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How guaranteed-delivery shipping works

Shipping goods often involves several steps, and the cargo can change hands or vehicles along the way. With many moving pieces, transportation companies face challenges in estimating delivery time frames. But for shippers who work on tight timelines, there’s guaranteed delivery. Read this article to learn about this shipping option, how it works and its benefits to evaluate the best freight service for you.

What is guaranteed-delivery shipping?

When you use guaranteed shipping, the transportation company promises to deliver your freight by a delivery date and time. Often, the deadline for delivery is 12 p.m. or 5 p.m. on the date you choose or negotiate with the freight company. But this varies throughout the industry, so review contracts carefully even if you have experience working with another less-than-truckload (LTL) service for similar shipments. 

For shippers, working with a guaranteed delivery date can ensure that goods arrive during business hours at warehouses or retailers to avoid fines or chargebacks. Plus, for in-demand items, it ensures that customers won’t have to deal with out-of-stock items resulting from delivery delays.

4 main factors to guaranteed LTL delivery shipping 

As you evaluate whether standard or guaranteed delivery contracts are better, review these deciding factors to make the best decision.

Personal delivery date preference

Having an estimated delivery date instead of a specific one may not matter in many circumstances. Some deliveries are just regular periodic restocks that aren’t particularly urgent. These goods might be able to sit in a truck overnight until the next warehouse shift with no repercussions or fees. 

But in other circumstances, if you’ve promised a retailer to restock items as they’re needed, you have to deliver. When contracts are firm, using a guaranteed service can help you maintain relationships and fulfill commitments.

Added preference of delivery time

Standard LTL contracts can allow drivers to deliver goods at any time of day. And while that works in most cases, other times you need a specific ETA. Delivery time constraints can happen for a variety of reasons. It’s best to know with certainty that deliveries will meet these requirements by writing them into your freight contracts.

Ability to demand custom delivery details 

If you need goods delivered within a specific hour, you can pay a little extra to narrow down the timeframe. For exporting goods, for instance, you may have a small time window to load goods onto a cargo ship. The ability to add custom details like these to freight contracts is another reason to consider guaranteed shipping.

Required refunds for shipments not delivered as scheduled

Time is money. When you need assurance that you won’t have to pay for shipments not meeting contractual terms, guaranteed shipping is ideal. Shipping refunds can help cover expenses incurred for not meeting your own customers’ contractually specified delivery timeframes. Having this peace of mind is invaluable.

Advantages of guaranteed-delivery shipping

As you evaluate freight services like last-mile delivery, overnight shipping and guaranteed delivery, knowing their advantages can help you make a decision. Select day- and time-definite services if you want to:

  • Choose delivery times during regular business hours
  • Know that shipments will arrive during the timeline you’ve specified
  • Have the option of planning project or work schedules around delivery times
  • Use just-in-time manufacturing to operate a lean business
  • Maintain healthy vendor relationships
  • Avoid third-party chargebacks for deliveries that don’t meet contractual agreements

Guaranteed delivery vs non-guaranteed delivery

Compare standard and guaranteed freight services for a better understanding of how they generally work.

Shipments can arrive any day, at any timeShipments arrive on a specific day before noon or 5 p.m.; some carriers deliver within a designated hour for an extra fee
Can be used for any type of freightFreight carriers generally won’t provide this service for oversized, hazardous materials, remote/rural or collect-on-delivery freight
Most economical optionRequires additional fees to ensure delivery timelines
No refunds for deliveries that take longer than expectedRefunds issued for late deliveries. Disruptions like weather delays, road closures and acts of God falling outside carrier control may result in non-refundable delays.

Still unsure? Review a sample notice of guaranteed delivery to learn more.

Know exactly when your freight will arrive

The best part about guaranteed delivery shipping is knowing exactly when freight will arrive. And if it doesn’t, you won’t have to pay for it. This enables you to enter strict contracts with retailers, use just-in-time manufacturing and schedule projects or workers accordingly.


Can you get a refund if your package is late?

You can get a refund for a package’s late arrival if you’ve used a guaranteed-delivery service. Otherwise, package delivery timelines are estimates.

How do you ask for compensation for late delivery?

Check the shipping company’s late delivery refund policies for the process you should follow. Otherwise, talk to your representative and highlight the guaranteed delivery timelines outlined in your contract.

What legal action can be taken for late delivery?

If delivery timelines are contractual, you can sue the company responsible for your late delivery. Just know that some delays are outside the company’s control, such as weather, sudden road closures and acts of God.

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