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Today, consumers have a number of options available when choosing carriers to ship a package, and knowing which option is best can be a challenge. At first glance it can look like all four of the major carriers offer the same service. How are you supposed to know the difference other than price? There are several key aspects of shipping that make a real difference to the service you receive from carriers, including the cost of course, how fast your package will be delivered, the service options available, reliability and customer service
Despite on the surface working in the same industry and offering remarkably similar services, these three private global brands, FedEx, UPS, DHL and the USPS actually operate in very different ways. UPS dominates the surface transport market with its huge fleet, FedEx provides exceptional fast service through its airborne assets, and DHL focuses on international shipping. USPS has some unique benefits alongside some operational and customer service challenges, as described below.
Originally founded in San Francisco, California in 1969, DHL has grown to be the largest logistics company in the world.
Today it is part of Deutsche Post, headquartered in Bonn, Germany, and offers the most complete international delivery solution of the three shipping companies we are looking at. As Deutsche Post DHL, the company has more than 550,000 employees and delivers more than 1.3 billion parcels every year.
If you need packages sent to sanctioned countries such as North Korea, DHL are your only option. However, while they dominate the international shipping market, the company does not have a service that matches the best when it comes to common carrier needs for shipping within the U.S. This is because, as a non-American company, Deutsche Post DHL cannot operate flights between two U.S airports, and as a consequence, has to use other carriers to provide that service for them.
In other areas they are still breaking new ground though, for instance, they are widely recognized as a global leader in emission reduction within the shipping industry. As a part of this initiative, DHL purchased StreetScooter in 2014. A manufacturer of electric vehicles, the expertise and knowledge from the company is now being implemented in the carrier space to reduce emissions within delivery options and lower the business’ overall carbon footprint.
DHL does provide a wide range of services to customers across the U.S and internationally, however not every service is available at every location, meaning that if you need a specific service, you don’t always know if it will be available to you. Tell us what you need, and we’ll let you know if DHL is a good choice for you.
Founded in 1971 in Little Rock, Arkansas, FedEx is today located in Memphis Tennessee, and remains one of America’s most enduring brands. The company has the distinction of operating more planes than any other carrier, with 670 at its disposal, far ahead of either DHL or UPS.
FedEx was a transformative business in its early years, introducing the overnight shipping service, real time tracking for consumers and more. So much we take for granted in shipping services, FedEx introduced, and today they operate in more than 220 countries worldwide, covering most shipping services that you may ever need.
With more than 450,000 global employees, 5,000 hubs and shipping facilities around the world and a fleet of over 180,000 FedEx vehicles, FedEx is a shipping giant, handling over 14 million shipments every day.
Founded in 1907 in Seattle, Washington, UPS is by far the oldest of the three big carriers, and over time has grown to the shipping giant it is today. With over 2,500 shipping facilities worldwide and 28,000 access points, UPS covers more than 220 countries and averages over 21 million deliveries a day. The company employees over 480,000 employees globally, with 399,000 of them in the U.S.
Committed to sustainability, of the 123,000 vehicles in the UPS delivery fleet, over 10,000 are alternative fuel powered, making them the largest fleet of such vehicles in the world. The familiar brown color and gold lettering is recognizable on every continent, and the company was voted number 1 in the delivery industry for ‘World’s most admired companies’ in a 2018 Forbes poll.
The United States Postal Service is unique among the four big shipping carriers because it’s an independent federal agency. The USPS bears the unique responsibility of providing postal services to all residents of the United States, pledging that “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” will keep the postal service from delivering letters and packages to American mailboxes. Although, freezing rain and the Covid pandemic seem to have finally overtaken that promise first made by the Persian Postal Service in 500 BC.
- The cheapest option for small packages
- Delivers to mailboxes and PO boxes
- Free pickup
- Saturday delivery
- Poor customer support compared to the private carriers
- Limited tracking
USPS Shipping and Services
- Free supplies for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express
- Free shipment pickups<
- Ship to military (you can send APO, FPO, DPO)
- Free shipping insurance (up to $100 on Priority Mail Express and up to $50 on Priority Mail)
- USPS tracking
- Certified mail
- Return receipts
- Purchase money orders
- Custom mail, stamps, and envelopes
It’s the Cheapest Option for Small Packages - The USPS provides the most economical shipping for many packages under two pounds, and it offers very low rates for shipments under 13 ounces.
It’s More Reliable Than in The Past - USPS was infamous for misplacing packages or delaying shipments but in recent years, it has improved its reliability and on-time delivery rates.
It Delivers to Mailboxes and PO Boxes - The USPS has a monopoly on mailboxes and PO boxes. It’s the only shipping service that does not have to drop off packages at customers’ doorsteps.
Additionally, because the USPS routinely delivers across the country, it’s great at getting packages to out-of-the-way destinations. If you’re looking for a service that will allow you to deliver your packages along with customers’ daily mail, USPS is the only way to go.
Tracking Is Not Great - While USPS has improved its reliability in recent years, packages still go missing from time to time. The USPS’s less-than-perfect tracking system does not help matters when deliveries are delayed or lost.
Poor Customer Service - Merchants report that when packages do go missing, it can be difficult to have them located and to get the refund you’ve been assured.
What's best for you?
Carrier services are complex, and the right choice depends on many factors, including the kind of shipping needs you have. To make it easier to see the services available, here are the details of each to help you see which is the best option for your shipping service need.
- If you are looking for ground shipment, UPS has the strongest range of ground carrier services
- For overnight delivery as well as expedited 2- and 3-day shipping solutions, FedEx is the best
- For global shipping needs, DHL has the widest coverage and are leading the way in terms of environmental sustainability commitment
- If you need priority or expedited shipping services, there is a price premium to pay
- The USPS service is the cheapest but comes with the downside of less reliable delivery, poor tracking and suboptimal customer service compared to the private carriers
When researching your shipping carriers, it is important to remember that unbiased information is not easy to find. The internet is awash with positive reviews made by partners and affiliates, and that may not reflect the reality of the carrier service on offer. We will first find out about your objectives and priorities and budget and then offer our professional advice based on thirty years of providing shipping services in Chelsea, New York.