Ground shipping

For many retailers, more than half of their logistics budget goes toward shipping. An optimized shipping structure is an important element of building a positive customer experience. Online sellers today have the challenging task of balancing efficiency and costs to keep profit margins as healthy as possible. If you are looking to improve efficiency and cut costs, consider the potential benefits of ground shipping.

What is ground shipping?

Ground shipping is any form of shipping that takes place on land instead of by air or by sea. In most cases, it is the most affordable option for domestic shipping, and the packages travel by road or by rail. Although ground-based shipping is especially common for domestic orders, it's also useful for the last-mile delivery of imported goods. For example, a shipper may send something from a foreign country to a port, from which the sender can arrange for shipping by ground to the final destination.


Who are the top ground shipping carriers?

Today, you have several options for ground-based shipping. Major shipping carriers may also offer ground delivery, standard delivery, or standard shipping. Depending on the carrier and the destination, there may be multiple speed options for ground or standard shipping. Which one is right for you depends on your delivery requirements, product, and other factors. These are the main carriers in the United States that offer shipping by ground:


UPS serves all 50 states and many foreign countries. The company has a fleet of more than 120,000 vehicles and a reputation for being one of the speedier ground-based shipping companies. Packages typically arrive within one to five business days. Competing with FedEx on pricing, UPS offers rates that start under $10 for smaller package dimensions. UPS compares the cost to ship by dimensional weight and actual weight, and charges the sender whichever is greater.


FedEx is especially known for its expedited delivery options, handling about 14 million shipments per day worldwide. Ground shipping can take between one and five business days on average and offers real-time tracking that is largely accurate.  FedEx offers low starting rates for smaller or lighter packages. For deliveries with express service, FedEx guarantees on-time delivery or a full refund.


The United States Postal Service serves any location in the United States. It has more than 200,000 vehicles in the country and handles about 500 million pieces of mail per day. USPS uses cubic and dimensional pricing structures. Cubic pricing tends to be more efficient for sending small, heavy packages, while dimensional pricing is better for large, lightweight items. However, packages greater than 18 inches in length do not qualify for cubic shipping. Packages usually arrive at their destinations within two to eight business days.


DHL is a common choice for international companies that need last-mile delivery and require reliability. Providing critical deliveries on time is a top priority of the company. Although it is a German entity, it serves the United States and more than 200 other countries. Rates vary significantly, and packages often take between two to eight business days to arrive.


How long does it take for ground shipping to arrive?

The chosen shipping delivery speed, distance traveled, and final destination all factor into how long it takes for packages to arrive. The carriers described above generally meet their promised delivery timeframe, but can be delayed by inclement weather, natural disasters, or other events that shut down roads and railways. When you directly ship a package to a state with a common border, it may take one to three days, but delivery can take five or more days for packages shipped to states that are further away.

Thanks to 3PL companies, today's retailers can enjoy speedier ground-based shipping deliveries by using multiple warehouses. If you use warehousing and fulfillment services through a 3PL, you can strategically split your inventory into different areas strategically located around the country or the globe. When your customers place an order, the fulfillment center closest to their delivery address handles the shipping. This makes it more affordable for many companies to offer their customers two-day shipping.


Why select ground shipping compared to other methods?

In addition to lower cost, there are other potential reasons to ship via ground. One reason why many companies ship by ground is to mail heavier or oversized items, though shipping carriers each have their own weight limits. If you want to mail something that is over the limit, you must use freight services instead. Ground-based shipping also allows you more freedom in what you send. When you send shipments by air, there are restrictions for hazardous materials like aerosols or batteries.. 

Ground-based shipping is also more economical when the destination address is in the same state or nearby. Since you do not have as many restrictions to worry about, shipping by ground also comes with fewer potential hassles. If you use fulfillment centers to reduce delivery time frames, you can pass on some savings to customers. For instance, some companies that use fulfillment centers offer free shipping via ground for orders over a certain amount.





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If you are looking for ways to make your shipping strategy more efficient, Airhouse can help. Connect with one of our team members to learn how we can help add value and efficiency to your processes. We help with cost optimization and scaling for your company's shipping needs.

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