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What to look for in an expedited freight carrier

When you need critical shipments delivered urgently, partnering with the right expedited freight carrier is essential. An expedited freight company specializes in time-definite transportation services to meet tight deadlines and last-minute logistics needs. 

This article outlines key capabilities shippers should look for when selecting an expedited delivery company to meet their accelerated shipping requirements. And when you’re finished reading, check out the other articles in our ‘Expedited trucking’ series:

What is expedited shipping in trucking?

Expedited transport in trucking refers to faster delivery services offered by trucking companies to meet tight deadlines or urgent shipping needs. Some key things to know about expedited shipping services:

  • Expedited delivery service is faster than standard ground shipping, with guaranteed delivery times that are quicker, often within one to three days.
  • Transporting expedited loads costs more than regular ground shipping since it requires special handling. Top expediting company rates are usually 30-50% higher.
  • Expedited trucking is best for time-sensitive cargo that cannot wait the five to seven days of normal ground transit times. This includes emergency supplies, prototypes, or products needed to meet a deadline.
  • Expedited trucking companies use team drivers, special routing, and optimized networks to provide reliable quick transit times.
  • Different levels of expedited transportation services are available based on how fast the delivery is needed.
  • Customers need to check with expediting trucking companies to see which options they offer, and costs/transit times involved. Larger expedited carriers tend to have more expansive services.

So in summary, expedited freight carriers provide faster guaranteed shipping for urgent shipments at a premium cost, which is useful for customers with critical timelines or delivery requirements. It allows time-definite delivery using accelerated transport methods.

Types of expedited freight services

Here are some of the most common types of expedited ground freight services in trucking:

  • Same-day: The fastest expedited freight shipping service, guarantees delivery within 24 hours. Only feasible for short distances.
  • Next-day: Guaranteed delivery by the end of the following business day. Used for highly urgent overnight expedited freight loads.
  • Two-day expedited: Delivery within two days, for slightly less time-sensitive shipping. More cost effective than next-day expedited freight jobs.
  • Direct drive: Shipment transported directly without stops/transfers for faster express freight transport. Used for mid-range distances.
  • Team service: Trucking team drives without stopping to minimize transit time. Can cover longer distances quickly.
  • Exclusive use: Dedicated truck with no other freight for nonstop transportation. Ensures no delays.
  • On-demand: Ad-hoc expedited logistics freight service arranged quickly as needed. Less planned than regular expedited shipping.

The choice depends on balancing urgency, cost and delivery distance. Shippers work with expedited carriers to select the solution that meets their time and budget requirements.

How does expedited shipping work?

When a customer requests expedited freight services, the trucking company prioritizes their shipment for specialized handling to meet tight deadlines. The freight is transported directly between its origin and destination without stops or delays, often using team drivers to enable nearly non-stop transit. 

Expedited shipping companies optimize networks, offer premium loading/unloading, and provide real-time tracking and status updates to customers for expedited loads. They follow strict pickup and delivery cut-off times to ensure cargo is moving swiftly. The use of relay networks, direct driving routes, and sometimes even expedited air freight transport enables carriers to provide guaranteed delivery times of usually one to three days for cross-country shipments. 

Expedited logistics and freight services meet the critical delivery needs of customers across many industries who cannot wait for standard transit times when urgency is a factor.

LTL vs truckload vs cargo van expedited freight

The choice between less-than-truckload (LTL), truckload, and cargo van expedited freight depends on the shipment characteristics and delivery urgency. 

LTL expedited freight

Expedited LTL freight consolidation is best suited for mid-size time-sensitive shipments between 1,000 and 10,000 pounds. LTL express freight shipping provides cost-effective accelerated transit compared to a full truckload (also known as ‘FTL’) expedited freight service.

FTL expedited freight

Expedited truckload solutions are preferred for larger shipments over 10,000 pounds when full trailer space is needed and direct routing is critical to meet tight deadlines. Even though FTL freight expediters charge more for an unshared space, the service offers the fastest and most reliable delivery for large time-sensitive freight. 

Cargo van expedited freight

Finally, cargo or Sprinter van expedited freight is ideal for smaller urgent packages under 1,500 pounds that require ultra-fast same-day pickup and delivery services within a metropolitan area or between neighboring cities. The cargo van’s flexibility and speed makes it the choice for extremely urgent small items like medical samples, legal documents or emergency parts that must absolutely be delivered within a day. 

Understanding shipment size, distance, and urgency level helps determine whether LTL, truckload or cargo van freight expediting is the right choice for your needs.

10 things to look for in an expedited freight carrier

When considering expedited freight companies, shippers should look for these key capabilities and characteristics.

  1. Experience with expedited shipping: The expedited freight transportation carrier should specialize in accelerated delivery and understand how to execute short deadline shipments.
  2. Reliable on-time service: On-time pickup and delivery performance levels should be over 95% to be a dependable partner.
  3. Flexible service options: Look for different transit times (same day, next day etc) and modes (ground, air) to match urgency.
  4. Transportation networks: Expedited logistics and freight carriers should have transportation reach across key shipping origins/destinations and established driver networks.
  5. Tracking technology: Real-time expedited freight tracking and updates on shipments keeps customers informed on urgent loads.
  6. Customer service: Responsive 24/7 service via phone, email, etc. is important when dealing with time-critical logistics.
  7. Compliance record: If you need to expedite a shipment, make sure the carrier follows safety regulations and maintains proper insurance and operating authority.
  8. Competitive pricing: Expedited logistics freight shipping has premium costs but pricing should still be competitive within the market.
  9. Communication: Clear communication, coordination and issue resolution is vital for high-priority loads.
  10. Scalability: The carrier should be able to handle fluctuating shipping volumes.

Partnering with a carrier that meets these criteria results in reliable, high-quality expedited freight solutions.

Choose your carrier wisely

Picking the right expedited carrier requires evaluating their experience, capabilities, networks, and commitment to urgent shipping. By selecting a provider that offers responsive customer service, leading technology, and a track record of on-time deliveries, shippers can meet critical deadlines with a dependable logistics partner. With the right carrier, businesses can rest assured their time-sensitive freight will arrive safely and rapidly when it absolutely needs to.


Who handles expedited shipping?

Expedited shipping is handled by specialized carriers that offer accelerated delivery services for time-sensitive cargo. These providers have networks and capabilities optimized for urgent transportation needs.

How long will expedited shipping take?

Expedited shipping typically takes 1-3 days for cross-country deliveries, faster than the 5-7 day transit of normal ground shipping. Some expedited services like same-day or next-flight-out can deliver even quicker in hours for short distances.

What is expedited freight?

It refers to urgent, high-priority shipments that require guaranteed faster delivery times than standard shipping. It enables quick transit for time-sensitive goods using air transport, team drivers, and direct routing.

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