In today’s fast-paced business environment, we are all looking for ways to be more efficient in what we do. The old cliché “time is money” can sometimes keep us in a comfortable, familiar way of doing things, because we believe changing can take time – time that we don’t have. But in the parcel shipping market, change is necessary to keep up with the market demands. The fact is, today’s customers expect better service, including faster, more flexible delivery options. It pays to look beyond your status quo for shipping changes that can benefit your customers, operations and your business bottom line. 

Small- and mid-sized shippers, while sometimes reluctant to consider changes to their carrier mix, often find that adding regional carriers can increase delivery flexibility, expand next-day delivery options, and even help them introduce incentives such as flat rate shipping and free pickup. 

The right approach to utilizing regional carriers can save time and money. By carefully automating and managing carrier selection, it’s possible to drive significant efficiencies, reduce shipping costs and increase customer convenience. 

Regional carriers on the rise

While the two major parcel carriers, FedEx and UPS, dominate shipping today, regional carriers are gaining ground. In many cases, the addition of regional carriers can reduce per-parcel shipping costs by as much as 40%. 

Some small- and medium-sized shippers, however, have been slow on the uptake; and, a few have dismissed the idea of expanding their carrier list out of hand. After all, FedEx and UPS offer reliability, nationwide service and top-notch tracking. And, among smaller shippers, there is the perception that adding in regional carriers would introduce complexities such as multiple databases, systems and tracking mechanisms—complexities that would be too costly in terms of time and labor to warrant them.

Regional Carriers
Across the U.S., there are hundreds of regional carriers that range from “micro-regionals” that cover small regional areas such as single cities or partial states, to multi-state regionals. Today’s largest regional carriers include:* 
• Eastern Connection: services the northeast and mid-Atlantic 
• Lone Star Overnight: Texas, Oklahome, California, western Louisiana, eastern New Mexico, Texarkana, Arkansas and Mexico
• OnTrac: West coast, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Idaho 
• Spee-Dee Delivery: Illinois and upper Midwest 
• US Cargo: Midwest and some east coast 
*Be sure to check with the regional carriers for the current coverage areas
Sizing the regional advantage 

To determine if using a regional carrier could add value for your business, there are four key considerations: 

• Geography: Where do you ship? How well do your shipping destinations align with the coverage offered by regional carriers? 

• Customer experience: Are your customers looking for faster delivery? Do they expect discounted or free shipping? Are your competitors offering more flexible delivery options or better shipping discounts? 

• Service: If you are using just one carrier, do you know if you’re getting the best available parcel pickup, tracking and delivery service for your business?

• Savings: Many shippers find that by using regional carriers they can reduce shipping costs up to 40%— can you save with a regional carrier, and how much? 

For many businesses, the answers to these questions uncover opportunities to benefit from lower rates, expedited deliveries, and fewer assessorial charges. Regional carriers do not have or need the extensive infrastructure required by the largest national/international shippers. They develop higher density over smaller foot prints, so they can often provide more ground-delivery options than the national carriers. And, regional carriers also are often able to offer greater flexibility to accommodate special circumstances when they arise. 

If you find that a regional carrier or carriers could provide these types of benefits for your business, the next step is to consider how to diversify to optimize your benefits—and minimize complexity. 

Managing multiple carriers

Parcel shipping management systems are designed to enable businesses large and small to automate rules-based parcel carrier selection and processing. These systems can integrate easily in to existing operations, and are designed to simplify decisions, processing, billing and tracking. 

Yet, while use of shipping management systems is widespread among large shippers, by Pitney Bowes in 2012. 

As you weigh the value of using regional as well as national carriers, you will want to consider introducing a multi-carrier shipping management system for your business as well. You can streamline your carrier selection process, keep up-to-date on the latest carrier pricing and service options, and add efficiency to your parcel tracking. In addition, you can set your own business rules for carriers, parcel types, delivery options and more to keep the per-shipment selection process simple. 

For some shippers, the potential saving and service advantages of regional carriers make it possible to justify the move to a shipping management system– a move they’ve long wanted to make. For others, the availability of automation and efficiencies offers the comfort level they need to make the change to a multi-carrier approach. 

A smart move

Using regional carriers in addition to national carriers can offer important long-term advantages. From additional negotiating clout, to expanded next-day delivery and overall savings, regionals may offer opportunities to improve service—and boost your bottom line. Automation is your key to taking advantage of a multi-carrier approach, and allows you to incorporate additional carriers and services down the line. Taking the time to investigate the best options for your business will help you save money now and in the future.

Karen D’Andrea is Director, Shipping and Logistics Solutions and Services, Pitney Bowes. She can be reached at