As more shippers are turning to less expensive ground services, the regionals continue to gain traction versus the more expensive and less flexible offerings of UPS and FedEx. Shippers are also beginning to discover that the larger, well-established regionals are generally more efficient than the national giants, with fewer exchange points and generally the same level of technology. And of course, the trademark of regional carriers is personalized service that the nationals can’t match.

Add to this mix the fact that some regionals are now expanding their footprint to provide delivery options in more zones with guaranteed next-day ground service. 

As these advantages become more widely known, and the migration toward regional carriers continues, the question has in many cases switched from “Should I consider a regional?” to “Which regional best meets my needs?"
Rating the Regionals
The fact is that not all regionals are the same. It therefore makes sense to apply additional benchmarks to rate the regional carriers in your area. Chances are you’ll want to opt for those carriers that exhibit “big-company qualities” versus mom-and-pop shops services that may be very personalized but not very sophisticated. 

In comparing services, determine whether your regional carrier provides the following:
• Guaranteed next-day ground service. Check zones covered, delivery times, and prices.
• Advanced technology. Check for real-time scanners with electronic signature, automated shipping systems, and online ordering and tracking.
• Safety. Check on BOL claims and safe driving records.
• Drop shipping. This allows national companies to transport parcels from one region to another and still reap the advantages of “one zone, one price.”
• Same-day service. This includes on-demand messenger service and Next Flight Out options.
• Facilities management. Personnel provided to help sort your mail on site.
• Professional, courteous drivers. Couriers should have visible identification.
• Partnerships with consolidators and USPS. Small package deliveries made to local post offices.
• Specialized medical supply service. Special procedures for delivering medical supplies and blood work, as needed.
• Super Regional Network. Is your carrier part of a select group of large regionals that are beginning to join forces across the country to provide a larger footprint that supports you shipping needs?

Most likely, you’ll find that no one service will satisfy all of your shipping needs. In this sense, consider the benefits of a diversified portfolio that may include regionals, nationals, and possibly the USPS. 

Final Tips to Shippers

• Study the fine print of new price structures.

• Review shipping options even if your contract isn’t up. If your contract is up, consider locking into a new agreement before the next price hikes. 

• Conduct an analysis of your unique shipping history and characteristics. These audits, provided by some regionals at no cost, may include a breakdown of cost comparisons between national and regional services.

So do your homework. Put your carrier to the test and compare your options, not only regionals vs. nationals but regionals vs. regionals. Chances are, you will save significant dollars and substantial time if your decisions are “well-grounded.” 

Ted Kauffman is the chairman of Eastern Connection, the largest regional small-package overnight carrier on the East Coast, covering over 5,000 zip codes in the Northeast. The company, which has 17 facilities, is open 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Services include Next-Day Ground, Priority Overnight, Same-Day, Second-Day, Logistics & Warehousing, Trucking, and Expedited Mail. For more information, visit