but it could involve multiple regional carriers.
Scenario 4 � Shipper Has Highly Specialized Delivery Needs
Although the national carriers do their best to provide the service you desire, you still have to make compromises to fit in their systems. This scenario is where the regionals really shine. They have less bureaucracy and more flexibility to develop tailor-made solutions. Often, their pricing is much simpler than the grids and matrices that the nationals employ.
Pros and Cons
Regional carriers can provide very nice alternatives to your parcel shipping strategy. Like any other arrangement, they have their own sets of pros and cons and certainly cannot be considered a panacea to meet all your needs. Here are some pros and cons to be considered:
�           Very flexible
�           Simplified and very competitive pricing
�           Extended overnight service areas
�           Less bureaucracy
�           Multiple-package shipment integrity
�           May not cover rural areas of a state
�           Requires additional dock staging/dock door
�           Requires additional segregation of parcels
�           Additional carrier to contend with (meetings, etc.)
�           Additional invoices to review/process
Probably the biggest issue the regionals must overcome is the issue of segregation. Most shippers (without sophisticated sortation systems) do not wish to have their dock workers make routing decisions; simpler is often better. The national carriers have capitalized on this issue by offering a blended, one-stop shipping solution. Despite these hurdles, regionals have been successful by working with shippers one at a time.
The next time you update your strategic distribution business plan, weigh the pros and cons of regional carriers for your distribution strategy. You may be surprised to learn the pros will outweigh the cons!
Joe Sudar is executive vice president of SmartTran, Inc., a transportation consulting company offering services in carrier rate analysis and logistics planning. He can be reached by phone at 724-378-6471 or by email at