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Picture this: The clock is ticking.
Maybe store shelves are empty earlier than planned, or a part has failed and the assembly line is down.
Time is literally money, and losing one means losing the other.
Or this: You’re a rug retailer and a customer has just ordered one of your finest hand-woven pieces.
You don’t want this valuable object crammed into a trailer with who knows what else, and you absolutely don’t want to lose track of it.
How do you handle these unpredictable, yet all-too-common, logistics challenges?
Need it There Yesterday? Damage Absolutely Unacceptable? Ship Expedited
When you need to move anything that falls outside your typical shipping requirements — in terms of urgency, value or unique handling requirements — the solution is often expedited freight shipping.
While expedited does not mean a 100% guarantee, it is generally the fastest, highest-service way to move your essential shipments.
Expedited truckload covers a host of service options that can be tailored to any freight needs and quoted, booked and set in motion fast.
When you’re shipping expedited truckload, your primary concern is getting your freight to its destination promptly and safely.
The right vehicle is whatever is available and capable of handling the job.
For this reason, basically any vehicle available in every other logistics mode of transportation is an option for expedited freight — and some others too.
Sprinter Vans and Box Trucks
The most commonly used expedited truckload vehicles are sprinter vans (also called cargo vans) and box trucks (also called straight trucks).
These range from 10 to 26 feet in length and can handle freight volumes similar to what you’d find in an LTL shipment.
They have two key advantages over LTL:
- They’ll move your freight directly from origin to destination (with no hours of service limitations, as their drivers don’t need commercial driver’s licenses).
- They won’t pack your freight alongside that of other shippers.
If you have a full trailer of freight you need transported more rapidly than normal, you can book full truckload expedited service — this means using a driver team.
Two-person driver teams allow them to take turns at the wheel so the truck doesn’t need to stop moving when each driver is taking their federally mandated hours of service breaks.
And if it really needs to get there fast, expedited air is an option. You can ship as little as one pallet in this manner or as much as a full truckload’s worth.
Expedited providers will also get creative if your freight demands it. They can set you up with a bike courier to deliver legal documents across town, a passenger car and driver to transport a time-sensitive live organ transplant, or any other roadworthy vehicle to meet your unique needs.
It’s right in the name: To “expedite” means to accelerate a timeline so something happens more quickly.
When you’re talking about logistics, it’s natural to think expedited shipping means ensuring your freight gets there sooner than it would through other modes.
This is true in many cases, but not all.
When Speed Matters
Expedited freight is often where shippers turn when time is truly of the essence.
Some common expedited scenarios:
- Assembly Line Crisis
Each second an assembly line is shut down is money left on the table. When a part breaks down, manufacturing shippers use expedited truckload to replace it ASAP.
- Retail Replenishment
It’s great when your products are flying off the shelves, but it also ratchets up the tension for your supply chain. Expedited drivers are often used to restock shelves between regularly scheduled deliveries.
- LTL Recovery
Every less than truckload (LTL) shipper has felt anxiety from a shipment that’s taking a bit too long. If your freight is stuck in an LTL facility and time is running out, you can send an expedited driver to pick it up.
- Disaster Freight
In times of crisis caused by natural disasters, expedited drivers often step up to delivery cases of water, medical supplies and other materials to impacted regions.
When It's High-Value
Expedited isn’t just for those times when the clock is ticking.
The vehicle options at your disposal and the door-to-door service you get when you ship expedited are perfect for high-value freight that you absolutely don’t want to get harmed in transit.
Some examples of freight you might not want to risk getting jostled and potentially damaged in an LTL shipment are:
- Expensive rugs
- Historical artifacts
- Major awards and trophies
- Crates of rare liquor or wine
The moment you request an expedited quote, your provider should have a plan in place to get your details down and start your shipment in process.
To set yourself up for success, you need to meet them here with all the details in order.
When you talk to your representative, you should be prepared with:
- Your shipment dimensions (number and size of cases, pallets, etc.)
