Demonstrating tenacity and creativity, regional carriers can be virtually anything you want them to be a white knight in critical delivery times or a cost cutter in desperate financial times. If its been done, theyve probably done it.


    They number in the hundreds in the parcel and express industry, covering areas as large as multiple states to the smaller footprint of a medium metropolitan area. Seemingly dwarfed by the big three of DHL, FedEx and UPS, regional carriers are the hidden backbone of the US transportation industry. But based upon the likes of the people I interviewed for this article, dont expect them to stay hidden for very long as more companies become aware of the cost savings and service relationships this group has to offer.


    I first met Scott Youngs, Director of Transportation and Procurement at Office Max, during the PARCEL forum in Chicago last September. Hes a major fan of regional carriers, utilizing over 60 separate carriers in addition to having a strong relationship with UPS. Scott describes what he likes about regional carriers as having Characteristic Services:

    » two man delivery of heavy office equipment

    » later pick up times

    » faster delivery

    » cost savings

    » knowledge of the marketplace

    Youngs adds, I generally look for next day service, and the regional carriers are more nimble and dont have as many global problems that can affect delivery as I have to deal with. We usually communicate with the president of the regional carrier and cant reach that management approval level with the national/global carriers. We have centralized our decision making process in order to make sure we are able to use the best comparables but simultaneously involve our own local management team to gain its insight. We use UPS for the majority of our national parcel business, but also find that regional carriers deliver great value to our customers and help us effectively compete.


    Jack Mitchell is the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Eastern Connection, a regional carrier well known in the northeastern US. He has a broad range of experience as an officer at Airborne and Managing Director of Sales at FedEx. Ive known Mitchell for two decades and can attest that this is a man with energy, knowledge and enthusiasm for helping customers.


    Mitchell begins, Id recommend that every distribution center keep its national parcel carrier and add the best regional carrier in that market if they want to receive flexible service, reduce cost and have local knowledge. If not, why on earth did they put the distribution center where it is to begin with?


    The distribution center was placed in a specific location to serve the present and future customers in that area, he continues, and this should be matched with the footprint of a great regional carrier so they can actually think globally and act locally. The regional carrier has no large fleet of jets, air traffic control or a hub in the middle of the country to manage. This provides enormous flexibility and cost benefits that are passed onto the customer. For instance, I just met two customers in Vermont that ship to Maryland and Pennsylvania, both of whom were being charged zone 4 rates. Our rate in the entire area we serve from Maine to Washington, DC is a zone 2 rate. See the difference that regional carriers can provide?


    Mary Miller, Director of Business Development at The Chefs Garden, was also at the PARCEL forum last September. Her company provides high-end vegetables to the best restaurants in the US. I can personally attest to a quality level that you will need to see and taste to believe. She ships fresh produce from the Cleveland area primarily with FedEx but has also contracted with nine regional carriers in key markets. With Continental Airlines having a hub in CLE, her access to morning flights is excellent, allowing her same- day delivery with a combination of air and regional carriers. Miller says, This provides us more flex time and cost savings. This is all about serving the customer in the best way possible.


    Richard Ziemba is President of ParcelTek, a regional carrier headquartered in Denver. Some people say they dont want to segregate their freight and, therefore, only use one national carrier, he notes. When DenverInternationalAirport got buried twice this winter, we were able to dig out and make deliveries once the roads were cleared. The big carriers had freight stacking up inbound for five to 10 days, and we were cleared up in one. Storms that totally shut down Denver are rare, but if you think about it, shippers should prepare for weather, strikes and other eventualities in advance.
    Regional carriers provide that option if done in advance. I will never recommend to a customer that they have only one carrier.


    George Best is President of 4SameDay Solutions and has developed a unique approach. Our service is like a concierge, tailored to the client, he says. For instance, if the customer refuses to receive a box, a personal phone call is placed to the shipper. We place all of the data for a dozen or more carriers into one web portal so that the shipper can visibly see through the last mile of the delivery chain. Some think of this as a niche, but the market is huge when you consider we are already working with over 60 regionals on our proprietary technology.


    In a market growing like this, it is sure refreshing to see that choices are expanding for the astute buyer to look into.


    Rob Shirley is President of ExpresShip, Inc. (, a firm providing consulting services for carriers and shippers worldwide. Robs business experience provides a unique perspective of the transportation industry, and he is a frequent speaker at logistics events. Contact him at Rob@XPship.