15 Top Regional Parcel Carriers + How to Choose One
July 8, 2022
Around 640 packages shipped every second in 2020, which means parcel carriers were busy. And that won’t change, with parcel volume expected to double by 2026. The busier national delivery companies are the less attention they can give to individual customers. This lack of individualized care could be part of the reason why some of the most popular shipping companies actually saw a dip in customer satisfaction despite the boom in business. To avoid this, businesses can turn to regional parcel carriers, which can provide the individual attention brands need to impress customers and scale operations.
Jump to the section that most interests you:
- Reasons to Use Regional Parcel Carriers
- Best Parcel Carriers By Region
- A Superior Alternative: Bring Delivery In-House With OptimoRoute
- FAQs About Regional Parcel Carriers
Reasons to Use Regional Parcel Carriers
Regional parcel carriers provide shipping and transportation services in a smaller geographic area than national shipping companies. They offer fast and affordable delivery services and are a good option for growing ecommerce brands with local customer bases. Many regional carriers also provide specialized delivery services, making them more versatile than a national shipper and better prepared to handle complex deliveries.
Regional parcel carriers focus on regional contracts that require shorter travel distances. This makes it common for regional carriers to rely on truck hubs for shipping, which are much less expensive to operate than the air freight hubs that major carriers like FedEx use. This helps regional carriers keep costs low, which means lower shipping costs for the customer.
Regional shippers are also less likely to surcharge. Because national carriers have high operating costs, they often standardize operations to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. And if delivery activities raise costs, like going out of the way to deliver to your customers in more rural areas, the carrier will pass the additional expense along to you. For example, FedEx surcharges max out at $29.50 per shipment to deliver to addresses with zip codes classified as “Extended Residential.”
National shippers charge additional costs for a variety of reasons, including rerouting shipments and delivering oversized packages. This means that a regional parcel carrier will likely be the cheapest way to ship large packages.
The pandemic threw the supply chain into disarray—and the shipping problems we’ve seen in the last couple of years aren’t going away anytime soon. The best parcel carriers use routing and logistics software to adapt and ensure on-time deliveries.
Operating in a specific geographic location gives shippers regional expertise, which allows them to plan faster delivery routes that reduce shipping times. Regional carriers are also more likely to use load planning strategies that can cater to a smaller customer base’s needs. For example, national shippers often only ship full truckloads, which means that unless you’re willing to pay to expedite the shipping, your order won’t ship until there are enough packages to fill the truck. Regional carriers avoid this by organizing operations to accommodate LTL and partial truckload shipping. This allows regional shippers to ship parcels faster and at a lower cost than a national carrier.
To meet the needs of a large and geographically diverse customer base, national parcel shippers must standardize and optimize operations to improve efficiency and keep costs low. And they won’t adjust operations to please a single customer. This means that the best way for a regional parcel carrier to set itself apart and win contracts is by offering flexibility to customers.
Another way regional shippers set themselves apart is by finding ways to cater to unique delivery needs by offering value-added services. For example, shippers may offer assembly for furniture deliveries or white-glove treatment for high-end products that need extra care when handling.
Best Parcel Carriers by Region
Regional parcel carriers generally operate in one region within the U.S. (commonly divided into Northeast, South, Midwest, and West). However, a few carriers, like US Cargo and OnTrac Shipping, extend services outside of their primary operating region to better accommodate businesses with more geographically diverse delivery needs.
Best parcel carriers in Southern U.S.
The Southern region consists of 14 states: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Most carriers that operate in this region offer parcel delivery in all 14 states within the region. However, some couriers offer more limited delivery ranges, like the Texas-based Lone Star Overnight, which only ships to Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri.
Some of the most popular parcel shipping organizations that operate in the Southern region of the U.S. include:
- OnTrac Shipping (also delivers to the eastern side of New Mexico)
- Lone Star Overnight (LNO)
- Courier Express
Best parcel carriers in Western U.S.
The Western region of the United States includes 11 states: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington. Many of the states in this region are rural, requiring carriers to travel long distances to reach geographically separated urban populations, such as Denver, Colorado. As a result, many parcel carriers limit the range of their service area. For example, Western Peaks Logistics’ service area only includes five of the region’s eleven states. And while General Logistics Systems offers shipping in all 11 states, it divides the Western region into five individual service areas.
