The stakes are high when it comes to the $265 billion global express delivery market – predicted to grow to nearly $485 billion by 2030. Both the pandemic and explosion of e-commerce impacted nearly every shipper to expand beyond its capabilities. Now, as growth has leveled off, brands still struggle with lingering supply chain delays, driver shortages, high fuel costs, constraints from political unrest and a continued booming e-commerce environment.

Expedited has been considered a “dirty little secret” in the transport world, when in fact, a smarter strategy would be to treat expedited as the “hidden gem” that it can be. This includes thinking of expedited carriers as essential partners in your transportation network. Getting expedited right goes far deeper than just putting a box on a truck. Knowledgeable providers are involved at every step of the journey to ensure proper planning, management, and execution of the delivery.

While “expedited” is often equated with “expensive,” that basic connection misses the bigger picture. Looking at the obvious and hidden benefits of expedited, as well as the opportunity costs associated with leaving expedited out of a transportation plan, makes clear the advantages that lie in properly executing an expedited transportation strategy. Ask yourself:

What other costs can companies avoid by using expedited? Explore the hidden costs of not using expedited. What is the cost of delayed or canceled shipments? The financial costs of tracking down and reallocating delayed or lost products can be enormous. But it’s not just financial costs: think of the costs to patients and their families when medical equipment or prescription drug supplies fail to reach their destination; or the damaged reputation costs when a brand’s perishables, in fact, perish; or the cost to customer retention and future sales when companies fail to deliver on promises?

What is the cost of haphazard “emergency” shipments? If a company always reacts to a crisis, its costs will be greater than if it plans for shipments that are best suited for expedited services. By building expedited shipping into the shipping portfolio, brands can cut unnecessary expenses of emergency shipments.

What is the cost of overstocked inventories? Maintaining bloated inventory levels to ensure that product is available in case of transportation snafus is not a cost-effective strategy. When companies track and ship products quickly, efficiently, and transparently, they lower inventory on hand and reduce costs.

What is the cost of using unreliable or inexperienced shipping companies? Why chase shipment information and waste time in call center limbo or send emails with no responses? Why be forced to sort through a shipper’s waterfall tender routes to find out when a delivery will arrive? Why waste time with a company that does not have a reliable expedited shipping department or does not focus on expedited transport? Companies get the best “bang for the buck” with a respected expedited carrier that performs this type of transportation all the time.

What can a strategy look like? Whether you’re looking to add expedited to your transportation plan or elevate the way you currently handle it — which is most likely a cobbled-together approach instead of a cohesive strategy — here are three simple steps for seamless integration.

1. Take a closer look at your less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload (TL) shipments. Sometimes, a shipment may appear to be too small for TL, when it really is too large for LTL. As a result, you may be hit with unexpected charges from your carriers, who turn an LTL shipment into a TL shipment without your knowledge. Similarly, you may be sending things via TL where expedited would be a better, safer fit. In both instances, a best practice is to update your routing guide so these in-between shipments go expedited, ensuring that you can tailor the equipment to the size of the shipment.

2. Determine who handles your expedited decisions and whether that needs to change. All too frequently, expedited shipments are made at the discretion of the load planner, plant manager, customer service rep, or sales leader at a manufacturing facility. Most of the time, it’s not a strategic approach, but one that is done piece-meal using the company’s standard pool of carriers. The person handling the load shouldn’t be the one making these decisions. Instead, there should be a standard operating process, using a corporate-approved expedited company, that is clearly communicated to relevant personnel. This selection should be made at the executive level, by the head of procurement or supply chain or even a company’s CFO.

3. Select your provider wisely. Do NOT assume that every trucking carrier knows how to handle expedited shipments. Many reputable carriers that do a fine job with TL and LTL shipments have zero experience in the expedited arena. Be sure to look for a specialized provider that offers the following: Expertise. With an expedited-only company, everyone is a subject-matter expert. Don’t be fooled by general carriers or new entrants to the expedited business without the background to meet service expectations.

Look for the following:

Strong communication. The ability to convey information effectively to all parties throughout the expedited process is crucial.

The right balance of technology and human interaction. It takes both to properly execute all phases of an expedited shipment.

Ability to handle niche shipments. Expedited loads are unpredictable. Make sure your provider knows what to do with shipments.

At the end of the day, it’s more profitable for companies to create a healthy balance of price with service and avoid additional back-end costs resulting from poor service.

Nicole Glenn founded Candor Expedite in 2017 after more than two decades in the transportation brokerage business, with a vision to build the smartest and most efficient freight expedited business that delivers on its client’s promises. She is a certified member of The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).