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Local Motion

If you don't have far to go, regional freight carriers can really deliver.

If you use well-known national package delivery companies for all your overnight shipments, you may be spending more--and getting less--than you need. Regional carriers are often positioned to provide service that's more flexible, dependable and cost-effective, contends Jim Berluti, president and CEO of Eastern Connection, a regional trucking company based in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Some of the benefits Berluti cites include:

  • Later pickup and earlier delivery times without hefty surcharges.
  • Less chance that bad weather will cause delays.
  • Reduced risk of damage. Regional carriers typically don't use major sorting centers, which means less package handling.
  • Lower costs. Because they don't operate nationally or internationally, regional carriers aren't forced to subsidize less profitable routes, says Berluti.
  • Strong business relationships. Regional carriers are usually smaller companies with fewer employees, so it's easier to build a relationship with the customer service and dispatch personnel. This can be a big plus when you need extra help with special shipments.

When you evaluate a regional carrier, ask for and contact references. Also find out about their tracking, billing and online capabilities. Does the carrier operate a PC-based shipping system that lets you generate your own bills of lading and track shipments from your computer?

Finally, Berluti advises, ask the carrier to conduct an analysis of your delivery needs and expenses. You can provide them with your typical shipping patterns or an actual shipping history for a specific time period such as one month or one quarter. The carrier should give you a report on the service and rates they offer for comparable shipments.

Berluti says it pays to do your homework before you need to deliver the goods. You may just find those big carriers don't fill the bill. "Why use a shotgun to swat a fly?" he says. "You don't need a huge delivery system to deliver a package 100 miles away."

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 12 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

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This article was originally published in the December 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Local Motion.

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