- Your freight’s weight
- Origin and destination
- Pick-up and delivery requirements
Getting aligned with your carrier quickly and correctly is key to getting a vehicle to your facility and your freight on the road.
And once your provider takes those details down, know that they’re basically set in stone. Even if, for instance, you’ve wrapped another pallet of retail freight to go before your carrier arrives, the vehicle they sent was sized for the load info you provided at the outset.
These are worth calling out separately from the shipment info.
They’re details you might not think about if you’ve never had to before, but they can make a major difference in whether or not your freight departs and arrives on time.
There are two main considerations to keep in mind for pick-up and delivery:
Do you have a loading dock?
If your facility can only be accessed via loading dock, you will need a box truck or dock-high vehicle.
In order to load a sprinter van or cargo van from a dock, the facility needs to have a loading ramp for the forklift to drive down to ground level.
If your facilities do have loading docks, you will want to request a box truck or a straight truck.
If they don’t have loading docks, a sprinter van will be your best option if your freight can fit inside.
If the requirements are different at your pick-up and delivery facilities, or if you have no docks but too much freight for a sprinter van, you just need to ensure the truck that arrives is equipped with a lift gate.
Do you have loading and unloading crews?
It’s a common pain point for drivers to arrive at a delivery facility only to be greeted by a single consignee and no one else in sight to help unload their truck.
Loading and unloading are outside the normal scope of driver duties. If they absolutely have to, they’ll do it, but this will likely result in a renegotiated rate and a delay in the completion of your shipment.
Whether you have professionals on hand to grab your pallets or you simply ask your colleagues to lend a hand, any help is better than none.
If you’re used to quoting full truckload, this might seem counterintuitive but it’s true: no matter how quickly you need a truck to arrive, it won’t make any more of a dent in your bottom line.
Expedited carriers expect both your pick-up and delivery targets to be “ASAP.” The only factor that can really affect your rate is where a carrier’s capacity is at a given time, but capacity fluctuates so much that it doesn’t really help to book further in advance.
As long as capacity is available, here’s what you can expect when you request an expedited shipment:
- You should get a rate quoted to you within 15 minutes of your first contact, regardless of the time of day.
- If you’re in a major metro area, you can often have a vehicle at your door and ready to pick up your freight within 90 minutes if you’re shipping during regular business hours.
Your provider will certainly try to accommodate your request if you ask for more urgency than this — any they won’t upcharge you for asking — but their ability to do so simply depends on how quickly they can find a vehicle and a driver.
Conversely, dedicated capacity doesn’t really exist in expedited shipping.
Because the situations that demand expedited freight are typically unpredictable, individual carriers can’t really promise in advance that capacity will be available at a specific place on a regular schedule.
One of the most challenging parts of shipping expedited can be simply finding a carrier.
The vast majority of expedited truckload drivers are independent contractors. They own or lease their own equipment and they rely on larger companies with whom they contract to find them loads.
That’s where third-part logistics companies (3PLs) come in. Outside of a few large consolidator companies who work with numerous expedited drivers, 3PLs offer you the quickest path to finding a driver and vehicle for your freight.
3PLs are likely to provide the best expedited truckload experience because they:
- Provide a centralized hub for finding drivers in an extremely fragmented market
- Have connections to drivers nationally to find you capacity in any region
- Can provide a single point of contact for transportation needs beyond expedited as well (full truckload, LTL, intermodal, etc.)
- Are often large enough companies that they’re staffed around the clock to field any urgent request
- Offer transparency and tracking updates through a representative or online portal
Need Expedited Capacity Right Now?
Our expedited freight specialists are on call 24/7 to field your most urgent requests and support your most important shipments.
You can get an expedited truckload quote and capacity in as little as 15 minutes from now — we can often get a vehicle to your door in just a few hours.
Get in touch to learn more about our expedited options — or if time is of the essence, start your quote now.