It’s commonly known that shipping companies like FedEx and UPS extend deep discounts to volume shippers like Amazon, Dell and Wal-Mart. But what cost-effective shipping alternatives are available to the small to medium business?

In November 2011, EquaShip – which positions itself as America’s fourth carrier – launched operations to provide low cost parcel services to small-to-medium sized businesses. 

According to EquaShip CEO Ron Wiener, the Seattle-based company was formed when shipping and retailing industry leaders — including veterans of UPS, Amazon and DHL — came together to create an affordable, scalable alternative to the majors. 

“Our target customer is the small to medium-sized e-commerce sellers, manufacturers and distributors who struggle to compete in an environment where their larger competitors enjoy heavily-discounted shipping rates from UPS and FedEx,” said Wiener.

EquaShip owns no planes or trucks itself. Packages are picked up, sorted and transported by a network of regional carriers used by Amazon and other brand merchants today. Packages are then tendered to the US Postal Service for “final mile” delivery to the home. Every EquaShip parcel includes $100 of insurance as well as package track and trace. 

“Smaller shippers have historically lacked access to the lowest-cost form of residential parcel delivery—postal consolidation. Nearly a billion packages a year are now picked up by consolidators like FedEx SmartPost and UPS Basic, with ‘final mile’ delivery to the consumer performed by the US Postal Service. EquaShip breaks that barrier down, allowing any shipper — no matter how small — to gain access to postal consolidator rates, with full insurance coverage, first-class customer service to both sender and recipient, and convenient drop-off locations plus pickup service,” said Shawn Childs, EquaShip board member and former UPS and Amazon executive.

EquaShip claims its rates are 26%-77% below UPS or FedEx residential retail ground rates. International service, scheduled to begin January 2012, is supposedly 70% to 88% less than FedEx, UPS and DHL air express services. 

EquaShip has one rate schedule for all customers and requires no volume commitments or contracts. Published rates and Service Guide can be downloaded at 

A unique part of the EquaShip business plan is low-cost customer acquisition through innovative partnerships. The company has integrated with Vendio, ShipWorks and other e-commerce and shipping software platforms that enable EquaShip to appear as a fourth carrier option alongside UPS, FedEx and USPS on the shipping screens of millions of online merchants, manufacturers and distributors.

There is presently an application and approvals process to become an EquaShip customer during a “beta” launch phase. Pick up service is being rolled out regionally with eventual coast-to-coast pick up coverage anticipated. 

Rob Martinez , MQC, CMDSS, is President and CEO of Shipware LLC, a transportation spend management firm specializing in carrier contract negotiations, audit & pay and information management to help shippers reduce costs 10%-30%, guaranteed. Rob also serves on the EquaShip Board of Directors. He welcomes questions and comments, and can be reached at 858-879-2022 or email Twitter handle @shipware.