Top 5 Expedited Freight Companies (and Expedited Service How-to Guide)
February 6, 2019 •Rick LaGore
No matter how one looks at it, expedited freight is typically the result of something not working to plan. As a result, the expedited freight services buyer is behind the eight-ball with the added pressure of threading the needle of perfect service to ensure further problems and delays are not added to the situation.
Similar to many other logistics service providers (LSP’s), we find ourselves helping shippers in their expedited freight service requirements. Often, the company buying expedited freight is in such a rush they are not exactly sure what they want other than to get the shipment picked-up and delivered quickly, which leaves them vulnerable to making a rash decision without having all the facts at hand.
We wrote this article to ensure companies know their options when they are confronted with an expedited freight need, so they have the tools necessary to make the best decision for their situation.
With that objective in mind, we will share with you the top national expedited freight companies, what types of services are available, the types of equipment used for the various services and what to look for in an expedited freight solution provider.
While expedited freight requirements are a regular occurrence, finding the best solution for your company can be difficult. While there are several national expedited providers, many more freight companies advertise they have expedited freight solutions, yet they are often difficult to find.
The first challenge with finding an expedited freight solution is that services typically are local and regional in nature because expedited requires freight to deliver the same day or next day, so assets need to be positioned close by to secure those freight capacity requirements.
This fact alone often makes it difficult to find a provider that fits all your requirements because the pool you are looking into is in large part a very large subset of the 700,000 for-hire motor carriers that focus on providing regional truckload expedited services.
Add to the 700,000 stats is 91.7% percent of these carriers operating 6 or fewer trucks and 97.3% operating less than 20 trucks, meaning these types of expedited freight providers probably have never called on you and they probably do not advertise because they are not of the size that allows them to have a marketing budget.
In other words, for those who have not found their optimal solution, it’s somewhat like looking for a needle in a haystack every time the service requirement is needed.
The good news is there are various types of air and ground expedited freight solutions that include: same day, next flight out (NFO), next day, hotshots or white glove service.
No matter what the service request requirement is, it is nothing less of an emergency to the buyer. The shipment must deliver without a hitch.
Top 5 Freight Expediting Companies
FedEx Custom Critical
While the above is a list of some of the largest national expedited providers, as mentioned earlier there are 1,000’s of local and regional expedited solutions that are difficult to uncover in the heat of the moment if you are not active in the freight and logistics market buying the service daily.
With that issue at hand, many companies go to a LSP or freight broker to build a relationship for a one-stop call for their expedited freight requirements because of their vast network of providers active and approved.
With all that behind us, let’s jump into our “Best of” series with more details on the top expedited freight companies and continue from there.
Top Freight Expediting Companies
ArcBest (Panther Premium Logistics)
Headquarters: Fort Smith, Arkansas
Headquarters: Belleville, Michigan
FedEx Custom Critical
Headquarters: Uniontown, Ohio
Headquarters: Winnsboro, Texas
Headquarters: Buchanan, Michigan
Types of Expedited Freight Services
As mentioned earlier, expedited freight can move either over-the-road or in the air and can be domestic, cross-border or international. In some cases, freight moved via truck can make the required pick-up and delivery times, so to avoid costly air service ask how the freight expeditor will move your freight. That simple question could save your company a great deal of money by choosing the correct mode for the job.
To help you further scope out the expedited service mode that will best fit your need, we are going to walk through the various types of expedited service. The services we walk through below are listed from most expensive to least in the cost continuum.
Air Charter Services
This is the most expensive option, as measured as a cost per pound. When a flight is chartered, it means the company is buying to have an aircraft dedicated for their freight alone. Aircraft of any size can be chartered, meaning from a single prop plane to a Boeing 747.
Air Freight Services
There are two other options for air freight in either commercial or cargo services.
Cargo services are defined as moving any number of pallets of freight via aircraft through a cargo freight carrier, while commercial services are defined as obtaining expedited freight capacity by shipping your freight in the belly of a commercial aircraft. Both options are available to all shippers.