The most noteworthy parcel carriers in the West include:
Best parcel carriers in Northeast U.S.
The Northeastern region is the smallest in the U.S., including just 9 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The Northeast is prone to harsh winter weather that can easily create shipping delays. Businesses looking for a parcel carrier in this region should make sure they ask carriers how they prepare for winter storms to avoid delayed parcel deliveries.
Some of the most popular shippers in the Northeast include:
Best parcel carriers in Midwest
The Midwest includes 11 states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. This rural region consists primarily of farmland and small towns, with only a few urban delivery zones. Carriers in this region will have greater knowledge of the smaller locales within the region than a national shipper who may struggle to find delivery addresses on rural country roads.
A few regional parcel carriers that operate in the Midwest include:
Best parcel carriers in Alaska and Hawaii
Deliveries to Alaska and Hawaii are the most difficult and often the most expensive because domestic shipments outside of the continental U.S. present parcel carriers with unique challenges. For example, shipments to Hawaii are limited to air or water transportation, which means customers are often forced to choose between an expensive air freight option for quick delivery or the more affordable boat transport method, which takes much longer. Shipments to Alaska are less limited because carriers can still rely on truck hubs for vehicle transport. However, delivery drivers will need to complete long-haul routes that require them to pass through customs in order to drive through Canada to reach the final destination.
Overcoming these obstacles is both difficult and expensive, which means that many smaller carriers cannot afford to offer shipping to Hawaii or Alaska. As a result, conventional parcel carriers like FedEx and UPS are often the most accessible and affordable options. However, if you need a carrier with regional experience, Dependable Hawaiian Express (DHX) boasts expertise in shipping both freight and standard cargo to Alaska and Hawaii, in addition to the rest of the continental U.S. and Guam.
A Superior Alternative: Bring Delivery In-House With OptimoRoute
While they come with many benefits, parcel carriers are becoming an increasingly expensive delivery option. National carriers like FedEx and UPS have implemented rate increases and adjusted surcharges in response to a boom in demand for services, leading customers to pay 9% more than they did last year for shipping. And with regional parcel carriers seeing a boom in demand, business owners should expect to see similar price increases. The best way to avoid these rising costs is by bringing shipping and delivery operations in-house.
In-house delivery gives you full control over shipping and package delivery. This allows you to hire and train your own delivery drivers on how to handle parcels to minimize the chances of product damage and improve customers’ experience with your brand. For example, a retailer that ships and delivers plants may provide special training to ensure plants arrive at their final destination alive and undamaged.
To transition to self-delivery, you’ll obviously need delivery basics like vehicles and drivers. To make things easier, a routing and scheduling tool like OptimoRoute allows you to make super-efficient, accurate routes in a few minutes a day – even for large numbers of drivers. The system includes a driver mobile app for seamless navigation, order completion, and proof of delivery. Dispatchers get real-time visibility into where drivers are and can even send tracking links to customers, so they can see exactly when their shipment should arrive. Extras like delivery confirmations and automatic feedback requests can add to your level of service – but also help you cut costs if you are getting these services elsewhere.
FAQs About Regional Parcel Carriers
In this section, we’ll answer three common questions about regional parcel carriers.
Should my business use a regional parcel carrier?
Regional parcel carriers are faster and cheaper than national carriers, making them ideal for businesses that ship to customers in a specific geographic region. However, businesses that ship nationally or internationally won’t be able to rely on a regional carrier with a limited service area and should look for a national shipper or bring delivery in-house.
What’s the difference between regional and national parcel carriers?
National carriers like USPS ship to all states in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. However, regional parcel carriers only offer shipping and delivery services in a small service area that centers around one geographic region of the country, such as the Midwest.
What are the most popular regional parcel carriers?
Two of the most well-known regional parcel carriers are Lone Star Overnight (LSO) and Spee-Dee Delivery. Other popular parcel carriers include IntelliQuick Delivery, PITT Ohio, and United Delivery Services.
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