Keep in mind there are rules and regulations that vary when using a cargo carrier versus a commercial airline, so pay close attention to answering the expeditor’s questions about the commodity you are shipping to ensure the freight can travel as planned.
Nothing is worse than getting the freight to a destination to only be told it cannot be loaded. Precious time and money will have been wasted and the window of opportunity to save the day may close.
Ground Expedited Trucking
As mentioned earlier, there are opportunities to use over-the-road (OTR) options to move a company’s freight in an expedited fashion, without having to opt for the more expensive air mode. In these instances, expedited freight can go via the following ground equipment:
Weight Capacity: 2,000 pounds
Number of Standard Skids: 2
Weight Capacity: 3,250 pounds
Number of Standard Skids: 3
Weight Capacity: 12,500 pounds
Number of Standard Skids: 10
Tractor Trailer Teams
Weight Capacity: up to 45,000 pounds
Number of Standard Skids: 26
Expedited Team Trucking Services
Expedited teams are an option over longer distances. With a team expedited service solution a team of two drivers is assembled to keep a truck moving around the clock, so when one driver runs out of hours another driver in the cab slides into the seat and takes over.
This service is typically associated with truckload, but can be found through straight truck services.
Hotshot expedited freight services typically refer to moving freight via a Class 3-5 truck used in combination with a variety of trailers to run freight for a single customer.
The phrase and method are thought to have originated in the energy fields in Texas when equipment was moved quickly from one location to another to keep the oil field pumping crude.
Information Required for Expedited Freight Quote
To help facilitate the conversation with your expeditor, be prepared to have answers for the following questions:
Number of Pallets
Dimensions of Each Pallet
Total Weight (including skid and packing material)
Value of Shipment
Often times an expedited shipment is high value, so you’ll want to make sure the provider you choose understands the cargo insurance coverage required.
Origin and Destination Zip
Level of Service
Next Day by Noon
Next Day by 5 pm
Operational Keys from an Expedited Freight Service Provider
Operating around the clock may sound standard, but you would be surprised how many freight service providers do not operate in that manner. Beyond the standard 24/7/365 marketing words you may read on a website, you need to find out exactly how the expedite freight provider will deliver the 24/7/365 support. Will they give you the mobile number of their dispatcher or will you be sent into a call center where you will need to tell your story every step of the way.
Real-Time Tracking & Updates
Does the provider have GPS tracking on the tractor and trailer or do they require a call from the driver for their LTL and truckload expedited freight?
Flexible to Your Requirements
Maybe you want the expedited carrier to talk directly to the pick-up and delivery docks. Will expedited freight provider communicate only with the person that tendered the freight or will they include others throughout the tracking of the shipment?
Experience and Capacity
Does the expedited freight provider have experience in this specialized freight to move your freight? Do they have a list of 1,000’s of carriers already approved and active in their database? There is a difference and you’ll want to find out early in the process.
Does the LSP you are working with have the transportation management software system (TMS) that allows them to quickly tap into the market's expedited capacity? Does the TMS allow for real-time visibility and updates to manage the entire shipment process from start-to-finish?
More times than not, expedited is not a guaranteed or money back service, even though many companies believe this to be the case so please, please do your homework on vetting your expedited freight service provider as you would with any freight broker or logistics service provider to ensure they have the necessary tools and skill set to help your business be successful.
While the Industries that tend to have the greatest need for expedite services are medical, pharma, manufacturing and e-commerce. The medical and pharma industries often have life-threatening situations, while the manufacturing segment could find themselves in costly plant shutdowns as a result of a single component not being on-hand.
Your freight may not fall into any of these categories, but it does not make it any less critical to your business success, so we hope the above information was helpful. We’d love to be a part of the conversation if you are looking for an expedited service provider, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
If you're ready to take the next step, at InTek Freight & Logistics, we can help. Just tell us what you need and we'll discuss how our expertise can help with the unique shipping challenges your business faces. Rather do a bit more research first? View our Freight Guides for comprehensive articles and eBooks on all things freight and logistics.